CBD Usage in Professional Sports

Last updated on January 30th, 2020

Cannabidiol (CBD) has become popular among athletes as a lifestyle supplement and recovery aid. Workouts put a lot of stress on a person’s body, which can cause bone and muscle inflammation and trouble with sleep.

But what do athletes choose to use these supplements for, and how effective are they?

CBD’s potential to help with pain and recovery without major side-effects is especially useful for sports professionals. Athletes with inflamed joints or muscle pain usually turn to drugs like ibuprofen or aspirin, but these can have negative impacts on organs with excessive use. Sleep aids, which can be habit-forming, sometimes have unintended effects on an athlete’s concentration.

What does the research say about CBD?

  1. Cannabidiol has anti-inflammatory properties and has been studied for its ability to treat pain. Although more research is needed to identify dosing patterns and long-term effects, CBD has been shown to effectively treat pain associated with conditions like arthritis, multiple sclerosis, and cancer without major side-effects.
  2. Cannabidiol has anti-anxiety properties and has been shown through research to help lower anxiety in people with common panic disorders. If CBD can be used to calm nerves consistently, athletes can better manage game-day jitters and be more focused on performance.

Major studies are underway to understand how CBD helps athletes

When CBD was removed from the World Anti-Doping Agency’s (WADA) list of prohibited cannabinoids, it became legal for Ultimate Fighting Championship (UFC) athletes to use.

In late May 2019 UFC announced an eight-year partnership with Aurora Cannabis to better study the effects of CBD products on elite athlete wellness and recovery, expected to enter its first phases this year.

This kind of partnership presents a significant opportunity for everyday people looking to use cannabidiol as an alternative treatment for pain. Though not everyone is an athlete, long-term studies that confirm consistent clinical application are good news for consumers who expect to use CBD for specific purposes beyond wellness.

What do other sports organizations think about CBD?

The WADA’s removal of CBD from the prohibited cannabinoids list continues to reshape how athletic organizations around the globe are thinking about this compound. Although it’s up to each specific organization to determine what it accepts, in the NFL, for example, any amount of THC found in a player merits a suspension.

Some CBD products on the market have a small amount of THC in them (a negligible amount that will not cause a high), which can mean trouble for anyone who needs to take a drug test.

The NFL Players Association and the activist group Athletes for Care have both been calling for further exploration into CBD, and professional three-on-three basketball league BIG3 explicitly permits its use for pain management and recovery.

CBD is trending towards acceptance in sports

The future of cannabidiol use in athletes seems promising. As the long-term results of clinical trials begin to emerge, better insights will shed light on its usefulness in pain management, wellness, and recovery regimens.

Is CBD right for you?

If you’re an athlete and want to try supplementing your workout regimen with CBD, here are a few tips to getting started:

  • Check the CBD regulations of relevant athletic organizations. While CBD is legal at the federal level, enforcement in both athletic organizations and individual states remains inconsistent. Don’t do anything that’ll get you suspended.
  • Dose your CBD smartly. Different people have different dosage needs and somewhat different reactions, with many lifestyle factors adding up to change the precise effects of CBD. It’s better to find out that high doses make you drowsy over a long, lazy weekend than right before a big game.
  • Watch what CBD products you purchase. Some CBD products contain no THC at all, while others contain trace amounts that could show up during a drug test. Reputable companies publish certificates of analysis that tell you exactly how much of each cannabinoid the product contains. Make sure you find one before you buy.

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