NFL awarded $ 1 million for studies on cannabinoid effects on pain management in players

The NFL is donating $ 1 million in research funding to two teams of medical researchers to study the effects of cannabinoids on pain management and neuroprotection against concussions in elite football players.

Medical teams from the University of California San Diego and University of Regina in Canada were selected from 106 proposals initiated by the NFL and the Joint Pain Management Committee of the NFL Players Association in June 2021.

“We are always interested in trying to improve our approach and treatment for acute and chronic pain in NFL players, and we always want to make sure our players get the most up-to-date medical consensus on any of these treatments,” the NFL chief said. medical officer Dr. Allen Sills told The Associated Press. “So, our burden of proof is really high for NFL players. Every time we want to introduce a new therapy, we need to understand how that decision can affect their well-being and their performance. We know there has been a lot of interest in this. area, but we did not feel that there was much great solid research on the benefits of marijuana, CBD and treatment of acute and chronic pain. That, therefore, we wanted to try to contribute to the body of science in this field.

Dr. Kevin Hill, the director of addiction psychiatry at Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Center and a leading cannabis researcher and author, is the co-chair of the NFL-NFLPA Joint Pain Management Committee. Hill explained why there has not been much research on this topic.

“One reason is the [DEA] scheme of cannabis makes it harder to do this research, but the main reason is that stakeholders are not really interested in advancing science, “Hill told the AP.” You have states and companies that do a lot make money by selling cannabis products, selling CBD products at the moment. That they do not feel the need to prove the effectiveness of these products, and millions of people use them. That is the problem in which we are as healthcare professionals as well as organizations that really care about the health and safety of our constituents, the players in this case.

“We really want to know, do they work? And every day I meet patients who are interested in cannabinoids, and it’s the same thing – we do not know the answers to that. That it’s going to be a very complicated risk / benefit discussion. That I’m happy that I’m part of something that’s really about finding answers to questions that everyone’s been talking about for years. “

The $ 1 million research grant is a forward-looking movement of the league to better understand and improve alternative treatments for pain management. Many NFL players have questioned the benefits of cannabis and cannabinoids over the years. Several former players have been involved in the medical cannabis business and have either started their own brands, invested in businesses or been hired as ambassadors.

“We heard from the teams, from the medical staff, from the players loud and clear that they are interested in cannabis and cannabinoids, and that we wanted to do something that would advance science in this field so that we could have better informed conversations with them, “Hill said. “I also want to emphasize that this is the first step here. The NFL has done great research in other areas: concussion, musculoskeletal injuries, etc. We are not limited to cannabinoids. We are interested in finding out, are there? ways we can treat pain better? And so we’ll use this and look at this process and see if there’s a way we can improve this process but continue to try to advance science in the interest of the player health and safety. “

Cannabis is a banned substance in the NFL, although rules about players using marijuana were loosened in the latest collective bargaining agreement.

Under the most recent employment agreement, players who test positive for marijuana will no longer be suspended, but may be fined depending on the number of positive tests. Timing of tests was changed after the first two weeks of training camp instead of April to August. Also, the threshold required to pull out a positive test was increased four times.

The study led by Dr. Thomas Marcotte, Dr. Mark Wallace and researchers at the University of California San Diego will investigate the effects of cannabinoids on pain and recovery from sports-related injuries in elite athletes.

The research led by Dr. J. Patrick Neary and researchers at the University of Regina study naturally produced cannabinoids for pain management and neuroprotection of concussion and participation in contact sports.

The implementation of the projects takes three years.

“This kind of work will be of interest to athletes in many different sports and at all levels,” Sills said. “We know that all sports have a certain degree of injury and pain associated with those injuries. And so I think this will be very generalizable. These products are already there and in many cases they are widely used and widely marketed.That this research will help inform people about which strategies may be beneficial and then those that may not be.And that I see this as a huge impact on the NFL, for all elite sports but also sports at all levels about. society. “

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