Thirty-year-old New England Patriot Rob Gronkowski – ‘Gronk’ – called it quits this past March after a 9-year NFL career that included three Super Bowl wins and more than $50 million in total salary earnings.
“I needed to recover; I was not in a good place,” he said last week, his voice quivering. “Football was bringing me down and I didn’t like it. And I was losing that joy in life … I knew I just had to fix myself.”
What he had to fix was a body that averaged a surgery a season since 2009: “I’ve been through so much. I’ve been through every injury. I’ve recovered from every single injury basically out there. And I remember when I was 25-years-old I went through all the knee surgeries. After my knee I had a forearm surgery and I said screw it let’s do my back because I don’t want that to hurt anymore either.”
So here’s the good news: Gronk’s found something other than surgery to relieve his pain that could leave him fit enough to get back into football – cannabidiol (CBD). As he put it to CNBC this week:
I’ve been hearing a lot about [CBD], starting this year … My first true experience with it – when I was like, ‘Whoa, whoa, this stuff works!’ – is when I jammed my three toes [playing soccer] and they were black and blue. I throw the [CBDMedic] cream on and, boom, it temporarily relieved the pain. I got to go through the rest of my day, put the shoes back on – because if you’ve got stubbed toes and put your shoe on, you’re going to start walking a different way …
I knew right then and there, I was like, ‘Dang, this stuff works.’ [And] I was looking for something like that to help me relieve the pain that I’m in from doing activities and sports.
When asked by reporters if he had any timeline for returning to the NFL he said he wasn’t sure, perhaps a year or two, if it were to happen. But he wants to careful, he said, because he knows what the game does to you:
“I could be 100% healthy and go back. I know I’m putting my body back in jeopardy. It’s a brutal sport … You see those collisions every day, every game, and they’re huge, they’re massive … So if I have that desire and I wanna go back out there and I’m ready for it – then so be it.”
Gronk is absolutely right about those massive collisions. In fact, we now know they come at a life-altering cost: a type of irreversible brain damage called chronic traumatic encephalopathy (CTE). Robert Stern, PhD, a neurologist at Boston University’s Medical School and their CTE Center, explained it this way in League of Denial, Frontline’s award-winning look at football and concussions:
… that’s the nature of the game. Those things [football hits that cause the brain to hit the inside of the skull] seem to happen around 1,000 to 1,500 times a year. Each time that happens it’s around 20 G or more. That’s the equivalent of driving a car 35 miles per hour into a brick wall 1,000 to 1,500 times per year.
If that’s the nature of the game, just how many player’s end up with CTE? Stern’s colleague at BU, neuropathologist Anne McKee, MD, also interviewed in the Frontline piece, was brutally frank: “I’m really wondering on some level if every single football player doesn’t have this.”
So here’s the bad news: Gronk’s found something other than surgery to relieve his pain that could leave him fit enough to get back into football – CBD.