NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell was back in the news, regarding medical marijuana, on Friday’s ESPN radio edition of Mike and Mike. He continued to uphold the NFL’s ban on the use of cannabis by its players to treat pain and traumatic brain injuries, stating that the NFL’s independent medical advisors “to date,” have yet to recommend marijuana as a legitimate medical tool.
However, as the interview shows, Commissioner Goodell does not appear to be up-to-date on either the latest research regarding cannabis use for pain management and traumatic brain injuries or the way regular medical users consume cannabis when he states:
“Listen, you’re ingesting smoke, so that’s not usually a very positive thing that people would say. It does have addictive nature. There are a lot of compounds in marijuana that may not be healthy for the players long-term.”
Scientists would disagree with his assessment of cannabis use.
A recent 2014 study by researchers at UCLA focused on the outcomes of traumatic brain injuries after “several studies had demonstrated neuroprotective effects of cannabinoids.” The study concludes that “a positive THC screen is associated with decreased mortality in adult patients sustaining TBI.” It is unfortunate that the NFL Commission is seemingly unaware of these protective effects, since “new research on the brains of deceased former football players found high rates of chronic traumatic encephalopathy (CTE)—a degenerative disease believed to stem from repetitive brain injury.”
Additionally, a recent study regarding the uses of “Sativex®, a cannabis derived oromucosal spray containing equal proportions of THC (partial CB1 receptor agonist ) and cannabidiol (CBD, a non-euphoriant, anti-inflammatory analgesic with CB1 receptor antagonist and endocannabinoid modulating effects) was approved in Canada in 2005 for treatment of central neuropathic pain in multiple sclerosis, and in 2007 for intractable cancer pain. Numerous randomized clinical trials have demonstrated safety and efficacy for Sativex in central and peripheral neuropathic pain, rheumatoid arthritis and cancer pain. . . treatment of pain shows great promise.”
Effective and safe pain management is an issue the NFL must face head-on as it currently being sued by the NFL Players Association. The suit, representing over 1,800 players, alleges the unfettered and illegal administration and handling of “powerful painkillers and anti-inflammatories each season.” The opioid based painkillers the NFL team doctors prescribe are known to be highly addictive which doesn’t seem to concern Commissioner Goodell as much as the slight potential cannabis has for addiction. A recent study “asked more than 8,000 people between the ages of 15 and 64 about their use of marijuana and other drugs.” The researchers concluded that, “although marijuana may be addictive for some, 91 percent of those who try it do not get hooked. Further, marijuana is less addictive than many other legal and illegal drugs.”
Perhaps Commissioner Goodell should visit a medical marijuana dispensary to investigate all the products available to cannabis users that do not involve smoking. The reality is that most medical marijuana patients prefer the reliability in dosing and discreet packing that comes from edibles, teas, tinctures, concentrates like oils, vape cartridges, suppositories, topical lotions and creams, trans-dermal patches and capsules. Yes, the harmful effects of smoking are not up for debate, but to use one method of ingestion as blanket statement against cannabis use is disingenuous and uniformed.
In his ESPN radio interview, Commissioner Goodell did leave room for an eventual shift in the NFL’s stance, stating “medical marijuana is something that is evolving, and that’s something that at some point the medical advisers may come to us and say, ‘This is something you should consider.'” ESPN commentator Stephen A. Smith, well-known for his catch phrase, “stay off the weeed,” recently shifted his position on cannabis use in the NFL,
“I must admit that I have been pushed somewhat in a different direction by non athletes who have sworn by it not just for medicinal uses but preventive uses. . . It might be time to re-think things. . . At this point, what choice do we have.”
Perhaps Commissioner Goodell will start listening to his players experiences with medical marijuana and make a shift too.