‘Big’ John McCarthy: Research Cannabis For Athletes And Sports Injuries

If you are familiar with UFC history, then you are familiar with the name ‘Big’ John McCarthy. John refereed his first UFC match in UFC 2. For the record, UFC 220 is scheduled for this December. That doesn’t include all of the non-numbered UFC events, as well as all of the other mixed martial arts (MMA) events and organizations that are out there these days. MMA is becoming more and more popular every year. John McCarthy has been a MMA icon for all of those years, spanning over two decades.

John McCarthy has seen his fair share of injuries, especially injuries to the head. It comes with the territory when a victory potentially involves knocking an opponent out. More MMA fights end in submissions than knockouts, but even if a fighter is not knocked unconscious does not mean that the repeated blows to the head don’t cause harm. Just as in the NFL and other sports, MMA fighters need to be proactive with their brain health and need to be educated on what works. Multiple studies have shown that cannabis can be helpful for treating brain injuries, but more research is needed. That’s a point that John McCarthy hammered home in a recent interview with Vegas Cannabis, and excerpt of which is below via MMA Weekly:

Thanks to researchers like Professor Yosef Sarne of Tel Aviv University, we’ve discovered that cannabis may help prevent long term brain damage by administering THC before or shortly after the injury. In fact, Israel Defense Force (IDF) practitioners administer CBD or low-dose THC as a first-line of treatment to IDF soldiers. Is that something that could possibly help a fighter who has developed Traumatic Brain Injury or Chronic Traumatic Encephalopathy? I don’t know for sure, but why in the world would we not explore the possibility,”

“I think every athlete under the care of a physician should be able to discuss with their physician what type of medication is best for their particular style of life and ailments. I think it is silly to say that marijuana is a dangerous drug, while opiates and opioids are being used all the time and under medical supervision are considered safe. Any medication can have side effects, but we should always be open to finding better ways to handle some of the aches, pains and problems that come with pushing your body to the point of it breaking down. I can remember commercials from when I was a kid that talked about all of the health benefits associated with smoking cigarettes. Is that what we say today? We should always be striving to learn and evolve. We should never hold onto old and outdated methods just because that’s the way we did it then,” he said.

Part of the stigma that surrounds medical marijuana is the falsehood that people using it just want to get high.  McCarthy’s wife has benefited from marijuana’s medicinal properties to treat her lupus.  She currently uses medical marijuana, and it isn’t to get high.

“She started using cannabis to help her lupus in 2016, so it has not been a long time, but we can really see how it makes a difference with her headaches and her fatigue,” said McCarthy.

John McCarthy stated several times in the interview that he has never consumed cannabis, that he doesn’t support fighters being under the influence during competition, and that more needs to be known about the cannabis plant. But McCarthy is clearly in support of cannabis reform and thinks that prohibitions on cannabis are ridiculous given the fact that fighters can consume as many pharmaceutical painkillers as they want. Fighters can also consume alcohol, a substance that has been found to be 114 times more harmful than cannabis, but is widely embraced by MMA companies at their events. MMA fighters could benefit from using cannabis for wellness purposes. They are adults, and should be treated as such. Judge them by what they get done in the octagon, and not by how much THC they have in their system.