Professional athletes tend to have a reputation for being extremely healthy. They need to be able to stay at the top of their games. That being said, would you be surprised to learn of top athletes using Medical Cannabis? We are just starting to see their stories trickle out. They are apparently beginning to look to cannabis when things aren't physically right.
It makes perfect sense when you step back and think about it. Professional athletes have long thought outside the box in terms of their health. For example, they were among the first to seriously consider platelet-rich plasma (PRP) and autologous stem cell injections to treat sports injuries. Why would they not be willing to consider Medical Cannabis if it could keep them competing for longer?
Running back Ricky Williams took the NFL by storm during his first season with Miami Dolphins. Over a five-year career, he rushed for more than 5,000 yards. His career was cut short by multiple suspensions for marijuana. Now at 45 years old, Williams is a big advocate for Medical Cannabis as an anxiety and pain treatment.
If he were a rookie now, cannabis consumption wouldn't be such a big deal. But two decades ago, it was. Yet Williams chooses not to be bound by the past. Rather, he is content to tell his story in hopes of helping the cannabis movement stay on track.
Ironically, the NFL was okay with a veritable cornucopia of painkillers players were allowed to eat like candy. Williams took them. However, nothing offered the same type of pain relief he got from cannabis. After his first failed drug test in 2002, he began experimenting with different volumes of cannabis to see if it really worked as well as he thought. He discovered it did. He continued using even though doing so eventually ended his career.
Ricky Williams is undoubtedly not the only professional athlete who has used cannabis medicinally in the past. There are surely those athletes still playing today who use it. But there are coaches, too. Consider Damien Hardwick, an Australian rules football coach who leads the Richmond Tigers.
Hardwick has suffered with a chronic back problem for more than a decade. In an article in The Courier-Mail, he discussed how he recently started using Medical Cannabis to manage his pain. He swears by it. He insists he feels better despite so many opponents in Australia reminding the country that there is no conclusive evidence proving that cannabis is an effective pain reliever.
As a top-level coach, Hardwick is intimately familiar with pain and how it can inhibit performance. He also knows the importance of pushing through. He is determined to not let his back problem keep him away from football. If that means trusting medical cannabis for some measure of pain relief, so be it.
It is unfortunate that Ricky Williams' career was artificially shortened by his league's resistance to cannabis as a pain reliever. Likewise, it is unfortunate that so many in Australia continue to resist the concept of Medical Cannabis. Things would not be this way in a perfect world. The good news is that attitudes are changing – both here and elsewhere.
Athletes are beginning to look to Medical Cannabis as an alternative to opioid painkillers and other less-than-effective treatments. This should not be surprising given the nature of their business. They only get paid as long as they can keep playing. Medical Cannabis represents a way to manage pain so as to remain on the competitive field for as long as possible. The rest of us should accept that.