+A Novel Pain Solution for Athletes
We are all familiar with the infamous ‘runner’s high,’ that magical feeling of hard-earned bliss and contentment that washes over you after an intense bout of exercise.
Interestingly, the cause for this euphoria is not due entirely to endorphins, as once thought, but is in part due to anandamide – a fatty acid neurotransmitter that is almost identical to THC. Anandamide is detectable at elevated levels after a workout.Anandamide is the ‘bliss chemical’ produced naturally in our bodies and is responsible for feelings of euphoria, pain-relief, well-being, and relaxation. CBD directly increases the amount of anandamide available to our bodies, resulting in increased benefits, and decreased side-effects, from enjoying your favorite workout routine.
Additional benefits of CBD for athletes include:
- Pain and Inflammation: CBD inhibits pain and inflammation through various means, including affecting the TRPV1 receptor, glycine receptors, and adenosine receptors. [S]
- Nausea: CBD is an effective antiemetic, which can help with nausea and feeling of sickness during intense physical training. [S]
- Appetite Stimulation: CBD indirectly stimulates appetite, assisting those such as MMA fighters and power-lifters to consume the added calories needed for building muscle.
- Muscle Spasms: Strained muscles, dehydration, trauma, and damage to the nerves or spinal cord often cause uncomfortable muscle spasms which are treatable with CBD. [S]
- Concussion Protection: CBD has the ability to disrupt the flow of chemicals during a concussion that leads to brain cell death, acting as a neuroprotectant. [S]
This is just a small look into how CBD helps not only high-performance athletes but also anyone interested in enhancing the results they experience from exercise. And perhaps one of the greatest potential benefits for exercise enthusiasts is CBD oil’s ability to reducing post-exercise pain and discomfort.
This isn’t necessarily news; even gold-medalist Olympians like Ross Rebagliati have been using CBD for quite some time. Fortunately for Olympians at least, CBD is no longer a banned substance. Other professional sports associations are not as forward-thinking as the International Olympic Committee, meaning far too many professional athletes – and weekend warriors – are forced to deal with lifelong pain from injuries sustained playing the sport they love.
Learning to Live With Pain
Anyone who plays (or has played) a sport understands the aches and pains that are the inevitable result. Full contact sports often include over-stressing joints, doing abrupt defensive moves, and sustaining repeated blows to the body and head.
Basketball, baseball, and soccer players spend tons of time running across the field or court, causing immense strain on their joints and tendons – ultimately resulting in inflammation and often debilitating pain and soreness.
Yet professional athletes of all stripes, from tennis players to figure skaters, are accustomed to the concept of ‘playing through the pain’. Even so, injuries mean time away from the sport, which means the fear of losing their ‘competitive edge,’ and maybe even prize money or sponsorship were they to take the time needed to recuperate.
For the rest of us who are no strangers to a pickup game of basketball or catching a great wave, but whose livelihoods don’t depend on our athletics, sports injuries are perhaps even more debilitating. After all, the average Joe or Jane doesn’t have a full complement of physical therapists and world-class orthopedic surgeons to tend to our rehabilitation.
CBD offers a non-toxic, non-addictive, virtually side effect-free alternative when dealing with chronic and acute pain. Despite worldwide cannabis legalization efforts, and the legality of hemp-based CBD in many countries, most professional sports authorities do not take approve of its use. As such, CBD’s therapeutic and medicinal applications remain a topic of heated controversy as research continues to show what many athletes have known anecdotally for decades: that cannabis and CBD could be an ideal way to relieve pain without devastating side-effects.
Let’s take a look at how various professional sports organizations feel about CBD.
The NFL and CBD+
Although the National Football League still tests players for both THC and CBD, many expect this policy to change during the renegotiation of league contractual terms in 2020. Many current and former players struggle with chronic pain, opioid dependency, and the life-long consequences that come with both.
The NBA and CBD:
The Controversial History of Cannabis in Sports
Before the establishment of the World Anti-Doping Code by the World Anti-Doping Agency (WADA) in 2004, prohibition was left up to the governing international sports federations to ban, or not ban, cannabis from their sport. Cannabis was perhaps the most heated topic of debate at the 2003 World Conference on Doping in Sport, and the result was a ban in virtually every single sport.
But the reality is, cannabinoids could potentially allow an athlete to feel less stressed and perform better under pressure.
Dan Abrahams is a global sports psychologist specializing in soccer. He is based in England and has some of the leading turn-around stories and case studies in English Premier League history.
Abrahams is sought after by players, coaches and managers across Europe and his soccer psychology books are international bestsellers. He is formerly a professional golfer, is Lead Psychologist for England Golf and he holds a degree in psychology and masters degree in sports psychology.
Dan Abrahams explores soccer being a game of mindset and how it impacts you whether you’re on the field or sidelines.
Soccer News: “I recently attended the NSCAA Convention in Los Angeles and had the honor of speaking and sharing my ideas about soccer psychology to an audience of enthusiastic coaches. The NSCAA Convention was amazing. Throughout the five days I spent in California, it struck me that America is hungry for simple psychological tools and techniques for soccer players, coaches and parents to implement. I am passionate about players, coaches and parents working together on the mental side of the game. I don’t think there’s anything more powerful than players utilizing sports psychology and communicating with their coaches and parents to improve. One of the things I discussed with coaches at the NSCAA Convention was the importance of understanding why soccer is a game of mindset.”
IT’S ALL TOO EASY FOR PLAYERS, COACHES AND PARENTS TO SEE SOCCER AS A GAME ONLY OF TECHNIQUE, TACTICS AND PHYSICALITY.
It’s too easy to ignore the structure and function of the brain and how it impacts training and match day.
Seconds Vs. Milliseconds
“I’m always asked how soccer can be a game of the brain. After all, soccer works so quickly, right? It takes a second to score a goal. It takes a second to pass the ball or give the ball away.”
But what many players, coaches and parents don’t appreciate is how fast the brain works.
WHILE SOCCER WORKS IN SECONDS, THE BRAIN WOKS IN MILLISECONDS.
So what is the first reason why soccer is a game of mindset?
The brain is throwing out thoughts and feelings as you’re playing, coaching and watching – it’s operating so much quicker than the game itself. If you’re a player, the speed of the brain impacts your game. A soccer player, coach and parent need to manage their brain on and around the soccer pitch because the brain is such a powerful piece of machinery. It works in milliseconds. It trumps soccer for speed every single time. Be aware of this before every session and before every match.
Cannabinoids have also been found to play a considerable role in the extinction of fearful memories by interfering with learned aversive behaviors. This effect could be a massive advantage for an individual who has experienced a traumatic event or injury in their sports career.
When speaking about CBD usage and other athletes, Morgan said, “You don’t have to take it, but you should at least know about it if it’s going to help you protect your brain and protect your body.” Meanwhile, Eugene Monroe retired after thinking about his long-term life and his family. When it came to managing his pain, Monroe said: “Cannabis was a glaring option.”
This study openly acknowledges the cannabis may provide an athlete with an unfair advantage and sports authorities should regulate its use, however, it is hard to ignore the potential health benefits that can also be experienced.
The Future of CBD in Sports
At the start of 2018, the WADA officially removed CBD from its list of banned substances. Due to this major step forward in policy, the United States Anti-Doping Agency (USADA) will also stop testing for CBD. This is great news for many athletes, particularly UFC fighters, who will now be able to legally implement CBD into their performance and recovery regimens. The National Hockey League and Major League Baseball Player’s Association are also among those with much more lenient attitudes on medicinal cannabis.
Considering the influence WADA have on sports organizations worldwide, it will be interesting to see the way this decision to remove CBD from the banned substances list will change the perception of CBD in the coming years. This decision, coupled with the voices of athletes who are now comfortable to speak out about their own positive experiences with cannabinoids, will likely do a lot to remove the stigma associated with cannabis use.
CBD, Athletes and the Future of Sports Recovery
Companies in Support of CBD and Sports
Shawn Hermanson, CMO of cannabinoid-based nutraceutical product maker Boulder Botanicals and Bio-Sciences (BBB), believes CBD gives players hope. He notes that many are calling CBD a “miracle supplement” and that leagues might be warming to the idea sooner than later. “A good sign that the stigma surrounding CBD is diminishing is that I am receiving calls from sports agents about once a week, inquiring about CBD and how exactly it helps athletes.”
One of the more notable retired players is Marvin Washington. He also never consumed cannabis before turning to CBD after retiring. Now, he is one of five plaintiffs challenging the 1970 Controlled Substance Act and the U.S. Department of Justice’s current stance.