I’ve always been a bit intimidated by professional athletes.
Not necessarily because they’re physically superior to me in every way, but because they’re so well-disciplined.
Having roomed with a professional fighter in my early 20s, I witnessed first-hand the discipline it takes to compete at a level that few mortals could ever know. The physical demands, the mental dexterity, the personal sacrifices: It’s far more than what most people can handle. And it’s why so few ever make it to the top.
Understand, this isn’t a criticism. It’s merely an observation of truth.
And here’s another truth…
Despite what you may see in movies or on television, the lifestyle of a professional athlete is far from glamorous.
Sure, there’s plenty of money and fame that comes with competing at a professional level. But there’s also a lot of physical and mental pain that few ever see. This is particularly true in the NFL, where nearly every single player battles chronic pain on a daily basis.
To battle this pain, players are treated to a never-ending supply of opioids that allow them to mask the pain and get back out on the field. Former Ravens superstar Eugene Monroe wrote about this last year, where he described what’s known as the T Train.
The T Train is nothing more than a bunch of really large guys waiting to pull their pants down to get shot in the butt with Toradol, a powerful painkiller that will help them make it through the game and its aftermath.
Instead of an injection, some players opt for an oral form of Toradol. The effects are the same, though, and can last through the next day. Some guys don’t feel any pain for two days. Of course, that’s the point of these drugs—they block out the pain and reduce inflammation. But they also temporarily mask injury. That’s not a good thing if you get hurt during a game—you might need to address your injuries right away. But you feel nothing, so you do nothing.
While those opioids do a tremendous job of allowing players to get back in the game, they also come with a number of side effects that no one in his right mind would find acceptable, including liver damage, brain damage and sadly, dependence.
Of course, if opioids were the only solution, there would be little debate, and NFL players would just have to accept that opioid usage is a part of the job.
But it doesn’t have to be. And it shouldn’t be. Not when there’s a much better treatment available.
The Other Side of Glitz and Glamor
There are a number of studies that suggest cannabis can serve as an effective treatment for chronic pain. One in particular, which was published in the Journal of Pain, even found a 64 percent decrease in opioid use in patients with chronic pain who were prescribed cannabis. This is of particular interest as the United States deals with a growing opioid epidemic. It’s also of particular interest in the world of professional sports, as NFL players tend to misuse prescription painkillers at four times the rate of the general public.
So much for glitz and glamor.
The truth is, cannabis can serve as a safe, effective and non-addictive treatment for chronic pain. But the NFL does not allow players to use it.
While NLF players understand that chronic pain is “part of the job,” being denied safe medication to battle chronic pain should not be. And that’s why we’re seeing more and more NFL players speak up about the NFL’s unwillingness to allow players to use cannabis.
One in particular is former offensive lineman for the Jacksonville Jaguars and the Chicago Bears, Eben Britton.
A top draft pick, Britton’s discipline, determination and over-allotment of good genes put him in a class of athletes that few will ever know. He was in high demand as a rookie and proved to be a valuable asset to the team that paid him $4.6 million to spend his days pushing armies of 300-pound beasts out of the way.
But like all professional athletes, Britton also got his fair share of injuries that came with an extraordinary amount of pain. Something that was treated with opioids.
I recently had the opportunity to sit down and talk with Eben while in California.
Eben Britton, like most professional athletes is an intimidating figure. But he’s also one hell of a nice guy who clearly has a noble interest in elevating the conversation on cannabis.
During his career, Britton suffered all sorts of injuries, from a dislocated shoulder and torn labrum to a herniated disc, sciatica and multiple concussions. This, of course, does not make him unique. All professional football players competing at this level encounter similar injuries.
What does make Britton unique is that he’s using his own experiences in the NFL to help other professional athletes, which I’ll get to in just a moment. But first, let me share with you this brief description of Eben Britton’s own experiences with injury, pain and opioids—in his own words.
First, you get diagnosed by a trainer, then put on a regimen of exercises as well as something to deal with the pain, because every single day you have to get back out there. You have to take something to help with the aches, and that’s handled with Cataflam and Ketoflex. Things we know that wreak havoc on our insides, liver, kidneys and brains.
Then the opiates come in. You’re getting pills right after the game, before getting on the airplane. You have vials and vials of drugs. They make you feel horrible. I would get horrible stabbing pains in my stomach and shit blood. These opioids also make you angry, full of rage, irrational, and they make it hard to sleep, which taxes the system further from injuries and after surgeries. They inhibit the healing process because they’re heightening your stress level so you’re not getting any healing out of it.
Britton did end up getting off opiates and actually experienced withdrawal symptoms, which included extreme pain and cold sweats. But while getting the opiates out of his system, he used cannabis, which, compared to the pills he had been taking, began to ease his stress, depression and anxiety. It helped him sleep, and it helped him recover. Not just physically, but mentally and spiritually, too.
Experiencing the negative side effects of opiates and the positive effects of cannabis, Britton decided to share this experience and the knowledge he gained with other professional athletes through a new non-profit organization called Athletes for CARE.
Athletes for CARE is designed to educate, raise awareness and help former professional athletes with some of the health issues they face after retirement. This includes everything from chronic pain and CTE, to depression and anxiety.
Athletes for CARE serves as a sort of foundational support for retired athletes who oftentimes leave their careers with heavy burdens of physical, mental and spiritual pain. And it’s no coincidence that its founding members, who also include former NFL players Todd Herremans, Marvin Washington and Nate Jackson, are advocates of cannabis use.
Make no mistake. Cannabis offers a very real solution for busted up professional athletes who have to navigate a very different life after pro sports. This is no easy task, and certainly the potential burden of opiate addiction makes it even more difficult.
That’s not to say cannabis is the only effective therapy for retired athletes, but it’s one that more and more folks are turning to after a career in pro sports.
These athletes aren’t stupid, and if anyone knows how to successfully combat chronic pain, it’s a professional athlete. Certainly I’d take a treatment recommendation for chronic pain from a guy like Eben Britton over someone who’s never played professional sports.
In addition to Britton’s work with Athletes for CARE, he’s also a regular on the conference circuit now, educating the public on the benefits of cannabis. He’s also the co-founder of Be Tru Organics, which has created a line of all-natural pain relief products, including a pain relief cream made with a highly-effective hemp extract. You can check that out HERE.
Jeff Siegel, who’s been active in the financial publishing business since the mid-90s, works as a consultant, has been a featured guest on Fox, CNBC, and Bloomberg Asia, and is the author of the best-selling energy book, Investing in Renewable Energy: Making Money on Green Chip Stocks and is the co-author of Energy Investing for Dummies.
Hear Eben Britton speak more about cannabis THIS WEEKEND by registering for the free, online Cannabis Health Summit, HERE.
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