It is no secret that many professional athletes use painkillers at an alarming rate. A study from 2011 looked at retired NFL players and their painkiller use. The study found that 7% of retired NFL players still used painkillers on a regular basis. That’s four times the rate of the rest of society. The statistic is for players that are retired. It’s a safe assumption that the already alarmingly high number for retired players is even greater for current players. An ESPN survey of NFL players put the number at 46%, although that statistic is based off of player views, and not actual tracked usage.
42% of surveyed NFL players stated that they knew a fellow player that had become addicted to painkillers. If those numbers aren’t horrifying enough, consider how widespread the use of the harmful painkiller Toradol was/is in the NFL. Sports cannabis freedom fighter Eugene Monroe provided the following description of a game day ritual in an article he wrote for The Player’s Tribune:
Before kickoff on game day, in NFL locker rooms all over the country, players wait in line to drop their pants. We call it the T Train.
I play for the Baltimore Ravens, and if we’re at home there’s a small office sectioned off from the training room in M&T Bank Stadium that we use. If we’re on the road the visiting locker rooms don’t usually have sufficient space, so we just go to a corner of the training room. The T Train is nothing more than a bunch of really large guys waiting to pull their pants down to get shot in the butt with Toradol, a powerful painkiller that will help them make it through the game and its aftermath.
Instead of an injection, some players opt for an oral form of Toradol. The effects are the same, though, and can last through the next day. Some guys don’t feel any pain for two days. Of course, that’s the point of these drugs — they block out the pain and reduce inflammation. But they also temporarily mask injury. That’s not a good thing if you get hurt during a game — you might need to address your injuries right away. But you feel nothing, so you do nothing.
The NFL is currently facing a lawsuit over its overuse of the painkiller Toradol. Cannabis has been touted by NFL players as being a better alternative to painkillers. When asked in the previously cited ESPN survey which was better for recovery or pain control, Toradol or cannabis, 41% chose cannabis versus 32% that chose painkillers (27% chose neither).
If someone plays a contact sport long enough, they are going to get injured. In some of those cases, the injury will be severe enough that the athlete will need to come up with a pain management strategy. Sadly, many of them will be pushed towards opioids. A growing body of evidence is showing that not only is cannabis a safer, effective alternative to opioids, but that people can actually be weaned off of opioids by using medical cannabis.
A recent study looked at records of hospital discharges during 1997–2014, and found a 13% lower rate of opioid use in states that had legalized medical cannabis. The same study also found a 23% lower rate of opioid-related hospitalizations. It’s because of studies like these that the Uncle Cliffy team promotes cannabis over painkillers. Painkillers are harmful and can even cause death. Cannabis literally has the power to save lives. It’s beyond time that professional sports leagues recognized the facts and quit pushing players towards harmful substances instead of allowing them to make the safer choice.