Why Are NFL Players Choosing Weed

Posted on October 3rd 2018

A lot of people are using cannabis in sports, including athletes in the snowboard, MMA and pro wrestling realms. (Also apparently all of the UFC.) There are pro-pot gyms in Denver and a San Francisco gym that will soon let members smoke during workouts. Curious, until you learn it's the the lovechild of former NFLer Ricky Williams and a snowboard company executive who runs the 420 Games. Some ultra-marathoners are on record as being into weed (though rarely if ever during competition). 

But of all the athletes, NFL players are not rushing to come 'out of the closet' about their cannabis use. Consider the fact that the NFL has the strictest pot policy in sports, causing many players to be benched and rehabed for 'pissing dirty'. 

Ricky famously chose cannabis over conventional anti-inflammatories and pain meds— Advil, Toradol, and Indocin. The NFL star running back eventually retired from the NFL in 2004 after failing his third NFL-mandated drug test in five seasons.

The pain relief gained from cannabis is said to be comparable to what you’d get from taking an Advil after a run, and far less risky. All NSAIDs—nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs, including Ibuprofen and all its derivatives—come at some risk when combined with exercise. They can, for example, increase the risk of a dehydrated person experiencing rhabdo or full-blown kidney failure. Long-term NSAID use is linked to ulcers. Cannabis has none of these risks with exercise.

'About 89%' of NFL Players Use Marijuana


Estimates on the percentage of NFL players who use marijuana run the gamut, but recently retired tight end Martellus Bennett pinned the number pretty high. 

“I want to say about 89%,” Bennett said on a Bleacher Report podcast hosted by Chris Simms and Adam Lefkoe. 

Asked if it’s shocking when he finds out a teammate doesn’t smoke weed, Bennett responded, “You don’t smoke, bro?”

Bennett explained NFL players use it for reasons other than getting high, ones that include avoiding opioid painkillers and other prescription drugs. 

“There are times of the year where your body hurts so bad,” Bennett said. “You don’t want to be popping pills all the time. There are anti-inflammatory drugs you take so long that they start to eat at your liver, kidneys and things like that. A human-made that. God made weed.”

Former Baltimore Raven lineman, Eugene Monroe, was the first active player to call on the league to permit medical marijuana publicly. Playing football helped keep his younger self off drugs, now he speaks on the topic of cannabis in the NFL, he continues to spread the message that marijuana is so much more useful than opiates. It’s a message that is becoming undeniable, especially with research that shows cannabis can be extremely helpful for players dealing with concussions and chronic traumatic encephalopathy (CTE). 

A 2013 study at a Portuguese university found cannabis helped regenerate brain cells in mice. A 2012 Israeli university study showed low doses of cannabis could aid in the recovery from brain injuries, and a 2005 Canadian university study showed cannabis could be used as an anti-anxiety treatment. 

When it comes to treating brain trauma, former quarterback Jake Plummer has become a vocal proponent of CBD. He now works with Realm of Caring Foundation on the "When the Bright Lights Fade" campaign to raise funds for studies exploring how the use of cannabinoids can treat and prevent CTE and traumatic brain injury symptoms.

Ebenezer Ekuban played defensive end for nine NFL seasons (four of which were with the Broncos) and heard about CBD from Jake after surgeries on his lower back, knee, shoulder and Achilles’ tendon left him dependent on painkillers and anti-inflammatory drugs. 


NFL Players Are Standing Up for Cannabis


Some players have been advocating for cannabis for years and others, it took the shedding of some stigma to get them to open up. 

Former NFL offensive lineman, Eben Britton, is a firm advocate for dropping marijuana prohibition in the league and believes that marijuana holds excellent potential for retired players who deal with chronic residual pain and head injury symptoms. He founded Athletes For Care, a nonprofit offering support groups and addiction awareness for players transitioning into retirement.

As the NFL and NFLPA move toward potentially removing cannabis as a banned substance in the coming years, four-time Super Bowl champion and NFL Hall of Famer Joe Montana is in favour of more substantial cannabis education. He was interviewed by Playboy magazine on the topic of cannabis as medicine. “Legalization is picking up steam on a global level, and I feel like now is the time to spread information about the curing capabilities of this plant. As with any medicine, increased accessibility comes with the need for education." 

Montana is an advocate and open about his personal use of marijuana because of the legalization and increasing knowledge of its medicinal uses.

As for Ricky Williams, he's launching a cannabis product line called Real Wellness. The six products, ranging from vape cartridges to tonics, and salves contain hemp-derived cannabidiol (CBD), tetrahydrocannabinol (THC) or a melodic mix of the two. 


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