Concussions have been an issue not only for the NFL but for all sports for a long time and are starting to gain the attention they deserve. Approximately 1.6-3.8 million sports and recreation related concussions occur in the U.S. each year. Concussions and other brain injuries are usually treated with self-care, rehabilitation and sometimes prescription pain medications. However there is no “prescription for concussions.” The standard treatment is simply to rest until the symptoms fade, but the unseen damage from repeated concussions never really fade and can cause extreme damage to the brain down the road. Traumatic Brain Injuries (TBI) and Chronic Traumatic Encephalopathy (CTE) are two of the most damaging brain injuries that can set in after a history of concussions. In 2017 the finding heard around the sports world was the research that Boston University did which detected evidence of CTE in 110 out of 111 donated brains of former NFL players.
If only there was an all-natural plant based medicine that has been around for thousands of years to help combat this issue. Oh yeah, CBD (cannabidiol) has been found to serve as a neuroprotectant to the brain after head injury and helps reduce neurological damage following trauma. Furthermore, concussion treatment is one of the most proven applications of CBD. But don’t take my word for it, take the results of multiple medical studies over the years. The first study is actually the same study that the U.S. Government used to obtain their patent (No. 6630507) proving CBD as neuroprotectants. The 1998 study found that “cannabidiol prevented cell death” in rats induced with glutamate neurotoxicity. It goes on to conclude, “cannabidiol and other cannabinoids such as THC are potent antioxidants that protect neurons from glutamate-induced death without cannabinoid receptor activation.” One study published in American Surgeon found that cannabinoids like CBD mimic and amplify endogenous cannabinoid activity that the body already naturally produces on its own.
These endogenous cannabinoids are part of the endocannabinoid system that is tasked with regulating a host of different important physiological processes relevant to the effects of a brain injury, including blood flow to the brain and inflammation. Another study published in the British Journal of Pharmacology linked cannabinoids to a significant reduction in cell death in the brain after a traumatic head injury. In response to head trauma, the endocannabinoid system is activated and springs into action as a self-protective tactic. Cannabinoid receptors CB1 and CB2 are activated to protect the brain against traumatic impact to the head.
David Irving, a former defensive lineman for the Dallas Cowboys recently seemed to have quit football saying that he no longer wanted to play in a league that does not allow cannabis use for medical purposes. Irving has received very harsh criticism regarding his decision to leave millions of dollars on the table. While there may be some truth to that, I respect the fact that Irving is standing up for what he believes in regardless of the financial incentives on the other side.
He brings up a 100% valid cannabis vs. pharmaceuticals argument where he goes on to list some of the pills that they force feed these athletes. The league has to take a more progressive approach to this if they are serious about decreasing long-term brain injuries. Fancier helmets are not going to make the difference, but properly administered natural medicine might. It would make it a lot easier if cannabis as a whole was descheduled and made legal nationally, but with CBD now being federally legal the least they could do is let these athletes take CBD pills as opposed to the crazy pills they are given today. Considering not long ago the DEA considered THC and CBD to be one in the same, we are slowly making progress, but the pace needs to be picked up and the NFL needs to make changes soon. We must reduce these brain injuries not only for the sake of the current players that risk their health every time they step on the field, but also for the athletes of tomorrow.