As the 2017 NFL season comes to a close following the exciting Super Bowl 51, it remains clear that football is at the pinnacle of American sporting culture. While the NFL enjoys profits in the multiple billions, players are not being given access to an alternative to the the opioid painkillers that help them play through injuries that would otherwise force them to leave a game.
Football is a dangerous sport and players often suffer broken bones, pulled muscles and torn ligaments. The physical pain, while often strong enough to drive players to opioid addiction, pails in comparison to the devastating long-term damage that repeated blows to the head causes in the form of CTE.
Former first round pick Eugene Monroe, an offensive lineman who played in the NFL for seven years, has become the leading advocate for cannabis as both a safer pain reliever for aches and pains, but more importantly as a neuroprotectant. Monroe cites the many studies which reveal the anti-inflammatory and neuroprotecting benefits of cannabinoids and the United States government’s patent (U.S. Patent No. 6,630,507) on cannabinoids as a neuroprotectant as reasons for his staunch support of the furthering of research of cannabis. Monroe has donated over $80,000 to the “When the Bright Lights Fade” research campaign which aims to fund studies of cannabidiol (CBD) as a neuroprotectant, with aims of eventually reforming the outdated NFL marijuana policies.
Roger Goodell’s Stance On NFL Marijuana Policies
The NFL has consistently opposed even considering cannabis as anything more than a banned substance. NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell recently stated that the NFL’s ban on cannabis is, “…in the best interest of our players and the long term heath of our players.”
Goodell’s stance, which is echoed by most NFL employees and owners is one that does not promote progress and in fact puts players short and long term health at risk. By not allowing players access to a safer alternative to dangerously addictive opioids such as Torodol and Vicodin, Goodell and the NFL are doing the opposite of looking out for the best interest of its players. The disturbing amount of hypocrisy exhibited by the NFL is only propelling the drive of people like Eugene Monroe in fighting for whats right.
Fighting for whats right may have actually cost Eugene Monroe his job in June of 2016 when he was cut by the Baltimore Ravens. Following his release and subsequent retirement from the NFL, it was speculated that the release may have been brought upon due to his outspoken criticism of the NFL’s cannabis policy. While Ravens’ head coach John Harbaugh denied that this played a factor, many people, including Monroe himself believed that it played a major role in his release.
Despite retiring from the game he said he “was addicted to,” Monroe continues to fight for the reformation of the NFL’s outdated cannabis policy. When he first spoke out, Monroe was the first active player ever to criticize NFL marijuana policies, but now, more players are beginning to realize the dangers that are being posed by the opioid painkillers that team doctors provide and the safer alternative that is cannabis. Recently both Monroe and Tennessee Titans linebacker Derrick Morgan sat down with Yahoo News’ Katie Couric to speak out against the NFL’s stance on cannabis. Morgan told Couric that, “I think for the NFL to say that cannabis does not benefit the long-term health of its players without actually having gone and done the research, I don’t think that’s an accurate statement.”
With Monroe retired, Morgan is the only active player speaking out against NFL marijuana policies. There are still 1,695 active NFL football players who have not advocated for cannabis legalization. According to Outside the Lines, 52% of retired NFL players say they’ve used prescription painkillers. 71% of those players say they’ve misused painkillers during their careers. Using those statistics, over 800 current NFL players are using or have used painkillers, and over 560 players who are misusing or have misused painkillers. With these startling numbers, as well as the fact that 95% of former NFL players who have undergone post mortem autopsies have tested positive for CTE, a degenerative brain disease caused by repeated trauma to the brain, it is clear that changes need to be made the NFL’s handling of player health.
Former football players like Eugene Monroe, are doing what they can to promote research into cannabis as an alternative pain reliever and as a neuroprotectant, but it is now on the NFL to do its part in order to protect the health and well being of the players it relies on to support its billion dollar industry.
More About Eugene Monroe
To learn more about Eugene Monroe and the “When the Bright Lights Fade” campaign, please visit the links below:
Eugene Monroe’s personal website.
The Realm of Caring Foundation (RoC) is launching When the Bright Lights Fade, a campaign to raise funds for a series of studies exploring how the use of cannabinoids, specifically cannabidiol (known as CBD), can help treat and prevent the onset of symptoms associated with CTE and traumatic brain injury.