Imagine for a second, the pain an NFL player feels after a brutal Sunday afternoon game. A game in which men weighing in upwards of 300 pounds crash into each other at high speeds. Then, imagine the amount of painkillers those same players must take just to get out of bed the next day.
At a recent conference, former Broncos tight end Nate Jackson talked about his use of marijuana as a painkiller during his six-year NFL career.
“It kept my brain clean,” Jackson said Wednesday during the Cannabis Business Executives Breakfast that kicked off a three-day conference titled “Sports, Meds and Money.”
“I feel like I exited the game with my mind intact. And I credit that to marijuana in a lot of ways and not getting hooked on these pain pills that are recklessly distributed in the league when a guy gets an injury,” Jackson said.
Jackson believes at least 50 percent of the league uses marijuana, though not always for medicinal purposes. And because the league only tests for street drugs like marijuana and cocaine once a year, players can get away with it.
But what about the notion of marijuana as a painkiller? We’ve certainly seen it used as an antiemetic for patients going through chemotherapy, and it’s long been used as a treatment for glaucoma. A painkiller, however? Where’s the proof? In 2012, Oxford published a limited study of 12 participants and concluded that marijuana “doesn’t so much reduce pain as make the same level of pain more bearable.”
This indicates that marijuana doesn’t function as a pain killer as much as a pain distracter: Objectively, levels of pain remain the same for someone under the influence of THC, but it simply bothers the person less.
In that instance, marijuana would be similar to a benzodiazepine like Ativan, a drug used to treat anxiety and sleeplessness. NFL spokesman Greg Aiello talked to the Associated Press on the heels of Nate Jackson’s remarks.
“At this time, the medical advisers to our drug program tell us that there is no need for medical marijuana to be prescribed to an NFL player.”
Hope is not lost for marijuana users in the NFL. The league says that it continues to look at the science in place and quite possibly “would consider allowing it in necessary cases.”
If nothing else, it’s a start.