Is Cannabis Beneficial or Detrimental for Injured Athletes?


Is Cannabis Beneficial or Detrimental for Injured Athletes?
In the realm of professional sports, a controversial and complex issue is the use of cannabis by athletes. Reports are increasing of athletes, from football players to long-distance runners, turning to cannabis for pain relief from injuries and to aid in recovery. While anecdotal evidence suggests benefits, empirical data remains limited.

A study revealed that 26% of athletes used cannabis over a two-week period, and 67% reported lifetime usage. Notably, 61% used it for pain relief, with 68% experiencing relief. This suggests a potential benefit, but the picture is not entirely clear. It’s crucial to consider that while cannabis might offer pain relief, its impact on athletic performance is debated.

The World Anti-Doping Agency (WADA) prohibits substances that could enhance performance, pose risks to athletes, or violate the ‘spirit of sport.’ Cannabis falls into a gray area here. While some athletes claim it aids recovery and pain management, experts like Dr. Gary Wadler, author of “Drugs and the Athlete,” argue that cannabis negatively impacts hand-eye coordination and other key athletic skills.

ESPN studies further support the idea that cannabis might hinder rather than help athletes, highlighting its adverse effects on coordination, concentration, and the ability to reach exercise peak. This raises doubts about its appropriateness in sports settings.

When athletes are caught using performance-enhancing drugs (PEDs), it sparks significant controversy. Marijuana’s classification as a PED is still debated. Some athletes argue for its benefits in recovery and pain management, which contrasts with its grouping alongside other more conventional PEDs.

Finally, marijuana’s legal status varies, adding another layer of complexity. It’s the most commonly used mind-altering substance in the U.S. after alcohol, yet its legality differs across states. This patchwork of regulations presents a challenge for athletes and sporting bodies alike.

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Overall, the use of cannabis in sports presents a conundrum. It’s essential to weigh its potential benefits against its possible drawbacks, including performance impairment and legal concerns. With ongoing research and evolving perceptions, the role of cannabis in sports remains an open question.
University of California San Diego Health
The Hub
Dartmouth College
CU Boulder Today
CU Boulder Today
The Sundial
Global Sport Institute
Northwestern University
University of Rochester Medical Center

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