Being an athlete can feel extremely rewarding, as it allows you to build upon your own physical endurance while practicing teamwork, responsibility, commitment, and time management. However, almost every type of athlete will experience some sort of physical pain from their sport. The constant wear and tear can have long-term negative effects, such as increased risk of osteoarthritis. Here’s why CBD could be right for athletes who are looking for alternative pain management solutions.

The Danger of Opioids 

Although current pain management methods are effective, they can also be dangerous. Despite the risk, athletes will often turn to opioid (narcotic) pain medications such as morphine and codeine. Common side effects of narcotics include constipation, nausea, dizziness, sedation, vomiting, abdominal pain, headache, and dry mouth, while the more severe side effects include respiratory depression, chest pain, cardiac arrest, and death. Furthermore, prescription narcotics are the most commonly abused opioids. OxyContin, Vicodin, and other over-the-counter drugs bring pain relief as well as produce a feeling of euphoria and extreme relief. According to TimesUnion, a startling half-million people have died since 2000 as a result of misusing painkillers.

Painkillers have had a negative impact not only on professional athletes but also to those in college and high school. Most student athletes do not turn to drugs to impress others, but instead become unintentionally addicted after being introduced to prescription drugs (sometimes from their coaches or doctors). In an interview from the New York Post, Lee S. documents the root cause of his opioid addiction: an injury on the football field. After breaking his ankle during a high school football game, the doctor wrote him a prescription for Percocet pills. In addition to euphoria and pain relief, Percocet may also cause drowsiness, depression, memory problems, decreased testosterone, cardiac problems, bone problems, addiction and death. Fast-acting and effective, Percocet is able to mask the pain; however, when the sports season ends, many student athletes continue taking the pills due to the euphoric feeling.

Benefits of CBD

On the other hand, CBD offers a safe alternative for athletes who are looking to treat their pain. Since CBD does not produce the ‘high’ that is typically associated with cannabis consumption, it lacks the addictive quality that many opioids have. In fact, a 2011 study concluded that CBD has a better safety profile compared to THC and other cannabinoids. Researchers discovered that high doses of CBD up to 1,500 milligrams per day were well-tolerated by human subjects, and did not impair motor or psychological functions. 

Furthermore, it is well known that using CBD has a variety of health benefits, including pain relief, reducing stress and anxiety, and improving sleep quality for faster recovery. Its anti-inflammatory and soothing properties are able to help many athletes with their pain management. In an interview with CBS Miami, former NFL player Larry Chester advocates for CBD as a pain reliever, adding that chronic pain and an addiction to opioids had previously destroyed his relationships. He now uses topical CBD oil to help with knee pain, claiming that his discomfort is gone in just 15 minutes after application. Those who introduced CBD into their night-time routine also felt an overall sense of relaxation during their sport, reducing performance anxiety during competitions.

Is CBD legal for athletes?

Yes! Starting at the beginning of 2018, the World Anti-Doping Agency (WADA) removed CBD from its list of prohibited substances in competition – however, the psychoactive component of marijuana (THC) is prohibited up to a certain threshold.  If you’re an athlete who struggles with pain management, CBD can be a great health supplement for post-exercise recovery and overall wellness.