Derrick Morgan, outside linebacker for the Tennessee Titans wants the National Football League (NFL) to start researching the health benefits of marijuana use for players in the league.
He joins free agent offensive tackle Eugene Monroe, most recently with the Baltimore Ravens last season, as advocates for the use of marijuana by players with the goal of benefitting them in the long-term. The two believe it could be used as an alternative to pain medicine and other forms of pain management currently allowed by the league.
“What I noticed was that former players would openly speak about their experiences being addicted to opioids that they were prescribed by their team doctors,” Monroe told Yahoo Global News.
With the growing concern over chronic traumatic encephalopathy (CTE), a neurodegenerative disease potentially caused by concussions, any sort of research into preventing or treating this is important for the league. The compound cannabidiol (CBD) found in marijuana has been shown to be an effective form of treatment for some epilepsy patients and is classified as a neuroprotectant by the United States government.
“I feel like the NFL has a responsibility to look into it, to delegate time and money to research this for its players,” Morgan told Yahoo Global News. “Given how much influence that the NFL has on society, I think it would help the greater good. There’s a lot of people suffering and a lot of people that can benefit from cannabis as a medical treatment.”
The NFL’s substance and abuse policy is currently collective bargained between the NFL and the NFL Players Association and says it is “guided by medical advisers” who have “not indicated a need to change.” Earlier this month the NFL set up a conference call between its top doctors and marijuana advocates, so there might be some progress being made. Regardless, for the league to still doubt the benefits of marijuana use confuses Morgan.
“I think for the NFL to say that cannabis does not benefit the long-term health of its players without actually having gone and done the research – I don’t think that’s an accurate statement,” Morgan told Yahoo Global News.
Monroe came out originally as an advocate for the league to implement marijuana use after he went through personal issues saying he was “fearful of … becoming addicted” to pills.
“I know continuing my career, I’ll deal with a great deal of pain pushing through the injuries I’ve already had, which are numerous,” Monroe told Yahoo Global News. “I have a family. I want to be there for them when I’m done playing this game.”
If the NFL is to begin research on the health benefits of marijuana use by its players, it could dramatically increase the overall quality of life for the thousands of former, current and future members of the league. Director of McLean Hospital’s MIND program and Associate Professor of Psychiatry at Harvard Medical School Staci Gruber believes research into its use is something to be hopeful about.
“There’s been some extraordinarily compelling, preclinical work that has demonstrated that CBD is incredibly effective at helping to limit the extent of brain injury, which is really very intriguing and promising,” Gruber told Yahoo Global News.
Monroe has teamed up with a nonprofit medical marijuana advocacy group in Colorado, Realm of Caring, to fund two research studies looking into the effects marijuana usage has on the health of former and current players.
“In thinking about the benefits that will come from spreading the awareness and the knowledge about this substance, I think greatly outweighs any backlash or ramifications that might come about it,” Morgan told Yahoo Global News. “It’s about not only us, but former players, future players and more so society as a whole.”