COLUMN: Puff puff and play?

Marijuana and CBD use in sports

The stress and pressure that is put on professional athletes along with the wear and tear of their bodies is instrumental. They are in a profession which asks for them to produce, and if they do not, then they will be in jeopardy of losing their jobs. These athletes should be able to use marijuana or CBD to help them cope with the day to day job of being a professional athlete.

Along with the mental aspect, you have the obvious physical aspect. These athletes go through grueling training and seasons that break down their bodies and they look for any kind of relief to help them cope with that pain. One solution to this pain is marijuana and there have been many examples in the past few years with athletes coming out and admitting their marijuana use.

Former Detroit Lions receiver Calvin Johnson, a likely future hall-offamer, admitted just a few months ago to smoking marijuana after every single game as a member of the Detroit Lions from 2007 to 2015.

He used marijuana for the pain he was dealing with and to avoid the use of opioid abuse. When he got to the NFL, Vicodin, OxyContin and Percocet were unbelievably easy to access. Whatever you needed to get to make you feel better they had. He saw the problem with this and did not like the way it made him feel, so he preferred cannabis.

It is a scary thought that these athletes have such easy access to addictive prescription drugs. The pain relief they offer is enticing and addiction is a slippery slope. However, in the unforgiving world of professional sports, athletes take advantage of anything they can to stay healthy and perform at the highest level.

Another example is Percy Harvin, the famous Florida Gator who played in the NFL from 2009 to 2016. He struggled with anxiety on and off the field for several years. Especially when the Minnesota Vikings traded him to the Seattle Seahawks and he was dealing with one of the toughest times of his life. Dealing with unfamiliar situations and a new environment made his anxiety even worse.

He was prescribed tons of medication. However, none of them worked. He was most comfortable using marijuana and smoked before every game he played. Now you see the mental aspect of the problem. The grind of being a professional athlete can take a toll on the mind.

Instead of forcing these athletes to take pharmaceutical medicine with side effects that will affect other parts of their life, they should be able to medicate themselves in a way they feel is safe and effective for them.

Eben Britton, a retired NFL offensive lineman and the founder of Athletes For Care, a nonprofit organization with members of NFL, NHL, NBA and UFC athletes. In an interview he estimated that at least half of NFL players use marijuana and it is easy to get away with it. NFL players get drug tested once a year and it is usually in the offseason. To get suspended or fined, you must fail the test multiple times.

This is a drug 10 states have fully legalized and others have mixtures of decriminalized and medicated forms of using the drug. You see the examples of how it helps athletes perform better physically and mentally.

It is just like everything else, though. It does not help or benefit every single athlete. Everyone has different bodies and different ways their bodies react to things. However, it cannot hurt the player that does not want to use the drug. It only benefits the players who feel more comfortable using marijuana or CBD.

Studies have shown CBD may help reduce chronic pain, reducing inflammation. It also could reduce anxiety and depression. These are usually treated with pharmaceutical drugs, which can cause several side effects.

Beside professional athletes, I can’t help but think about college athletes. Student athletes have class, practice, study sessions, lifts and more. They have so much anxiety, stress and responsibility on a daily basis.

If it is possible to help student athletes cope with the grind of school and their sport, then why not let them? Why not help them in any way that we can that makes them feel more comfortable about their bodies and minds?