The thought that maybe, just maybe, the NFL might loosen its restrictions on cannabis use by players, is one that has been kicked around quite a bit. But for the first time, it seems that the National Football League might actually be putting its money where its mouth is. Reportedly, the NFL has reached out to the NFL Players Association-or NFLPA-in an offer to work together to study the therapeutic potential of cannabis for players.
The letter sent by the league comes after the NFLPA has already started conducting its own studies. The NFLPA has not responded.
In a statement made to the Washington Post, NFL executive vice president of communications Joe Lockhart stated that “We look forward to working with the players’ association on all issues involving the health and safety of our players.”
This move seems to fly in the face of NFL commissioner Roger Goodell, who has stated as recently as April 2017 that the league does not see any medical benefits to cannabis. He also asserted that “it may not be healthy for the players long-term.” While he has also made statements acknowledging the evolution of cannabis in terms of social acceptance, Goodell stands fiercely by the word of the NFL’s advisors, who have not yet said that cannabis use is something that should be allowed.
“To date, they haven’t said, ‘This is a change we think you should make that is in the best interest of the health and safety of our players.’ If they do, we’re certainly going to consider that. But to date, they haven’t really said that.”
He realizes that the day might come where these advisors approach the NFL with such a suggestion, but that is not the case just yet.
In addition to cannabis as a method of pain treatment-as football is exceptionally hard on a person’s body-there is growing research suggesting that cannabis can help the brain to heal from injury through the cannabinoid receptors found naturally within the human body. In an analysis completed of 111 deceased NFL players’ brains, 110 of them were revealed to have been afflicted with chronic traumatic encephalopathy (CTE). CTE is a degenerative brain disease that results from repeated blows to the head.
When the study was published, Goodell was criticized for seemingly downplaying the damaging effects of football on a players’ brain. “The average NFL player lives five years longer than you,” Goodell told reporters. “So their lifespan is actually longer and healthier. And I think because of all the advancements, including the medical care, that number is going to even increase for them.”