top of page

Cannabis in Sports: Recovering From & Preventing Injury


Over the decades, athletes seem to have compiled a long track record of convictions for cannabis use. The NFL alone could be the subject of an entire entry. One of the most recognizable names includes running back Ricky Williams. After retiring, Ricky took his herbal studies to another level, training in both Ayurveda and Traditional Chinese Medicine - two of the oldest forms of medicine on planet Earth. He is now the co-founder of Real Wellness. Offensive lineman Eugene Monroe became the first player to publicly request that the league cease testing for cannabis use, as he recognized it as a safe alternative to opioids when dealing with injuries. Tight End Nate Jackson told the L.A. Times:

“By the time I tore my groin off the bone, in 2007, I was medicating only with cannabis... The team doctors cheered the speed at which I was healing, but I couldn’t disclose to them all that I was experiencing — no pain, no inflammation, restful sleep, vigorous appetite, a clear head.”

It is all too common for NBA players to get busted with ganja. Stephen Jackson, Carmelo Anthony, Agent Zero, Starbury, and even Kareem just to toss out a few of the most notable. The herb, like hip-hop and rap music; is tightly knit into the culture surrounding the sport. It tends to be used more recreationally than anything else. Seldomly do these athletes use it as part of their rehab, let alone make a business venture of it. Cliff Robinson, who twice faced marijuana charges from police during his playing career, and was thrice times suspended for violations of the NBA’s substance-abuse policy” - was the founder of UncleCliffy. In August of 2020 Uncle Spliffy passed away at the age of 53, after a year and a half long battle with lymphoma.

Cliff Robinson in February of 2017. courtesy: uncliffyfans IG

Swimmers, fighters, cyclists and countless others have gone public with their cannabis use. The Diaz Brothers were featured in Rolling Stone's 2017 list of the Biggest Stoners in Sports, after the two were frequently caught on camera smoking or vaping before and after fights. They have since launched Game Up - an organic plant-based super nutrition CBD company. The undefeated Frank Shamrock, the first man to win the UFC Middleweight Title told High Times "I used cannabis during my entire sports career, from day one until the very end. I used it to recover, I used it for pain, I used oils to protect my brain.”

Liz Carmouche, one of first female athletes to enter the MMA arena has long been a user of topical ointments to assist in healing injuries and reducing inflammation. Six time gold medalist swimmer Amy Van Dyken suffered a tragic accident in 2014. She now uses it for neuropathic pain and "cannot and will not live without it". Ross Rebagliati Canadian snowboard gold medalist had his award revoked after THC was found in his system. To quote the founder of The 420 Games - Jim McAlpine:

“A picture is worth a thousand words, but athleticism is worth a million words. You can’t refute Ricky Williams was the best, right? You can’t refute Michael Phelps was the fastest man ever in the water or Usain Bolt the fastest man ever on land, and they’re both cannabis enthusiasts. There’s a [meme] of Michael Phelps with his 12 or 15 gold medals that says, ‘Winners don’t smoke weed, champions do.”

So why is it that these athletes, regardless of their sport, risk paycheck and reputation to partake in this ancient herbal remedy? Occam's Razor suggests that it is quite simply due to it's ability to prevent injury and to assist in the healing.

The human ECS. photo credit:

The human body comes equipped with what is called the Endocannabinoid System (ECS). According to Leafly, "the ECS is largely comprised of endocannabinoids, receptors, and enzymes that are believed to help regulate a variety of functions in mammals, including sleep, mood, memory, appetite, reproduction, and pain sensation." This unique system contains CB1 and CB2 receptors. New research may possibly recognize a third CB receptor that only appears at the site of inflammation. All three receptors are involved in the regulation of pain management, immune system functions - like inflammation, and appetite. Studies show that cannabis, particularly CBD and THC, assists in reducing acute and chronic pain and inflammation, arthritis, muscle spasms, neuropathy, seizures, epilepsy, and more.

We are all familiar with the sensation of pain. But where does pain come from? How does it occur within the human body? And what can we do about it? In the vast majority of scenarios, whether it be headaches, acute sports injuries, chronic injury, arthritis, MS, or fibro; the pain is the result of inflammation. From diabetes to cancer, many doctors agree that inflammation is the root cause of all dis-eases.

The nervous system is comprised of two parts: the central nervous system (CNS), and the peripheral nervous system (PNS). The former consists of the brain and the spinal cord while the latter refers to the sensory and motor nerves. In regards to pain, specialized neurons called nociceptors become activated whenever there has been an injury, or even the potential for injury! These sensory nerve cells send signals along the PNS, to the spinal cord. When the pain signal reaches the brain it goes to the thalamus, which directs it to various areas of the cerebral cortex for interpretation. Signals are also sent from the thalamus to the limbic system - the emotional center of the brain. No matter how mild the damage, the tissues will need to heal. Your brain must also make sense of what happened. Pain gets cataloged in your brain’s library, and emotions become associated with the experience.

Utilizing cannabis to manage pain...

Just as we have receptors for salicylate, the pain relieving compound in willow bark; so too do we have receptors for phytocannabinoids like those in cannabis. Research concerning cannabinoids has been growing at an exponential rate. Studies show that when ingested, cannabis blocks pain signals from reaching your brain by binding to specific (TRPV1) pain receptors. Consuming CBD has also been shown to reduce the production of inflammatory cytokines. Applied topically, it can decrease pain locally by reducing sensitivity of nociceptors, as well as decrease swelling and inflammation.

neurotransmitter activity at the synaptic cleft (think TRPV1). courtesy:

Researchers at Tel Aviv University in Israel found that THC & CBD not only increased bone density, but also accelerated the healing of bone fractures in mice via the stimulation of Lysyl Hydroxylase - an enzyme present in all osteoblasts (bone-building cells) that are directly involved in bone healing. The same researchers also concluded that CBD alone exhibited the ability to strengthen collagen fibers, which are essential to skeletal healing. Collagen, a protein found in our hair, skin, nails, joints, etc. is a popular supplement here in 2021. As we age, our bodies produce less and less of it; leading to wrinkled skin, brittle hair, and weak joints. We highly recommend that our customers take a full spectrum cannabis oil, as well as a whole-food based vitamin C supplement (co-factor) with their (grass-fed) collagen for optimal biosynthesis.

Can Herbs do the Same?...

At one time, scientists believed cannabis to be the only plant to produce phytocannabinoids. This hypothesis has been proven untrue, as flax seeds contain CBD, or a structure extremely similar; which displays anti-inflammatory effects. Another cannabinoid, CBG, is believed to have been found within the South African herb Helichrysum umbraculigerum, an essential oil used in our Pain Relief Oil. Studies out of New Zealand suggest the presence of a THC-like compound in the liverwort plant. Even the Chinese rhododendron appears to contain CBC. These compounds, along with others like cannabimimetics and terpenes, create a long list of potential plant replacements for your toxic pharmaceutical drugs. Where do you think the compounds in your drugs come from?

N-acylethanolamines (NAEs) are fatty acid compounds that also interact with the EC. NAEs include anti-inflammatory and analgesic palmitoylethanolamide, anorexic oleoylethanolamide, and the endocannabinoid anandamide, which can be found in black truffle mushrooms. Other well researched NAEs include OAE, PEA and LEA. N-oleoylethanolamine (OEA) and N-linoleoylethanolamide (LEA) are contained within raw cacao.

Due to the presence of CB1, CB2, CB3, and possibly more yet to be identified receptors in the human body, these plant compounds influence our system in a multitude of ways. CB receptors can be found in every major organ system. One of it's main functions thus far discovered is it's role in maintaining homeostasis. It may also assist in reducing inflammation, improving mood, regulating metabolism and sleep patterns, and much more. Check out our blog library to learn more about many of the topics and terms discussed in this entry.

The sources cited are primarily intended for the casual reader. Each source however, has been carefully chosen to include scientific sources linked within. Living with today's industry funded, pseudo-scientific journals, we encourage you to "research the research".

52 views0 comments


bottom of page