In today’s other NFL news, the league announced the award of $1M to two research teams to study the therapeutic effects of CBD and THC on chronic musculoskeletal pain & brain trauma, and to see if the cannabinoids can reduce the use of prescription medications including opioids.
In announcing the awards the NFL’s Dr. Kevin Hill, Professor of Psychiatry at the Harvard Medical School, emphasized the high caliber of the research: “We received over 100 proposals from top clinicians and researchers from around the world.”
Apparently so as one of the awards went to a multidisciplnary venture between two Canadian schools – the University of British Columbia and the Univ. of Regina – consisting of cerebrovascular and neuro-physiologists, clinical psychologists, pharmacokineticists, and physicians.
The other group is UC San Diego’s Center for Pain Medicine. Lead investigator Dr. Mark Wallace said today, “Our team is excited to receive this funding to conduct a systematic, ‘real-world, real-time’ study with professional athletes, and which should shed further light upon the many anecdotal reports that cannabis is helpful in reducing post-competition pain.”
The NFL’s Hill told The Washington Post that these anecdotal reports come from quite a cross section of people: “We’ve heard from the teams, from the medical staffs, from the players loud and clear that they’re interested in cannabis and cannabinoids, and so we wanted to do something that would advance the science in this area so that we could have better informed conversations with them.”
This is long overdue and no doubt a response to a class action lawsuit filed on behalf of more than 4,500 ex-players in 2012. Where the NFL has agreed to a settlement of almost $1 billion for these players suffering from brain injury.
Since the launch of that suit studies have documented the staggering amount of brain damage – chronic traumatic encephalopathy (CTE) – in football:
For example, in one study of deceased football players, 99% of tested brains of NFL players, 91% of US college football players, 88% of CFL players, 64% of semi-professional players, and 21% of high school football players, had CTE.
Notwithstanding the lawsuits and the almost guaranteed head trauma to players in professional or US college contact sports, not one league is willing to acknowledge the causal link between the game and brain damage. Dr. Ann McKee, a neuropathologist and director of Boston University’s CTE Center explained the cruel calculus: “The bottom line in sports is the most important thing for team owners. Acknowledging a link would open the league to more lawsuits and settlements with former players.”
The studies are expected to take three years to complete.