The National Football League (NFL) is donating $1 million to University of California San Diego and University of Regina (Canada) researchers to investigate the effects of cannabinoids on pain management, and neuroprotection from concussion in elite football players, respectively. The awards are part of the NFL-NFL Player’s Association (NFLPA) Joint Pain Management Committee, which aims to facilitate research to better understand and improve potential alternative pain management treatments for NFL players.
Dr. Kevin Hill — the co-chair of the committee, director of Addiction Psychiatry at Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Center, and associate professor of psychiatry at Harvard Medical School — said the committee received over 100 research proposals from clinicians and researchers around the world as part of the program.
Dr. Mark Wallace, co-principal investigator and director of the Center for Pain Medicine at UC San Diego Health, said the researchers will “conduct a systematic, ‘real-world, real-time’ study with professional athletes … which should shed further light upon the many anecdotal reports that cannabis is helpful in reducing post-competition pain.”
“The primary aim of this clinical trial is to assess the therapeutic efficacy and adverse effects of [delta-9 THC], cannabidiol (CBD), and combined THC/CBD, compared to placebo, for relief of post-competition soft-tissue injury pain in elite athletes. Elite athletes will vaporize treatments following game-related injuries, with outcomes monitored via remote phone apps.” – UC San Diego research abstract via the NFL
Dr. Patrick Neary, an exercise physiologist and professor in the Faculty of Kinesiology and Health Studies at the University of Regina, said his team “believes that different cannabinoid formulations found in medical cannabis have the potential to benefit athletes suffering from the acute and long-term chronic effects of concussions.”
“The specific goal of this project is to determine whether cannabis/hemp-based cannabinoids, i.e., [CBD] and [THC], can be used safely and effectively for pain management and to reduce the use of prescription medications including opioids in post-concussion syndrome athletes,” the research proposal says. “An additional goal is to assess the neuroprotective properties of cannabinoids to reduce the incidence or severity of acute and chronic concussion in professional football players.”
Notably, NFL players will not participate in the study as cannabis use remains barred under the collective bargaining agreement. Instead, the studies will be conducted using “elite professional athletes outside of the NFL.”