Which top athletes are promoting the use of CBD and why are they using it?
All professional athletes have to contend with ailing bodies throughout their careers. Pain, sore muscles, inflammation, injury—it’s all part of the deal. And for many years, the main way to manage the day-to-day strains of performing at such a high level has been to take traditional pain relievers and anti-inflammatories like acetaminophen and ibuprofen, or when cases get worse, much more intense painkilling opioids oxycodone and hydrocodone. In the world of professional football alone, doctors have handed out opioids on the daily to players and teams for years.
But athletes are concerned with how they treat their bodies, too—whether that’s what they eat, how they rest and recover, or how they medicate. With the ever-worsening opioid epidemic, it’s no wonder that many of them have been questioning the sports world’s reliance on prescription painkillers and looking for more natural alternatives that will not cause addiction and harm for years after.
How CBD Helps Athletes
Physical relief without side effects
With CBD, athletes are experiencing pain relief without the side effects of traditional medicines or the risk of long-term addiction and internal havoc. Many have claimed that once they started using CBD, their pain either went away or was significantly reduced to the same degree (or an even greater degree) than that of traditional pharmaceuticals. They experienced reduced inflammation as well as faster muscle and joint recovery. After years of significant physical damage in the NHL, retired winger Riley Cote noted definite improvements after starting to use CBD. He said, “It’s very clear to me now that there is a much better and more sustainable way to manage the recovery process.”
Alternative to opioid abuse
Looking at the harmful effects of chronic traumatic encephalopathy (CTE) and its broad impacts within the NFL, former offensive lineman Eugene Monroe is calling for the league to remove marijuana and cannabis products from the banned substances list and fund further research. He’s also calling for team doctors to “stop overprescribing addictive and harmful opioids.” Monroe is now an Athletic Ambassador for the advocacy group Doctors for Cannabis Regulation.
Even U.S. Women’s Soccer Team Captain Megan Rapinoe, who recently partnered with her sister’s cannabis company Mendi, remarked on how the pro sports industry needs to take treatment alternatives seriously for the sake of athletes’ health: “I think it’s been widely known and proven that the management doesn’t always have the best interest of the individual athlete at their hands. I think you’ve seen that with [the women’s soccer team] in our pay equity [… and] you can see that with the NFL players. They’ve had an opioid crisis for a long time; concussion results of those CTE tests were hidden from players for a long time. Opioid abuse is rampant in the NFL.”
A balancing agent in a high-stress lifestyle
Several athletes have also highlighted that with the intense schedules and high stress of life in the sports limelight, CBD has helped to both manage anxiety and allow for better sleep. Celebrated dancer and fitness trainer Caleb Marshall blogged about starting to use CBD on his website and later proclaimed the myriad ways it’s helped him, including with anxiety. He says his anxiety is in “a completely different place than it was when I started taking CBD daily.”
A natural option
On the whole, athletes cite their appreciation for having found a natural alternative to manage pain and help their bodies—but also one that does not produce a high. While medicinal marijuana has gained traction in the last handful of years and many people value its benefits, with its THC content it will still make many people high. And some don’t like to experience that, no matter how beneficial. CBD is their answer.
Who are the athletes on board?
Numerous athletes across sports and fields have come out in the last couple of years publicly expressing their use of CBD and advocating for more research and widespread allowance of CBD within sports leagues. Several have announced partnerships or brand ambassadorships with CBD companies, and others have even launched their own cannabis companies and advocacy organizations. While not exhaustive, this list of nearly 40 athletes shows the great span of professionals promoting CBD and cannabis products today:
David Ahrens, retired linebacker for Indianapolis Colts
Terrell Davis, former running back for Denver Broncos, co-founder of CBD-infused sports drink Defy
Ricky Williams, former running back, founder of cannabis company Real Wellness
Derrick Morgan, former Tennessee Titans linebacker
Eugene Monroe, former offensive lineman, Diversity Consultant for Green Thumb Industries
Rick Upchurch, former Denver Broncos wide receiver, Athlete Ambassador for Athletes for Care
Jake Plummer, former quarterback, co-founder of Athletes for Care
Nick Lowery, former placekicker
Rob Gronkowski, former tight end for New England Patriots, partner with CBDMedic
Joe Montana, NFL Hall of Fame Quarterback, investor in cannabis company Caliva
Steve Smith, former wide receiver, partner with cbdMD
Tiki Barber, former New York Giants running back
Jay Williams, former Chicago Bulls star
Paul Pierce, former Celtics star, launched CBD products line called The Truth CBD Remedies with Eaze Wellness
John Salley, former NBA player, co-founder of cannabis brand Deuces22
Kenyon Martin, former NBA player
Matt Barnes, former NBA player
Al Harrington, former NBA player, founder of cannabis brand Viola
MMA and UFC
Nate Diaz, current UFC fighter
Gina Mazany, current bantamweight MMA fighter
Chris Camozzi, current UFC fighter
Anthony Pettis, current lightweight MMA fighter, partner with CBDistillery
Sergio Pettis, current bantamweight MMA fighter, partner with CBDistillery
Mickey Gall, current welterweight UFC fighter, partner with Canna Trading Co.
Ryan VandenBussche, former forward and enforcer, founding sponsor of Canadian arm of Athletes for Care
Riley Cote, retired Philadelphia Flyers left winger and enforcer, co-founder of Athletes for Care, founder of Hemp Heals Foundation and CBD brand BodyChek Wellness
Megan Rapinoe, current U.S. Women’s Soccer Team Captain, partner with hemp company Mendi
Mike Tyson, former boxing champion, owner of Tyson Ranch with CBD brand
David Wells, former Yankees pitcher
KC Deane, current pro skier and mountain biker
Liz Letchford, tonal trainer and fitness icon
Caleb Marshall, dancer, coach and fitness trainer of The Fitness Marshall
Amy Van Dyken, Olympic swimmer, spokesperson for Kannaway
Lolo Jones, Olympic hurdler and bobsledder, partner with cbdMD
Bubba Watson, golfer, partner with cbdMD
Scott McCarron, golfer, partner with Functional Remedies
Floyed Landis, pro cyclist, 2006 Tour de France winner, founder of Floyd’s of Leadville
The biggest obstacles for widespread CBD use and acceptance in pro sports at the organizational level are the lack of clinical studies and governmental regulation. The 2018 Farm Bill helped in this arena, but until CBD, and all cannabis derivatives, are broadly legalized, regulation and CBD’s wider use and acceptance within professional athletics hangs in the balance.