A wise man named Vince McMahon once said that the NFL stood for the “no fun league.” He may have had a point. Indeed, the National Football League can be a real stick in the mud sometimes. When it limits its player’s right to peaceful political protest or sweeps or deprives them of the ability to use medical marijuana, allegedly forcing them to turn to opioids for treatment of chronic pain, they really can be a buzzkill.
But now the NFL is considering turning a new leaf and becoming the maybe kinda fun league, as the league has agreed to work together with the NFL Players Association to study medical marijuana as a potential treatment for pain management in injured players.
However, the bets here seem pretty well hedged. According to the Washington Post, “NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell has said that the league would consider allowing players to use marijuana for pain management for pain management if it is established as valid by medical and scientific experts.”
Marijuana is currently recommended by doctors for pain treatment in numerous states across the U.S. While there’s still testing to be done, there is also no question that cannabis exhibits way fewer negative side effects than opioids, its rival for pain management treatment.
One player who has been outspoken about the need for medical cannabis in the league is former Baltimore Ravens offensive lineman Eugene Monroe. In 2017, Monroe stated that marijuana had been a much more effective treatment for him than opioid painkillers.
“This pain is never going away,” he said. “My body is damaged. I have to manage it somehow. Managing it with pills was slowly killing me. Now I’m able to function and be extremely efficient by figuring out how to use different formulations of cannabis.”
Around the same time that Monroe spoke out, the NFLPA filed an official grievance against the NFL for violating terms of a cost-benefit analysis governing health and safety issues. The Players Association claimed that teams illegally stored, transported, and issued opioids and other painkillers to their players, in lieu of offering other options such as medical marijuana treatment.
The new study commissioned by the NFL and the NFLPA is part of a broader effort to improve health in the league with a duel focus on pain management and mental health and wellness.
Photo by Flickr user Erin Costa