We don’t know why one of the most powerful men to ever play in the NHL, Winnipeg Jets defenseman Dustin Byfuglien, is contemplating retirement. But a consistent theme in the reporting – a story that stunned the hockey world today – is his injury plagued season last year, which included a serious concussion (above).
For example, according to Jets beat writer Mike McIntyre, “… the 34-year-old [is] coming off a truly miserable season in which he suffered three different injuries – a concussion and two ankle-related ailments, and only played in 42 regular-season games. That took a major toll, physically and, no doubt, mentally … A small group of us watched Byfuglien skate one day [just prior to training camp] and he didn’t appear to be his usual jovial, fun-loving self.”
Again, we don’t know why ‘Big Buff’ has reined it in, at least for the time being. But it’s the kind of case – the violent collision, ensuing concussion and possibility of brain trauma – that illustrates why the NHL Alumni Association in an unprecedented move this March, partnered with the neuroscience research outfit Neeka Health Canada, to see if cannabidiol (CBD) can reduce the severity of post-concussion brain disorders in former NHL players.
The year-long study of 100 former players living with post-concussion symptoms will explore whether CBD helps to ease their symptoms such as anxiety, depression and pain. Or as former Philadelphia Flyers enforcer Riley Cote put it:
It’s about helping these guys wake up the next morning, where they can feel functional enough, good enough, they can enjoy their family and not worry about the pain and anxiety, that vicious cycle that generally leads to mental health issues.
Former NHL goalie Glenn Healy, Executive Director of the NHL Alumni Association, agrees with Cote and explains why he worked the deal with Neeka:
NHL alumni gave everything they had during their careers, but the physical consequences after they hang up their skates can be devastating for both players and their loved ones for the rest of their lives. This study offers alumni the promise of help and hope, and we are excited to participate in what could become a true game changer.