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Sports, Cannabis and Brain Injury

Sports, Cannabis and Brain Injury 1200 900 Coverleaf

Sports players know better than most that having a serious concussion and head injury isn’t fun.

First, there’s the internal bleeding and swelling of the damaged brain damage. Then there’s the dizziness and vertigo, the constant headache, sensitivity to sound and light, and crippling memory loss of being unable to remember things. It feels like a miserable life that’s made worse by depression, anxiety, and social isolation.

If only there was a pill to treat its effects. Maybe there is. Sports leagues and players are beginning to recognize that cannabidiol (CBD) could help as another treatment option – a development that will affect us all.

In May 2019, the NFL and NFL Players Association announced a joint venture to explore the use of CBD for pain management. It’s the first step for these organizations but one of many for the players who have fought for years to get attention to this treatment option.

Former Cowboys defensive lineman David Irving had four or five major concussions during his NFL career. For the record, even minor head injuries can cause problems. The hits to David Irving’s body has resulted in him feeling multiple mental illnesses.

Opioid medications were what the doctors prescribed. “I didn’t like the way they made me feel,” Irving said. He was told to take 10 mg of Percocet every day. “Sure it helped with the pain, but it numbed you out completely. You sweat. Messes up your appetite.”

You don’t have to be a sports player to suffer from a traumatic brain injury. Manitoba teenager Danika Carriere nearly died eight years ago, after riding buckled up in the backseat of a truck that went off the road and into a ditch. Her head went into a metal bar that splintered her frontal bone and crushed her brain.

When we think about the consequences of head trauma, we often think about it’s all about the body, but there’s a lot more that will happen. “It’s definitely tough to describe because people might think that I’m completely healed,” Danika said. “I still have weaknesses and issues when I’m fatigued. They don’t completely understand that. So, therefore, that’s when friendships didn’t go well and I lost several friends.”

The thing about having a brain injury is that you are never the same. But there is new hope. We’re seeing a change in how sports associations are calling for more research into how cannabis can be used to treat concussions and brain injuries.


In March 2019, Canopy Growth announcement a partnership with National Hockey League Alumni Association. The plan is to have former NHL players take part in a study that will examine how well CBD can alleviate head injuries.

We see a lot of athletes who have chronic pain and have other problems related to repetitive brain trauma,” said Dr. Charles Tator, neurosurgeon and concussion expert. “We are reasonably optimistic that cannabis and especially the CBD part of cannabis can relieve a lot of that suffering.”

In more good news, Aurora Cannabis announced in May 2019 a partnership with mixed martial arts association, the UFC. The two corporations will begin clinical research to explore the relationship between hemp-derived CBD and athlete recovery.

“This partnership with Aurora is an extension of that goal, and we’re looking forward to collaborating with Aurora to find new ways to improve the health and safety of athletes who compete in UFC,” said UFC president Dana White in the news release.

Although these steps among major sporting associations are a good sign, the studies are still in their infancy. We know that more work has to be done. But with these leaps forward, what can help injured alumni athletes like David Irving will certainly lead to helping more car accident victims like Danika Carriere.

People can no longer say, ‘Let’s wait for science.’ Now they can say it is happening. If you have any questions or want to speak to one of our health professionals about how to use cannabis for your health, the Coverleaf’s team is ready to meet with you.