Cannabis in sports medicine is a controversial topic and is often not tolerated in professional and collegiate organizations. However, it’s also a topic very much on the radar for many athletes during this year’s Tokyo Olympics.
Potentially, the same benefits athletes find in using cannabis-based products for their ailments will appeal to everyday consumers who are weekend athletes or in physical occupations like trade labor, hospitality and others. But the big hurdle for giving athletes and other consumers the benefits of cannabinoids could be a lack of standardization. There are organizations who have already begun to address that problem.
Organizations like the Ryah Group, a data technology company for the plant-based medicine industry, are working alongside researchers globally, providing a holistic approach to therapeutic plant treatment and unlocking the data from seed to consumption. The company’s in-depth analytical reports help to identify significant trends in plant therapy, like that in sports medicine.
The World Anti-Doping Agency (WADA) removing CBD as a prohibited substance in 2017 combined with the passage of the 2018 Farm Bill in the U.S. helped change the conversation around CBD use for athletes. As a result, American athletes are turning more and more to cannabis as a pain reliever, alternative to opioids, and part of a recovery plan.
Three-time Team USA women’s soccer Olympian Megan Rapinoe and captain of the Bronze Medal-winning team in Tokyo is an advocate for the use of CBDs in sports recovery. She has incorporated it into her everyday recovery plan, but was unable to continue while competing in Tokyo. Rapinoe shared that not being able to take the products she has been using to manage her pain, inflammation, mood and sleep at the Olympics is “quite frustrating.”
“We’re expected to perform on the biggest stages and highest levels, yet we can’t use all-natural products to help us recover,” Rapinoe told Forbes magazine in July. “It’s not right, and these policies need to be changed to reflect where our culture is.”
The NFL is leading the way forward in exploring the benefits of plant-therapy for players. The NFL and the NFL Players Association (NFLPA) announced on June 8, 2021, they are investing $1 million in funding for novel pain treatments that include cannabis and CBD therapy, according to Ryah Group. They will be providing five research grants to eligible applicants by November of 2021.
From 2014 to 2020, the NFL had 801 injures and a 30 percent jump in reported concussions. The NFL is looking for alternatives to opioids, and it seeks out answers to the effectiveness, dosing requirements, and effect of the performance alterations of cannabis. Until now, there hasn’t been studies done regarding sports medicine directly. The NFLPA is changing this.
Ryah Group’s dose-control devices standardize the dosing protocol, QR products ensure compliance, and mobile apps collect the necessary data.
Sports organizations across the U.S. are rethinking their strict policies with the legalization of recreational and medicinal cannabis across the U.S. Besides the NFL, the National Basketball Association, Major League Baseball and the National Hockey League have all relaxed or refocused their restrictions and rules around cannabis.
Given those softening attitudes toward cannabinoids and new studies around plant therapy in sports medicine, a new era of pain management and recovery accepted by sports organizations worldwide may lie right around the corner for athletes like Rapinoe.