Researchers Launching CBD Study with Former Hockey Players

Investigators are looking for a link between the cannabinoid and alleviation of concussion-related health conditions.
Researchers Launching CBD Study with Former Hockey Players
Alexandr Grant/ Shutterstock

The NHL Alumni Association is one of the sponsors of a study that will examine the effects of CBD on around 100 former pro hockey players who suffer from brain trauma caused by the league’s notoriously rough play.

“It’s really rather sad when you see these giants of sport having to deal with terrible headaches and emotional issues as well—there’s quite a bit of anxiety and depression and PTSD in athletes that has gone unrecognized,” neurosurgeon Charles Tator told a morning television program on Monday.

The announcement of the study is a victory for the former NHL players who have fought for adequate treatment for the damage that professional hockey does to its athletes. Detroit Red Wings standout Darren McCarty and VEDA Sport director Marvin Degon are among the players past and present that have been outspoken about the urgency of connecting pro athletes to safe and effective cannabis treatment for chronic pain.

In fact, professional hockey is leading the charge when it comes to athletes having access to marijuana. Currently, 28 of the NHL’s 31 teams is located in an area where players are able to consume cannabis with minimal risk of penalty. The league in general tends to separate their approach to players’ drug use between performance-enhancing drugs and “drugs of abuse”. The latter category of substances is dealt with on an often confidential, case-by-case basis geared towards helping players to deal with addiction issues. There is no publicly available list of the league’s banned “drugs of abuse”.

This approach is in stark contrast to the MLB, NBA, and NFL, which take a much more punitive view of many substance. Their players are still banned from use of cannabis completely, despite the fact that 82 percent of major league teams (including the NHL) are located in regions where cannabis is recreationally or medicinally authorized. This zero tolerance policy has raised concern among those who recognize the heavy physical punishment visited on professional players’ bodies in a typical work day.

But the chorus of voices for medicinal marijuana in pro sports is growing. The volume was turned up last year with former NBA Commissioner David Stern told an interviewer that he thought cannabis should be removed from the league’s list of banned substances. “I think there is universal agreement that marijuana for medical purposes should be completely legal,” Stern said.

The study for former NHL-ers is due to start this summer and will entail giving many participants CBD pills for a period of one year, the investigation being sponsored by the NHL Alumni Association, Canopy Growth, and Neeka Health. Should the study reveal positive linkage between the treatment and alleviation of symptoms, Canopy Growth has committed to funding further research. The line of study is crucial for former athletes who need an alternative for pain treatment to highly addictive opioids typically prescribed for such health conditions. Concussion-related conditions have been found to lead to depression, PTSD, and dementia.

“We see a lot of athletes who have chronic pain and have other problems related to repetitive brain trauma,” said Tator. “We are reasonably optimistic that cannabis and especially the CBD part of cannabis can relieve a lot of that suffering.”

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