The NFL, Concussions, and CBD

The NFLPA is studying the use of medical marijuana for pain management

The National Football League Players Association (NFLPA) is researching the use of medical marijuana to help players manage pain, rather than prescription opioids. In August of 2017, the National Football League sent a letter to the NFLPA offering to "join forces on researching marijuana's potential as a pain management tool."

Some NFL players are supporting CBD research for concussions

Before Eugene Monroe retired from the Baltimore Ravens in 2016, he became the first active NFL player to advocate for the use of cannabinoids for pain management and sports injuries. Since retiring, Monroe has become "the lead advocate for medical cannabis research and policy reform in the NFL" and serves as a board member of the NFLPA Pain Management Committee. He is also the Athletic Ambassador for the nonprofit Doctors for Cannabis Regulation.

Monroe has created an in-depth website to promote the acceptance of cannabinoids for pain management and neuroprotection.  His mission: "I’m calling for the NFL to remove marijuana from the banned substances list; fund medical marijuana research, especially as it relates to CTE; and stop overprescribing addictive and harmful opioids." He is encouraging the use of the #cannabis4pain hashtag.


John Hopkins University is studying active NFL players and cannabis use 

In 2016 researchers in the Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine (Baltimore, Maryland) began recruiting football players on the active roster in the NFL for a study of cannabis versus opioid consumption and "Evaluate how general health (e.g. mood, sleep, stress) relates to cannabinoid and opioid use." Players supporting the study are Derrick Morgan, Jake Plummer, and Eugene Monroe, who donated $80,000 toward the research. From the Player Research Invitation: "With emerging evidence about both the harms associated with opioid use and potential benefits of cannabinoids for pain and inflammation, some players have called for the NFL to re-evaluate its policy regarding cannabinoid use and the current practices surrounding opioid use. "

"Researchers at Johns Hopkins University and the University of Pennsylvania will join forces to survey about 20 current and 20 former NFL players regarding whether they’ve used CBD, as well as their injury and medical history. Once they get the data the researchers will design a study on how the body processes CBD in an effort to see how much CBD players can safely consume long term." The research is being led by Dr. Ryan Vandrey, a professor of behavioral pharmacology at Johns Hopkins.

NOW ENROLLING: Current NFL Players for the John Hopkins study

  • To join the study, please call Dr. Ryan Vandrey, Principal Investigator, at 410-550-4036 or e-mail him at

  • Enrollment information here.

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Retired NFL Players have formed the Gridiron Cannabis Coalition

Kyle Turley, a former NFL All-Pro is the leader of the Gridiron Cannabis Coalition. Turley has estimated that at least 50% of players used marijuana when he played.

The Gridiron Cannabis Coalition has the following mission statement:

"The sport of American Football is plagued with multiple ailments and diseases currently void of non-addictive treatments and cures. The GCC is determined to resolve this impasse to allow players and the public option of an organic treatment for injury and illness through Cannabis."

WHEN THE BRIGHT LIGHTS FADE campaign: CBD treatment for NFL players 

A note of caution: This video claims that a study finds that 96% of NFL players have CTE. This is a misstatement. There have been a series of studies of brains which have been donated by NFL players (and their families) usually because of a concern about CTE. This creates a selection bias in the brain collection and a lack of a control group in the studies. Despite the study limitations, however, "the data suggest that there is very likely a relationship between exposure to football and the risk of developing this disease."  

When The Bright Lights Fade was a 2016 fundraising campaign and online video created to raise money for the John Hopkins study of NFL players and cannabis consumption. The video, which went viral, discusses concussions, CTE, and depression and advocates for CBD as a potential treatment option to address pain management as well use as a preventative measure, to promote neurogenesis in the brain. The video references a 2013 study finding that regular CBD administration to stressed mice promoted "proneurogenic action."

The video features interviews with NFL players Jake Plummer, Reuben Droughns, Nate Jackson, Charlie Adams and Tatum Bell. The campaign was sponsored by CW Botanicals and it's related nonprofit The Realm of Caring.


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