With the physical nature of the National Football League, players are always looking for ways to help with the pain and ailments that happen throughout their careers. Although it is against the NFL drug policy and can lead to possible suspensions if caught, marijuana is a popular remedy for pain and concussions among players.
In interviews conducted by Bleacher Report over the past month, 16 players currently in the NFL offered insight into how players are able to indulge in cannabis without getting caught. None of the 16 players wanted to be identified, but shared personal opinions on marijuana use based on their personal experience in the league. A few shared knowledge of their teammates and opponents smoking up to four times a week, whether it be post-game or after tough, physical practices.
Out of 16 interviewed players, only one chose not to give an estimated percentage of players that use marijuana, but he believed it was a “shitload”. Ten said at least half of the league uses regularly, two said 70 percent, two said 10 percent. The one player out of the 16 who does not personally smoke guessed 10 to 15 percent of the league smokes.
In a league that has become intertwined with the lifelong effects that concussions can cause, marijuana has become a more important topic than ever before. Last year, 3 former Super Bowl champions came forward to support reforming league policies to allow players to use medical marijuana.
The impact of concussions has been seen in tragedy such as Jovan Belcher, as well as in the recent retirements of young, talented players like Anthony Davis and Chris Borland.
One veteran linebacker spoke about how marijuana helped him recover from concussions faster and with fewer side effects, but early in his career, when he didn’t use marijuana, he struggled greatly with concussions:
“One time I had a really bad concussion. The headaches went on for three days. I always tell people that I understood why some guys with head trauma want to take their own lives. It’s miserable.”
Another issue relating to marijuana use is the idea that is a safer medication than the painkillers that are a staple for NFL players. With a large number of retired players coming forward about the addiction problems they have faced since their time in the league, it seems that many people believe allowing marijuana would be the way to counteract the problems with prescription drugs. One study recently revealed that medical marijuana could reduce opiod related overdoses by up to 25 percent.
With the negative stigma that still follows marijuana, it does not appear that it will replace the painkillers any time soon as the suggested way of easing pain and head trauma, even if it does have the support of many players.
As the national cannabis landscape continues to grow and change, the NFL is not adapting even as its players are. With such a high percentage of players reportedly using marijuana for not only recreational use, but to help treat the ailments they deal with on an everyday basis, it appears that the league would benefit from increased research and understanding of the possible benefits marijuana can have for the players.