The NFL awards $1m to researchers studying cannabis and CBD for pain management

2nd February 2022

In a truly historic move, the National Football League (NFL) has announced that it awarded $1 million to researchers to study the potential of cannabis in pain management.

Only a few months after the NFL, hand in hand with the Players’ Association (NFLPA), announced a plan to conclude a study aimed at better understanding cannabis and CBD as substitutes for opioid-based medicines for pain management, the organisations have agreed upon two teams of researchers.

The $1 million will go to two teams of medical researchers at the University of California San Diego and the University of Regina. The studies will investigate the effects of cannabinoids on pain management and neuroprotection from concussion in elite football players.

Dr Allen Sills, NFL Chief Medical Officer, said: “As with the league’s broader approach to health and safety, we want to ensure that our players are receiving care that reflects the most up-to-date medical consensus.

“While the burden of proof is high for NFL players who want to understand the impact of any medical decision on their performance, we are grateful that we have the opportunity to fund these scientifically-sound studies on the use of cannabinoids that may lead to the discovery of data-based evidence that could impact the pain management of our players.”

As we reported in mid-2020, according to the league’s (fairly) new Collective Bargaining Agreement, the THC limit for positive drug tests upped to 150 nonograms per ml from Carboxy THC per 1 ml of urine.

The NFL claimed that this THC limit made the league one of the more lenient of the sporting bodies. The NFL has been open and a bit more relaxed about cannabis use for a while now than other sports leagues or organisations – such as the International Olympic Committee (IOC).

In the announcement, the NFL emphasised: “While the results of the studies funded under this program may inform alternative pain management strategies, they will have no impact on the jointly administered Policy and Program on Substances of Abuse in place under the current NFL-NFLPA collective bargaining agreement (CBA).

“Elite professional athletes outside of the NFL will be participating in the studies funded under this award. NFL players are not permitted to participate.”

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