Cannabidiol is Changing the Game for Professional Basketball

If you play (or have ever played) sports, you know pain is inevitable. Sports such as basketball often include performing abrupt defensive moves, sustaining blows to the body, and spending hours running up and down the court – ultimately causing immense strain, soreness, and inflammation.

To remedy this issue, professional athletes often rely on NSAID (nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs) to curb performance anxiety, speed up recovery, and treat injuries in order to stay in the game. Their entire career essentially depends on it. These commonly faced issues could potentially lead to prolonged absence or even worse, a loss of position. Athletes need tools that promote recovery and effectively heal pain and inflammation without compromising physical health. While some players have found success in using prescription drugs, many have been sent into a life of serious addiction. Luckily, there is an alternative and it’s all-natural.

Cannabidiol or CBD is a cannabinoid extracted from the hemp plant that may be able to help with everything from sleeping disorders and addiction to anxiety and muscle problems. In this article, we learn about how Cannabidiol can help athletes achieve optimal health and keep their competitive edge.

WADA Finally Adds Cannabidiol to the Roster

The legality of Cannabidiol in basketball is tricky, as it’s regulated by the FDA. However, with laws varying from state to state, those consuming the cannabinoid with an authorized prescription may be able to avoid legal scrutiny. Regarding sports, hemp has been banned in the NBA since the 90’s. This ban prohibits athletes from having hemp-derived Cannabidiol in their systems. To detect the substance, drug tests are conducted on players randomly four times throughout the year and if anyone exceeds the THC (tetrahydrocannabinol) threshold of 15ng/ml, he or she would be in violation of the rules. Players are subject to multi-game suspensions — sometimes, unpaid and even a fine of up to $25,000 for more severe offenses. As the Cannabidiol landscape continues to change, major consideration is being given to Cannabidiol and its place in professional sports.

At the start of 2018, The World Health Organization’s (WHO) Expert Committee on Drug Dependence stated that Cannabidiol does have therapeutic benefits and doesn’t exhibit addiction or abuse potential. The World Anti-Doping Agency’s (WADA, which usually establishes the criteria for anti-doping in most sports across the world), removed Cannabidiol from the banned substances list early 2018. This made WADA the first major sports organization to acknowledge Cannabidiol as a compound separate from marijuana and allow pro athletes to use Cannabidiol products. In a statement released by WADA in September 2017, “cannabidiol is no longer prohibited.” Since then, where it’s not prohibited, many elite athletes have found Cannabidiol to be a natural, effective and less toxic alternative to analgesic or addictive drugs.

Although this change is yet to be embraced in other sports organizations, WADA’s decision has not only given many athletes hope, but also the opportunity to use Cannabidiol as a natural alternative without the fear of consequence. This is the first of its kind in the history of competitive sports and could mean progress in the research of cannabinoids for professional sports.. In the coming years, it will be a delight to see how the influence of WADA (coupled with the voices of other Cannabidiol advocates) will prompt other sports organizations to follow its lead.

The Big Deal with the BIG3

While there haven’t been many other major sports leagues to embrace the use of Cannabidiol, one other has. The BIG3 is a 3-on-3 — a basketball league featuring retired professional players— became the first professional league to legalize cannabidiol for recovery and pain relief.

“When someone has pain, the general approach in America is to prescribe opioids,” Big 3 co-owner Kwatinetz says. “When you look at the benefits and risks of opioids versus Cannabidiol, it’s not even a debate. From the research I’ve read, Cannabidiol is even more effective.” For a new sports league, this is a partnership with the right timing.

While this may not be a direct impact of the Big3’s decision, interestingly it appears that the NBA is open to the idea of removing medical marijuana from the banned substances list. NBA commissioner Adam Silver stated he’s “very interested” in the science behind medical marijuana and would be “open” to his players using it to help recover from physical ailments. He suggests, however, that it should be regulated similarly to medications used for pain. Nonetheless, this is still great news for both pro and collegiate athletic organizations and will likely help to remove the stigma associated with hemp use as well as lead others to embrace hemp’s healing properties.

Cannabidiol: A Safer and More Effective Alternative

Opioids and anti-inflammatory drugs like NSAIDs are the most common approach to dealing with daily occurrences of pain in pros and amateurs alike. But what few realize is that even these everyday drugs come with a laundry list of side effects, including death. According to the Journal Drug and Alcohol Dependence, 52% of former NFL players reported using opioids during their career, and 71% of those reported abusing the drugs in 2011.

While the cannabinoid still remains a controversial topic, research shows that Cannabidiol could be an effective alternative for relieving pain without negative side effects. The hope is that organizations such as WADA and BIG3 will influence the use of Cannabidiol in sports to reduce the need for dangerous and addictive opioids for pain management.

Cannabidiol for the Win

There may not be an abundance of research on hemp in sports medicine. However, the body of research continues to grow about the many symptoms and ailments Cannabidiol is able to treat. Many of these symptoms commonly ail professional athletes. In fact, science is already gathering information on the nature of lesser-known cannabinoids such as CBN and CBG as we speak.

As we’ve learned, Cannabidiol provides a natural way for athletes to recover from minor and major injuries without long-term effects or addictions. If the health and longevity of players are indeed a priority for these leagues, then a re-evaluation of doping policies is extremely pertinent and should be addressed sooner rather than later.

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