Many world-class athletes have been penalized for smoking cannabis, but science suggests it could be the smarter choice.
At the start of 2014, NFL commissioner Roger Goodell announced that he might be open toallowing injured players to use medical marijuana in states where it is legal.
A number of top athletes in the NFL, along with various other sports leagues, have been known to enjoy cannabis. And there are many good reasons why athletes should be allowed to use the substance without fear of consequences.
It’s a Safer Way of Managing Pain
Marijuana’s potential to relieve pain has been noted by many players in the NFL, and was also acknowledged by their commissioner.
As former Denver Broncos player Nate Jackson explained to The Denver Post,
NFL players live in a great deal of pain on a daily basis, and marijuana helps with that.
Teams pass out opioid painkillers, which are highly addictive. And that can affect a player long after they are done playing.
Marijuana doesn’t have those types of effects.
It Doesn’t Harm Lung Function
One might wonder why athletes would be okay with smoking cannabis, considering the importance of lung health in professional sports.
But the largest study ever to investigate this effect, published in 2012, helps to explain why.
The 20-year-long study, which involved over 5,000 adults, concluded that regular marijuana smoking (a joint a day for 7 years or a joint a week for 20 years) had no negative impact on lung function.
It May Even Improve Lung Function
On the contrary, the study found evidence of slight improvements in lung capacity for those who smoked cannabis.
The researchers suggest that the traditional method of smoking cannabis, which involves deep inhales, could actually contribute to better lung function over time.
Unlike Alcohol, It Doesn’t Cause Hangovers or Bodily Harm
Banning athletes from using cannabis forces many to turn to alcohol instead, which poses a number of disadvantages.
As former Seattle Seahawks player John Moffitt recently explained:
If you’re an athlete and you’re drinking (alcohol), you’re deteriorating your body far more than if you’re an athlete and you’re using marijuana.
It Aids Recovery and Performance
There are many other reasons why cannabis is so popular among athletes. In fact, some researchers argue that it should remain banned as a performance enhancing drug, due to its long list of benefits.
Writing in Frontiers in Psychiatry, a pair of neuroscientists from Brazil’s University of Sao Paulo provided this summary:
Cannabis smoking can be helpful for some activities such as extreme sports, as it improves muscle relaxation, reduces anxiety, and extincts fear memories (e.g., negative experiences) leading to enhanced performance.
It is also worthwhile to note that cannabis smoking improves sleep time and recovery, which may favor performance when an athlete is facing multiple competitions in a short period of time.
The debate on cannabis as a banned substance has led to recent changes in Olympic drug testing rules as well.