The National Football League (NFL) is awarding $1 million in research funding to two teams of medical researchers to study the effects of cannabinoids on pain management and neuroprotection from concussion in elite football players.
The NFL recently announced that two medical teams, one from the University of California, San Diego and the other from University of Regina in Canada, will receive $1 million to study the effect of naturally produced cannabinoids for pain management and neuroprotection from concussion and participation in contact sports. The program was launched by the NFL and the NFL Players Association’s (NFL-PA) Joint Pain Management Committee in June 2021, which selected these two medical teams out of 106 research proposals (1,2). The projects will reportedly take three years to conduct.
“We know there’s been a lot of interest in this area, but we did not feel like there was a lot of great solid research on the benefits of marijuana, CBD and treating acute and chronic pain,” said Dr. Allen Sills, NFL chief medical officer. “So, that’s why we wanted to try to contribute to the body of science in this area.”
Dr. Kevin Hill, the Director of Addiction Psychiatry at Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Center, a cannabis researcher and author, and the co-chair of the NFL-NFLPA Joint Pain Management Committee further explained their desire to conduct research (1). “We really want to know, do they work? And every day I meet with patients who are interested in cannabinoids and it’s the same thing, we really don’t know the answers to that,” said Dr. Hill. “So, it becomes a very complicated risk/benefit discussion. So I’m thrilled to be a part of something that actually is going to get toward finding some answers to the questions that everybody’s been talking about for years.”
Many NFL players over the years have inquired about the benefits of cannabis and cannabinoids. Several former players are involved in the medical-cannabis business and have either started their own brands, invested in companies, or been hired as ambassadors.
According to the press release (1), one study will be led by Dr. Thomas Marcotte, Dr. Mark Wallace, and researchers at the University of California San Diego and will investigate the effects of cannabinoids on pain and recovery from sports-related injuries in elite athletes.
The other study will be led by Dr. J. Patrick Neary and researchers at the University of Regina and will study the naturally produced cannabinoids for pain management and neuroprotection from concussion and participation in contact sports.