Why are Amateur, Professional and Retired Athletes taking Hemp Products?

Athletes are Finally Jumping on the CBD Bandwagon.


Tony Tortorici

It really doesn't come as a surprise to me that so many athletes are not only using CBD oil but are also advocating for its use to help with everything from muscle and workout recovery to managing aches and pains, getting better sleep and even coping with the mental stress of being a competitive athlete. Some athletes even believe that CBD may help to relieve symptoms associated with concussions by limiting brain inflammation associated with acute head trauma. 

As sports medicine is trending towards more natural methods to alleviate pain in athletes and start to shift their focus away from the use of prescription opiates, the doors have been left open to protocols that include hyperbaric oxygen chambers, acupuncture, chiropractic care, cryogenic chambers and CBD supplements. 

With a recent shift in both legal and public opinion surrounding cannabis products, CBD has recently been removed from the list of banned PED’s (performance enhancing drugs) for competitive athletes and is now considered to be just another nutritional supplement. This is a big step in the right direction for The World Anti-Doping committee and professional sports in general. This gives athletes another option on how they choose to deal with pain, injuries and stress. An option that doesn’t get them high, or addicted. An option that is non-narcotic, non-habit forming, and is praised by athletes who have had addiction problems to opiates after being prescribed pharmaceutical pain medications.

Golf has taken a very progressive approach to CBD, More than 50 professionally touring golfers are currently using Functional Remedies Endosport CBD products. You may have heard or seen in the news that Bubba Watson and Scott McCarron use CBD products to help with sleep and the stress of busy schedules and competitions.  Scott McCarron had this to say about CBD in an interview with ESPN. "I went and tried it about two weeks later when I went home. I measure my sleep with a device called WHOOP," McCarron said. "That's a sleep and strain device. Major League Baseball, NFL and Olympic athletes use the device. For the first time in about two years that I'd been wearing the device, I was taking the CBD oil, started on Monday and had sleep in the green, which is fantastic sleep, for seven days straight the first time I took this CBD oil at night to help me sleep." McCaron has reportedly been taking CBD now daily for over 2 years. 

There are no bigger advocates for athletes, legislators and doctors to look more closely into the potential of CBD than “Athletes for Care”. Athletes for Care was founded “by athletes for athletes” and the founders include retired sports stars, Jake Plummer, former NFL quarterback, and Riley Cote, retired NHL hockey player. Their board of directors is made up of both male and female retired athletes and they have dozens of athlete activists and ambassadors ranging from Olympic snowboarders to NFL, NBA, NHL, Golf and Volleyball players. They advocate for the research and use of cannabis products for athletes struggling with body pain, head trauma, depression, anxiety and other sports related injuries or symptoms. They also push for teams and athletes to adopt other healthy lifestyle habits like yoga, meditation and clean nutrition.

There is another link between athletes and cannabinoids that has been happening well before the first person decided to light up a joint of marijuana or the first CBD oil was extracted from an industrial hemp plant. This is the famous phenomenon of the runner’s high. For the last several decades scientists and runners likened the body’s release of endorphins into the bloodstream as the source of anecdotal stories about reaching a point in a long distance run where the runner becomes less sensitive to aches and pains, gets into a flow state and even experiences euphoria (without intoxication). This makes a lot of sense because we know that endorphins are  endogenous opioid hormones that interact with pain (opiod) receptors, and they’re mostly released during times of increased physical stress.

What we have more recently found out is that once released into the bloodstream, endorphins are too large to pass through the blood brain barrier, making them an unlikely candidate to cause the effect of euphoria. Once scientists made this discovery, they started looking at the compounds that do pass through the blood brain barrier and what they discovered was that an endogenous cannabinoid (In this case, Anandamide) could be a major player, especially when it comes to the euphoria associated. Not only does Anandamide pass through the blood brain barrier and interact with the endocannabinoid system, where it helps to regulate basic biological function, it is also found in heightened levels in the blood of endurance athletes after a race. Its this combination that has many scientists speculating that it is indeed Anandamide that is  responsible for the much talked about and elusive runner’s high.  Now imagine having the potential to possibly stoke your endocannabinoid system’s function by taking CBD oil before a workout or competition to achieve some of the same desired results as the runner’s high without having to put your body through so many miles to get there. 

While still competing, athletes are always looking for a competitive edge. Those who can recover faster, can train harder and more often. Better sleep means more energy to compete. Less stress equals less distractions. And a lot of athletes are claiming that CBD is helping them gain that competitive edge, naturally. 

Retired athletes are often times looking for pain relief from a lifetime of pushing and often times abusing their bodies. Quality of life for professional athletes often times declines rapidly after retirement. With the potential for CBD to curb pain, decrease inflammation, regulate sleep and manage stress it’s popularity among competitive and retired athletes is surging. 

Do a quick google search of your favorite sport and see which athletes are endorsing CBD products and why, you may be pleasantly surprised to see some of your favorite athletes advocating for its use. 

A few days after wrapping up this article, Rob Gronkowski, recently retired NFL superstar held a press conference about his new sponsorship with a CBD company. It’s the multiple studies about cannabinoids having a positive impact on traumatic brain injury, potentially helping football players cope with concussions and CTE and the stories about pain relief and injust recovery associated with CBD that makes it such an exciting supplement for so many athletes. 


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