Athletes and CBD. Should You Workout With Hemp?

Written by
Eden Kirrish

Athletes and CBD. Should You Workout With Hemp?

Written by
Eden Kirrish

Athletes and CBD. Should You Workout With Hemp?

Written by
Eden Kirrish
Get the word out!

How Pro Athletes are Using CBD Today

Your alarm clock rings in your ear as the soreness of your muscles start to sink in. Yesterday’s training pushed you past your limit, but your coach is expecting you at practice this morning.

Many sports are physically demanding without sufficient time to recover in between training. Athletes can’t sacrifice taking a break from training which often leads to taking prescription painkillers in hopes of avoiding their pain.

Could cannabinol (CBD)  act as a natural supplement for athletes with exercise-induced inflammation?  

When people first hear the term CBD, they often associate it with Tetrahydrocannabinol (THC). CBD and THC both come from the cannabis plant, but CBD is derived from hemp while THC is derived from marijuana. THC is known for its psychoactive effects on the brain that make users feel “high”. CBD isn’t psychoactive and won’t make you feel high. Think of them as close cousins with very different personalities.

Many professional athletes are trying to raise awareness for CBD as a natural addition to athlete's selfcare routines. . Especially, CBD’s anti-inflammatory properties which helps provide pain-relief.

In previous years, the U.S. Anti-Doping Agency considered CBD illegal for athletes to use. But, CBD is no longer listed under 2018 Prohibited Substances.

However despite this change, many professional sports leagues don’t allow their players to use CBD as a daily supplement.

Typically, leagues require players to undergo drug test throughout the season and even during the off-season. It’s important to keep in mind that they are testing for THC which is responsible for its psychoactive effects on the brain. That’s why it’s important to make sure that the CBD they are using doesn’t contain THC, so they won’t fail a drug test.  

Opioids in the NFL

Football is an extremely physically and mentally demanding sport, especially in the National Football League (NFL).  The physical and mental demands of the sport often leave many players with chronic pain or injuries that lead to the use of prescription drugs.

Many players that experience injuries are prescribed painkillers, like opiods, in order to keep playing and stay out on field.

However, opioids are often highly addictive and lead to future misuse.

A 2017 survey found more than half of Americans take prescription medicines. Not to mention, Americans make up only 5 percent of the world’s population, yet consume 80 percent of the world’s opioids.

Cannabis shows promise in helping this crisis.

In fact, according to Journal of the American Medical Association, “Passing a state medical cannabis law on average reduced opioid overdose deaths by 24.8 percent, according to the Journal of the American Medical Association.”

To read more on CBD’s potential in naturally combating addiction click here.

NFL Opioid Use Statistics

In 2017, the Washington Post reported on the NFL’s abuse of prescription painkillers.

The Post reviewed the sealed court documents that revealed the NFL teams violated the following:

  • Federal laws governing prescription drugs
  • Disregarded guidance from the Drug Enforcement Agency (DEA)
  • Prescribed players with prescription painkillers each season

Team and league officials were made aware of these abuses and violations, yet responded slowly or failed to even comply.

Several NFL players are beginning to speak out on the need for professional leagues to consider the use of CBD as a natural way to supplement their pain relief regimens.

Here are some of them:

Eugene Monroe- Former NFL offensive tackle

A study published in the medical journal JAMA found chronic traumatic encephalopathy (CTE) in 99 percent of deceased NFL players’ brains that were donated for research. CTE is a brain condition that often comes from repetitive trauma to the head.

Eugene Monroe was the first active NFL player to join the campaign “When the Bright Lights Fade”. The campaign aims to raise money for research on the CBD as treatment and preventions of symptoms of CTE another brain injuries.

According to a press release in 2016, Monroe donated $80,000 for research on effectiveness of cannabinoid therapies on current NFL athletes.  

The release said that Monroe, “cannot use cannabinoid products and is instead prescribed opioids to manage his chronic pain from sports-related injuries. He recognizes the benefits of cannabidiol (CBD) for pain management and Chronic Traumatic Encephalopathy (CTE) and fully supports this research that could help professional and amateur athletes as well as anyone suffering from neurodegenerative diseases.”

Derrick Morgan- Titans linebacker

Derrick Morgan comes in as the second active NFL player to advocate for CBD research for professional athletes in the NFL.

In an interview with Yahoo’s Katie Couric, Morgan said, “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.”

Marvin Washington - Former Defensive End

Washington believes in medical marijuana and CBD as a treatment for head injuries. He continuously speaks on the importance of the NFL looking into how CBD can act as a natural supplement for players that are in pain or recovering from an injury.

He is using his professional platform to act as a voice for other players. In fact in 2018, Isodiol, a global provider of CBD appointed Marvin Washington to its Board of Directors.

Washington played 11 seasons in the NFL, and was chosen in the 6th round of the 1989 NFL draft.

Kyle Turley - Former Offensive Lineman

In an interview, with Yahoo Turley credits cannabis with saving his life.

He said his prescriptions increased his rage episodes and symptoms of vertigo. But, marijuana helped him escape these side effects while also eliminating his thoughts of suicide. Turley questions the NFL for not wanting to research the benefits of cannabis in helping its players.


In June 2018, Basketballs BIG3 became the first professional sports league in the United States to allow athletes to use CBD.

Unlike Tetrahedral (THC), CBD doesn’t have psychoactive effects so it won’t make users feel “high”.

This is due to the fact that THC and CBD interact with our brain receptors differently. In fact, THC binds directly to our C1 and C2 receptors which creates a euphoric feeling, whereas CBD doesn’t latch on to our receptors and is non-psychoactive.

Al Harrington

After 16 seasons as a NBA player, Harrington is making his way into the cannabis business.

He currently plays for the BIG3 while launching his own CBD product, Harrington Wellness.


It seems like professional hockey might be a bit more cannabis friendly.

In terms of cannabis use, the NHL is "among the most progressive of the top four sports leagues,” said Director of Communications Jonathan Weatherdon.

The league, however, doesn’t necessarily condone cannabis use. Players are subject to drug tests but they don’t face penalties or suspensions.  


Across leagues, professional players face suspensions or consequences if they test positive on a drug test for marijuana. But, that’s not the case for Major League Baseball.

Thanks to the MLB Players Association, MLB players don’t face suspension if they are tested positive for marijuana. This is part of the leagues Joint Drug Prevention and Treatment Program.  

David Wells

Former all-star player, David Wells, is an advocate of CBD. He said he wishes he found out more about CBD during his professional career.

In an exclusive interview, Wells talked to ThePostMate’s David Katz about the injuries he endured throughout his career.

These injuries led to excessive surgeries which then created his dependence on painkillers. Like many players, Wells didn’t want to miss out on playing so he turned to painkillers for relief.

He continued to use painkillers, like Percocet, even after his professional baseball career. However, he realized he grew tired of how they made him feel once the effects wore off. That’s when Wells found something that changed his life— CBD.

“I wish I knew about it back when I played because I would’ve been all over it,” said Wells. “I would’ve took those risks. If they tested me — ‘hey, you got marijuana in your system’ — I’ll bring it to them: This is what it is. Dissect it. Take it in a lab and see what it’s about.”

Check out this interview for more on his experience.


Nate Diaz

In a post-fight interview, Diaz openly hits his CBD pen.

“It helps with the healing process and inflammation, stuff like that,” Diaz said. “So you want to get these for before and after the fights, training. It’ll make your life a better place.”

Quinton “Rampage” Jackson

In an interview, “Rampage” Jackson credits Nate Diaz with introducing him to CBD. He said it helps with swelling and pain.

The Future of CBD for Professional Athletes

Professional athletes continue to advocate for CBD.  

As more and more athletes share their experiences with CBD, hopefully it will encourage more leagues to research its effectiveness as a natural supplement  for the sake of their players.

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