According to current and former NFL players, at least 60% of today’s active gridiron warriors are self-medicating with marijuana. Some of these players had a relationship with marijuana before they entered the league, but some were introduced to the benefits of marijuana after they signed their first contract.
Now that Super Bowl 50 has wrapped up, let’s take a look at how marijuana is helping players to cope with the off-season.
No Pain no Gain
The use of marijuana as a natural pain management “medication” is widespread throughout sports. But in most professional sports, the use of marijuana is explicitly banned. Ironically, league presidents and commissioners are content with pumping their players full of addictive pain medications like OxyContin and Percocet.
In the NFL’s case, doctors are encouraged to get players back on the field at all costs, often employing reactionary rather than preventative treatment tactics. There is a machismo culture that exists in the NFL. Players are reluctant to voice their injuries for fear of appearing soft—eat or be eaten.
In the News
Now more than ever the media is publicizing the long-term medical effects of a career under the bright lights of NFL stadiums. Players are becoming aware of the dangers of drinking the NFL’s medical Kool-Aid and they are digging their heels in. Instead of admitting to aches and pains in the locker room, players are going home and using marijuana to manage their injuries.
In a recent interview at the SoCal Cannabis Cup, former NFL players Kyle Turley, Nate Jackson, and Eben Britton described their relationship(s) with marijuana.
“(We) know the long term side effects of painkillers, Adderall, and the internal destruction of the body. I’ve been using marijuana for a while and it’s been really intrinsic in my football career, helping me stay away from the painkillers.” – Eben Britton
Pro Athletes are People Too
Former Denver Bronco and NY Times best-selling author, Nate Jackson, is an advocate for the free and safe use of marijuana in the NFL. Nate developed a relationship with marijuana in high school—one that lasts to this day. I have been fortunate enough to develop a personal relationship with Nate over the years, and his insights about the NFL and marijuana have helped me to form my views on the topic.
As football fans, we often forget that our favorite players are also people—especially when they walk off the field. Nate has helped me to internalize the struggles that players have on and off the field. I recall a conversation I had with Nate where he asked me to imagine what it’s like to walk off the field for the last time. His point was that once you are done—it’s over. All the fans, doctors, owners; they forget about you—you fade to black just like when the bright lights fade.
“When you are off the field in the NFL your whole sense of worth and sense of value goes away immediately. I use marijuana to avoid that. I always healed fast and ahead of schedule.”- Nate Jackson
Nate and certainly other current and former players use marijuana to cope with the end of seasons and careers. There is a sense of loneliness that overcomes them when the lights go out and the fans stop cheering their name. Marijuana helps players to relax and slow things down. If they have anxiety about what to do with their new found free time, marijuana can stimulate their minds. If they spent 15 years on the field or broke countless records like Ricky Williams, is it wrong to suggest that they earned some down time?
If I’ve convinced you that pro athletes are people too, then I hope you can understand that it is far better for them, as humans, to smoke some weed to unwind rather than popping a pill. Marijuana, in most cases will not affect their on-field performance—these guys got where they are based on work ethic, not pot use.
Of course we will always have the Josh Gordon’s and Johnny Manziel’s in the league who promote a party boy lifestyle that can potentially damage the argument for allowing marijuana in the NFL—but they are a minority.
NFL players have families and friends that depend on them for love and support. Their marijuana use often replaces addictive pain medications that can make them appear as only shells of their original selves.
Do you think the NFL really cares about a player’s relationship with his family years after he scored his last touchdown or made his last tackle? I don’t. That’s why it is up to us as fans, as family members, as human beings, to give our outright support to players who need marijuana to avoid the potential pitfalls of an antiquated NFL philosophy. In the words of Cris Carter, “C’mon Man!”
What do you think about marijuana’s role in the NFL? Have you used marijuana as a substitute for addictive pain medications? Let us know on social media or in the comments below.