Football damages the brain, but cannabis makes it better
More than 75 businesses, non-profits and drug policy activists assembled at the third Cannabis World Congress in New York in June 2016. While often fewer than a dozen people turned out for presentations, one was packed: the sports panel of former football players. There were even reporters and cameramen.
The topic was chronic traumatic encephalopathy (CTE), brain damage resulting from repeated trauma to the head. This was the subject of the Will Smith flick, Concussion. Initially, it was believed to only stem from boxing, but a study by Dr Bennet Omalu, who must have been dead chuffed to have been played by Smith, in 2002 found that it could also be caused by football. In 2015, researchers from Boston University and the Department of Veteran Affairs released a report demonstrating that 96 percent of the brains of pro football players exhibited signs of CTE. As Dr Omalu commented, ?God did not intend for us to play football.? He also revealed that the National Football League (NFL) was aware of this, and doctors working for it had admitted that if 10 percent of mothers believed football to be dangerous, that would be the end of it.
The effects of this brain damage include aggression, anxiety, confusion, depression, impaired judgement, impulse control problems, memory loss and suicidal ideation. Wearing a helmet made Leonard Marshall, once a lineman for the New York Giants, feel like a gladiator and tackling felt like his sword, and coaches encouraged this mindset. He confessed that he shows some CTE symptoms. Marshall, who played in two teams that won the Superbowl, told of how cannabis improved his quality of life and he would now prefer to live rather than die.
Marshall is one of a number of former footballers who is a member of the Gridiron Cannabis Coalition (GCC), which advocates medical marijuana research. Brain damage is but one of the illnesses and injuries by which the GCC’s website states football is ?plagued? and there are no non-addictive treatments, so it proposes the use of cannabis.
One product of brain damage that cannabis alleviates is chronic pain, and it is much preferable to painkillers. Marshall has seen these latter ruin lives. They transformed one former teammate ?from a sensitive tender guy to a guy who was popping 1,500 painkillers a month to live.? Marshall has himself taken opiods, but now finds cannabis to be safer.
A 1998 study of rat brain cells by the National Institute of Health found that cannabidiol (CBD) and delta 9 tetrahyrocannabidol (THC), the two good bits of marijuana, had neuro-protective qualities. Another study in Spain in 2008 showed that the brain’s THC receptors were involved in healing from brain damage. Yet another study, this time in Brazil in 2013, found that CBD regenerates brain cells in mice, particularly in that bit of the brain that does depression and chronic stress ? which CTE causes.
Someone has to fund research into the medical applications of cannabis. This would have to be a governmental organisation or large company. The government won’t do it, but the NFL, with its $12bn of annual revenue, might. The league strictly forbids drugs, so players abstain in the run-up to the annual drugs test but otherwise partake. Well, they have injuries to think of. Now that 23 states permit the use of marijuana medically and three allow it recreationally, the NFL could reconsider and come up with the cash. Other big companies may then follow.