Pain management is something that many athletes struggle with. They struggle with the pain itself, but they also struggle with finding a wellness regimen that helps manage the pain in the best way possible. Many athletes turn to opioid based pharmaceutical painkillers, which is understandable given how professional sports leagues embrace and promote the use of them. What starts out as an injury for an athlete unfortunately often turns into a lifelong battle with addiction.
Cannabis is a proven alternative to pharmaceutical painkillers. Numerous studies have found that cannabis can help treat chronic pain. Cannabis can be consumed in measured doses via non-harmful delivery methods such as topical rubs or edibles with no risk to the athlete. Cannabis is undeniably safer than pharmaceutical painkillers, which is something that was recently pointed out by NBA Coach of the Year Steve Kerr.
Steve Kerr responded to a question on a Bay Area podcast about what he thought the NBA should do to improve its pain management policies and strategies. Below is what Steve had to say, via ABC:
“I guess maybe I could even get in some trouble for this, but I’ve actually tried [marijuana] twice during the last year and a half when I’ve been going through this pain, this chronic pain that I’ve been dealing with,” Kerr told host Monte Poole.
“A lot of research, a lot of advice from people, and I have no idea if I would — maybe I would have failed a drug test. I don’t even know if I’m subject to a drug test or any laws from the NBA, but I tried it, and it didn’t help at all. But it was worth it, because I’m searching for answers on pain. But I’ve tried painkillers and drugs of other kinds, as well, and those have been worse. It’s tricky.”
“It doesn’t agree with me. I tried it a few times, and it did not agree with me at all. So I’m not the expert on this stuff. But I do know this: If you’re an NFL player, in particular, and you got lot of pain, I don’t think there’s any question that pot is better for your body than Vicodin,” Kerr, 51, said. “And yet, athletes everywhere are prescribed Vicodin like it’s Vitamin C, like it’s no big deal. And there’s like this perception in our country that over-the-counter drugs are fine but pot is bad. Now, I think that’s changing.”
“You’re seeing that change in these laws that you’re talking about in different states, including California. But I would just hope that sports leagues are able to look past the perception. I’m sure the NFL is worried that their fans are going to go, ‘All the players are potheads.'”
Steve Kerr’s comments were received with various reactions from players, coaches, and fans, but a vast majority of it was positive. Draymond Green and Klay Thompson, who both currently play for Steve Kerr, came out in support of their coach. Although it’s worth noting that Klay Thompson stated that he didn’t support cannabis consumption for adult-use, only for medical use. That is odd considering that Klay Thompson knows first hand that prohibition is harmful, as he was arrested in college for cannabis possession and was penalized as a result. Klay Thompson, who had recently turned 21 years old around the time of the arrest, would have been free to go had the incident occurred in Washington today.
In addition to Steve Kerr coming out in support of cannabis reform in the NBA, Phil Jackson also admitted to using cannabis to treat his pain. Per USA Today:
“[When I was recovering from back surgery], I was smoking marijuana during that period of time,” Jackson said. “I think it was a distraction for me as much as a pain reliever. But I never thought of it as ultimately a pain medication for that type of situation … We have tried to stop [marijuana use] in the NBA. I don’t think we have been able to stop it. I think it still goes on and is still a part of the culture in the NBA. It is something that we either have to accommodate or figure out another way to deal with it.”
A conversation has been growing in professional sports about cannabis reform. Steve Kerr and Phil Jackson speaking about their cannabis use obviously helps further that conversation, which is a great thing. Hopefully more current players, coaches, and executives come out of the ‘cannabis closet’ and help end the stigma. Reform in professional sports shouldn’t stop at just cannabis use for medical purposes. People suffering from various conditions that cannabis can treat should be allowed to make the safer choice if they do so. Absolutely no one should ever be forced into a situation where they either have to use harmful pharmaceuticals, suffer, or be kicked out of the league. Not when there is a proven, safer alternative.
Leagues need to remove cannabis from the banned substance lists altogether because prohibition harms players’ careers, it harms their lives, and ultimately it harms the leagues. The NBA’s product is its players, and players should only be prevented from taking the court if they have done something truly wrong or are not healthy enough to compete. There are many NFL, NBA, and MLB teams located in states (and D.C.) that have voted to legalize recreational cannabis. Those states (and D.C.) and teams are:
California – Los Angeles Dodgers, Oakland Raiders, San Francisco Giants, Oakland A’s, Golden State Warriors, San Francisco 49ers, Los Angeles Lakers, Los Angeles Rams, San Diego Chargers, Los Angeles Clippers, Sacramento Kings, San Diego Padres, Anaheim Angels
Massachusetts – Boston Red Sox, Boston Celtics, New England Patriots
Oregon – Portland Trail Blazers
Washington – Seattle Seahawks, Seattle Mariners
Colorado – Denver Nuggets, Denver Broncos, Colorado Rockies
Washington D.C. – Washington Redskins, Washington Nationals, Washington Wizards
That of course doesn’t include the teams located in the 28 states (and D.C.) that have legalized cannabis for medical use. According to the most recent Gallup Poll, 60% of Americans support ending cannabis prohibition. Cannabis has been proven to be 114 times safer than alcohol. Cannabis is not harmful to players. Cannabis prohibition is harmful to players.
Athletes can consume cannabis and be healthy and successful, proven by the combined 19 championship rings that Steve Kerr and Phil Jackson have accumulated as NBA players and coaches over the years. The NBA, NFL, MLB, PGA, and other professional sports leagues that prohibit cannabis need to wake up to the facts, get on the right side of history, and show some compassion for their athletes.
image via Sporting News