NFL chief medical officer: “Really important” to look at marijuana for pain

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The NFL’s new chief medical officer admits that the league needs to take a serious look at how marijuana could potentially be used as a pain-management tool for players, and acknowledged that last week’s CTE study from Boston University was an important piece of research and that there was a link between repetitive head trauma and the degenerative brain disease.

And while both those might sound like common-sense opinions, they’re not the same as the words that have always come from league officials on these topics.

During an interview with Mark Maske of the Washington Post, Dr. Allen Sills, a neurosurgeon from Vanderbilt University who was hired by the league in March, made a number of points that sounded downright progressive from previous league stances.

On marijuana, he said it was “really important” for the league and the NFLPA to find out how safe and effective marijuana could be.

“I think we have a lot more to learn about that,” Sills said. “Certainly the research about marijuana and really more particularly cannabinoid compounds as they may relate to the treatment of both acute and chronic pain, that is an area of research that we need a lot more information on and we need to further develop.

“I think that’s part of what we hope to accomplish together working together with the Players Association. I think this is really important because I like to talk about that our approach to caring for players is really holistic. We want to talk about health and safety issues that affect the whole player experience. And certainly pain management is a big part of that.”

That’s a departure from previous NFL remarks, though commissioner Roger Goodell has gone from saying marijuana was “addictive and unhealthy” to something that deserved more study. But Sills pointed to what some believe is a national opioid crisis, and suggested that the problem was much larger than football alone.

He also said last week’s study from Boston University — which found CTE in 110 of the 111 brains donated from former NFL players — was a solid step forward for the league’s efforts, and that it was “very clear that there are long-term health risks associated with repetitive head injuries.”

“I think this is another important contribution from the Boston University group,” Sills said. “They’ve obviously been a leader in this space and helping to define and describe the pathology of CTE. And I think it’s another important piece of this puzzle that we’re trying to put together. I think that I like to describe CTE [as] it really is a puzzle where we’re trying to assimilate pieces to better understand it, because there’s so much we don’t understand with regard to causation and incidence and who’s exactly at risk, and what are the risk factors and what things might we modify and certainly treatment. So we have a lot left to learn. But this is obviously another key piece as we move forward.”

The NFL hasn’t always been on the same page, with Cowboys owner Jerry Jones said it was “absurd” to connect football and CTE because “medicine is evolving,” while league executive Jeff Miller had acknowledged to congress the link existed.

But Sills is talking like a doctor, and in the case of two of the league’s most important issues, that’s probably as solid a step as players could hope for.

26 responses to “NFL chief medical officer: “Really important” to look at marijuana for pain

  1. We hear all the time about people who get addicted to legal pain medication that was prescribed by their doctor. They deal with those people individually, and try to help them, but I’ve never heard Roger Goodell or anyone else say that those legal medications should be banned. So we know that Goodell doesn’t really believe in what he’s saying. Another word for that is lying. That’s a bad habit to get into. We’ve come to accept that type of behavior a little more lately. I guess maybe it’s contagious. Maybe we should ban lying. The funny thing is, if we like the person who’s lying, we don’t have a problem with lying. So now, I guess, the finger is pointing back at us. People wouldn’t lie so much if we held them accountable. That goes for Goodell and every other leader. Personally, I like Goodell. I’m cool with whatever he says. But then, I like my kids too, and they play football. I want them to get the best medical attention available. Oh shoot, I’m really screwed. Do I look out for my kids, or the leader that I support?

  2. Oh wow man, can’t believe I just said that. So just like other pain killers (opioid) it won’t be abused or used for recreational purposes by young men going from an entitled college life to fame, glamour and $$$$ in the NFL at the age of 20-22.

    Is it me, or is the tremendous success of the NFL seriously threatened by the the hazardous effect it has on the players long term health. Injuries seem to be one of the biggest if not the biggest factor in predicting a teams success. That is the real problem that pain killers or marijuana will not solve and rookies are blind to.

  3. “Goodell has gone from saying that marijuana is “addictive and unhealthy” to something that deserves more study”.

    At least Goodell is now smarter than Jeff Sessions. The problem is that Goodell is about 20 years later in realizing that marijuana is not addictive. Also, no further study is necessary. That is simply throwing a bone to those who still believe “Reefer Madness” was real.

  4. It would be nice if the article or ANY article mentioned the difference between psychoactive component in marijuana (THC) versus the pain killing derivative of hemp (CBD). CBD can be administered through oil or edibles and doesn’t get anyone “high”. It is currently being used to successfully treat pain, epilepsy, grand mal seizures and other ailments. There’s simply no reason for it not to be considered by the NFL and every other entity in the United States. Or could its use be stymied the slimy money trail of obscene profits leading to the door of the pharma companies responsible for our national opioid epidemic? Hmmmmmmmmm.

  5. “So just like other pain killers (opioid) it won’t be abused or used for recreational purposes by young men going from an entitled college life to fame, glamour and $$$$ in the NFL at the age of 20-22.”

    If they approve CBD products there is no abuse to be had. They are non addictive and have zero psychoactive side effects, ie they do NOT get you high.

  6. This is good news … perhaps the NFL will provide the impetus for the legalization of marijuana throughout the country where it is already legal in 29 states.

  7. This issue reminds me of the days (I’m 66) when our high school coaches gave us salt pills and drinking water was considered sissy.
    Most medicines come from plants. Marijuana is classified as a type A narcotic along with Heroin. This is because our government was frightened of hippies and the “counterculture” Specifically, Nixon and J Edgar Hoover were just a bit paranoid. I was 24 when Nixon resigned and I smoked pot then, and sometimes smoke it now. I’m successful and good at my job. It has not ruined my life. In fact, it reduces pain, improves my sex life, and makes my hobby of playing music a bit more fun. I have never tried heroin and rarely take pain meds because I have, you know, common sense!

  8. Remove it from the NFL banned substances list. Then don’t test for it at all. That makes it an alternative to addictive pain killers and also an alternative to alcohol. Addictive drugs and alcohol are severely damaging. Stop with the argument that weed leads to other drugs. Obviously at this point, that would be the prescriptive drugs that the pharmaceutical companies are handing out. Open your eyes!

  9. Which of the following is highly questionable?

    Booze- acceptable despite decades of proof that its abuse is destructive to the individual and society

    Opioids- OK for consumption with a prescription. Massively over prescribed and a clear danger to its user

    Marijuana- Addictive and dangerous with no legitimate medical uses

  10. Problem is weed is not effective at treating acute pain. Recent studies have shown weed can actually make acute pain worse by dulling your bodies natural pain inhibitor neurons. The fact so many people are buying into medical marijuana junk science

  11. thermalito says:
    August 4, 2017 at 10:26 am
    Problem is weed is not effective at treating acute pain. Recent studies have shown weed can actually make acute pain worse by dulling your bodies natural pain inhibitor neurons. The fact so many people are buying into medical marijuana junk science

    My “recent” study that spans 4 decades of managing the pain of a broken back (compression fractures of L1 & L2 resulting from being trapped under a forklift) shows you’re wrong.

  12. Marijuana is not more effective for pain than opioids and never will be. But that doesn’t mean its not good for you. I believe every adult tobacco smoker should have the opportunity to legally switch to the safe alternative of marijuana without a prescription. That’s the true value of pot. Stop paying for cancer people!!!

  13. Lemmy Aksyadis – Google “anecdotal evidence” there Einstein. This is the problem with the weed conspiracy theorists and their junk science. Their “evidence” is never anything more than personal anecdotes and YouTube videos. However, when the claims of weed’s effectiveness are put under the microscope and subjected to actual scientific testing it proves to be little more than a placebo most of the time. Weed does NOT treat acute pain and daily use will make it worse. There are multiple studies that have demonstrated this. I’m sorry this doesn’t conform to what you WANT to be true but facts don’t really care about what you want. Daily weed use can also lead to lower IQ’s over time for young users, increase in the likelihood of developing a physiatrist disorder and erectile dysfunction. Daily weed use is NOT harmless and you people need to stop spreading the lie that it is. Want weed legalized for recreational purposes? Fine. Lets treat it just like booze. Anybody caught driving with a lit joint or high gets a straight up DUI and goes to jail. Just like booze. Deal?

  14. thermalito says:
    August 4, 2017 at 10:55 am
    Lemmy Aksyadis – Google “anecdotal evidence” there Einstein. This is the problem with the weed conspiracy theorists and their junk science. Their “evidence” is never anything more than personal anecdotes and YouTube videos. However, when the claims of weed’s effectiveness are put under the microscope and subjected to actual scientific testing it proves to be little more than a placebo most of the time. Weed does NOT treat acute pain and daily use will make it worse. There are multiple studies that have demonstrated this. I’m sorry this doesn’t conform to what you WANT to be true but facts don’t really care about what you want. Daily weed use can also lead to lower IQ’s over time for young users, increase in the likelihood of developing a physiatrist disorder and erectile dysfunction. Daily weed use is NOT harmless and you people need to stop spreading the lie that it is. Want weed legalized for recreational purposes? Fine. Lets treat it just like booze. Anybody caught driving with a lit joint or high gets a straight up DUI and goes to jail. Just like booze. Deal?

    Einstein? Nice. Well we can agree on impaired driving but I’ll take my personal anecdotal evidence, as well as that of dozens of people I know personally who were opiate addicted from acute pain management until they changed over to MJ, over the ever changing opinion of (politically motivated in many cases) science every day of the year. You may recall that many of the “truths” that have been given to us by science have changed, repeatedly in some cases, over the years. Cholesterol being a major example but there are countless others. But if you want to go all in with today’s version of scientific truth, mazel tov.

  15. Lemmy Aksyadis – since were now on the slippery slope of using anecdotal evidence to make scientific medical claims, why not homeopathy or faith healing? They rely on the EXACT same logic as you. Weed and opiates are not two sides of the same coin. If you think smoking weed is an effective pain remedy for someone suffering a fractured fibula or a laceration of some sort you are well, high. While opiates do have negative side effects and are oftentimes overprescribed, they are highly effective at treating acute pain. There is no evidence whatsoever that suggests weed is effective at treating acute pain and a multitude of studies that have demonstrated just the opposite: that cannabis can dull your bodies natural pain inhibitors and make pain worse. Because scientific theories have changed over time with new evidence does not mean weed is some sort of miracle drug. Today’s version of scientific truth? Funny you’re beginning to sound like a Young Earth Creationist

  16. thermalito says:
    August 4, 2017 at 11:49 am
    Lemmy Aksyadis – since were now on the slippery slope of using anecdotal evidence to make scientific medical claims, why not homeopathy or faith healing? They rely on the EXACT same logic as you. Weed and opiates are not two sides of the same coin. If you think smoking weed is an effective pain remedy for someone suffering a fractured fibula or a laceration of some sort you are well, high. While opiates do have negative side effects and are oftentimes overprescribed, they are highly effective at treating acute pain. There is no evidence whatsoever that suggests weed is effective at treating acute pain and a multitude of studies that have demonstrated just the opposite: that cannabis can dull your bodies natural pain inhibitors and make pain worse. Because scientific theories have changed over time with new evidence does not mean weed is some sort of miracle drug. Today’s version of scientific truth? Funny you’re beginning to sound like a Young Earth Creationist

    And you’re sounding a little reefer madness. I suggest that you refrain form using weed in any form. Paranoia has already set in. Believe what you want. I know what works and what doesn’t and have seen many examples of MJ helping where opiates did not. Broken left Fibula, right radius, broken right and left thumbs, advanced osteoarthritis. Been to more pain management clinics that I can recall. But let’s table this for a couple of years and we’ll see what science has to say then. Let’s review,

    Science says “Don’t eat eggs!High in cholesterol”
    Science says ” We were wrong, just don’t eat yolks”
    Science says “We were wrong, ingested cholesterol has no effect on the cholesterol levels in your body”

    So, please, enlighten, which scientific ‘truth” from the above did you believe?

  17. stevew5 says:
    August 4, 2017 at 9:27 am
    This issue reminds me of the days (I’m 66) when our high school coaches gave us salt pills and drinking water was considered sissy.

    Salt causes the body to retain water. It’s been used for hundreds maybe thousands of years. It’s in most sports drinks. If they gave you salt without water they were idiots.

  18. Lemmy Aksyadis – Reefer Madness? lol. This seems to be the kneejerk canned response from your ilk anytime you encounter anything that runs contrary to your weed junk science. Its not a matter of “belief”, its a matter of accepting what actual evidence says. There are people who claim to have been cured of certain ailments buy praying, using herbal teas, homeopathy, talking to psychics. What makes your claims any different from theirs? Pretty much anyone who takes ibuprofen will get relief from a headache. Novocain works on most anyone as a numbing agent, antihistamine works on most everyone for relief of nasal congestion. Need I go on? If weed is so effective, why does it work as a pain reliever on such a tiny percent of the population? Why have so many studies demonstrated it is either completely ineffective or nothing more than a placebo on the VAST majority of double blind studies conducted from everything from pain to epilepsy? (Weed is also completely ineffective as an epileptic drug).

    So because there are competing theories as to the health effects of eggs and cholesterol that somehow means weed is a miracle drug? I don’t follow. You sir are devoid of any kind of critical thinking skills. If science is so untrustworthy why go to doctors? Would you like me to go through the thousands upon thousands of cases where science was correct and conspiracy theorists peddling junk science were wrong?

  19. I wonder what kind of impact it might have on the federal government if a prominent body like the NFL ends up approving marijuana for medical purposes such as pain management. I think a lot of the remaining stigma could disappear if major athletes are endorsing it.

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