To treat pain, nine of 10 NFL players polled say they would consider medical marijuana over the legal opioids that NFL doctors prescribe and often inject into them.
Additionally, seven of 10 players say they don’t feel safety is a top priority of the League when it comes to pain management.
By the findings released by an online medical marijuana seller’s survey of 152 current and past players, nearly 70 percent said they’re concerned about the addictive potential of the pain-killers the League administers.
Marijuana is a banned substance under the NFL’s labor pact that was collectively bargained in 2011. Positive tests can result in suspensions and fines.
Calling out NFL leaders, Brad McLaughlin, CEO of the medical marijuana marketplace BudTraders.com, said they are “senselessly dragging their feet on allowing medical marijuana for therapeutic use for players. It’s causing a lot of harm, and a lot of players are really unhappy with the state of things. Our survey shows that.”
Is the NFL truly being senseless?
I think not.
The League equates power to truth, not the inverse. From that well-considered approach, it gains profit.
The League sits at the bargaining table opposite not only its players but corporate partners who, either directly or as supporters of NFL TV right-holders, may include Big Pharma and sellers of beer, wine and liquor.
If there are medical reasons to slow-play a move toward medical marijuana, there may also be economic reasons for it.
Last month, when he restated the League’s opposition to recreational marijuana, NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell stated a willingness to explore medical marijuana while mustering objections in the same breath.
“Listen, you’re ingesting smoke, so that’s not usually a very positive thing that people would say,” he said, although cannabis pills are an option in some instances. “It does have addictive nature. There are a lot of compounds in marijuana that may not be healthy for the players long-term. All of those things have to be considered. And it’s not as simple as someone just wants to feel better after a game. We really want to help our players in that circumstance, but I want to make sure that the negative consequences aren’t something that is something that we’ll be held accountable for some years down the road.”
By not giving players an option to opioids, addiction to which have become a scourge in the United States, the League is seemingly contradicting its pro-safety stance. And, not for the first time or, perhaps, for a new reason.
Over a number of years, the League has floated a notion to expand both the regular-season schedule and the postseason, although extra games in some discussed formats might make the sport less safe for players. In return, the League either got or stands to get concessions from players on other issues.
Here’s another consideration: A pro-cannabis position could put the League at odds with the Trump administration, which has talked about cracking down on marijuana distribution in states where weed is legal.
The NFL gets a lot of money from sellers of alcoholic beverages. Would a nod to weed, even for medical purposes, harm that relationship?
Here, following, are a few other findings of the 38-question player survey, which was forwarded to the Union-Tribune:
+ Use of prescription painkillers in the league is common — 91% of current and former NFL players said they had taken opioids such as oxycodone, hydrocodone, and propoxyphene for pain. And 74 percent of players reported negative side effects from using prescribed pain-killers.
+ Close to 70 percent of players said they’ve used marijuana during their NFL career, with 75 percent of that usage coming in the offseason.
+ About 45 percent of players surveyed said they have felt pressured into using opioid painkillers by team doctors, staff, and teammates.
+ About 89 percent of players believe that medical marijuana could be used effectively to treat pain, with 87 percent saying the NFL should allow access to medical marijuana as a treatment option for players in states where it is already legal.
“These guys are playing at the highest levels of physical expertise,” McLaughlin said, “and right now the league is disrespecting them by limiting their treatment options so severely, and pointlessly compromising their health.”
In March, NFL players union president and 12th-year tackle Eric Winston told ESPN that the “opioid problem is real” among players.
As for other pain-treatment options, Winston said:
“It's not just about marijuana. I think we're getting into a stage over the next 10 years where we're going to see a lot of different options [for treating pain]. There are topical creams that I see guys using of natural products for anti-inflammatory reasons instead of ingesting eight Advil a day.”
Winston said the players union is obligated to perform the research on other options for pain treatment.
ESPN reported that a group of former players is suing the NFL, alleging team doctors were reckless with painkillers, sometimes illegally prescribing them to treat injuries.