NFL Awards $1 Million to Universities to Study the Impact of Cannabis, CBD on Pain Management
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NFL Awards $1 Million to Universities to Study the Impact of Cannabis, CBD on Pain Management

The funding has been awarded to two teams of medical researchers at the University of California San Diego and the University of Regina.

February 2, 2022

The National Football League (NFL) announced Feb. 1 that it has chosen the recipients of $1 million in funding meant to advance research on the impact of cannabis and CBD on pain management.

The funding has been awarded to two teams of medical researchers at the University of California San Diego and the University of Regina for studies that will investigate the effects of cannabinoids on pain management and neuroprotection from concussion.

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The NFL initially issued a request for research proposals in June and received 106 total submissions. The NFL Research and Innovation Committee used the National Institutes of Health (NIH) format for scoring the proposals and selected 10 finalists, who gave oral presentations and provided written materials to the committee.

The University of California San Diego study, titled “Effects of Cannabinoids on Pain and Recovery from Sports-Related Injuries in Elite Athletes: A Randomized Clinical Trial,” will be led by Drs. Thomas Marcotte and Mark Wallace. The clinical trial aims to assess the therapeutic efficacy and adverse effects of THC, CBD and combined THC/CBD compared to placebo for the relief of post-competition soft-tissue injury pain in elite athletes.

“Our team is excited to receive this funding to conduct a systematic, 'real-world, real-time' study with professional athletes, and which should shed further light upon the many anecdotal reports that cannabis is helpful in reducing post-competition pain,” Wallace said in a public statement.

The University of Regina study, titled “Naturally Produced Cannabinoids for Pain Management and Neuroprotection from Concussion and Participation in Contact Sports,” will be led by Dr. J. Patrick Neary. The project’s goal is to determine whether cannabis- and hemp-based cannabinoids can be used safely and effectively for pain management and to reduce the use of prescription medications, such as opioids, in post-concussion syndrome in athletes. The study will also assess the neuroprotective properties of cannabinoids to reduce the incidence or severity of acute and chronic concussion in professional football players.

"The prevention and treatment of concussions is at the core of my research,” Neary said in a public statement. “That's why I am excited to have the support of the NFL on this project. Our interdisciplinary research team believes that different cannabinoid formulations found in medical cannabis have the potential to benefit athletes suffering from the acute and long-term chronic effects of concussions. Our research will also work to show that cannabinoids can be used as an alternative to opioids for pain management. Ultimately, this study has the potential to change not only the lives of current and former NFL players, but also the lives of anyone who may suffer from a concussion.”

Athletes outside of the NFL will participate in the studies; NFL players are prohibited from participating.

“As with the league's broader approach to health and safety, we want to ensure that our players are receiving care that reflects the most up-to-date medical consensus,” NFL Chief Medical Officer Dr. Allen Sills said in a public statement. “While the burden of proof is high for NFL players who want to understand the impact of any medical decision on their performance, we are grateful that we have the opportunity to fund these scientifically-sound studies on the use of cannabinoids that may lead to the discovery of data-based evidence that could impact the pain management of our players."