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Cyclist Floyd Landis relied on opioid-based painkillers for years, both before and after he was stripped of his 2006 Tour de France victory for taking synthetic testosterone. He soon realized smoking cannabis could help him kick his opioid habit, and then in 2015 a friend in the cannabis industry suggested he try CBD instead.

Today, Landis medicates with CBD to manage pain from a hip replacement he had in 2006.

“It’s the only thing I use now,” Landis told media in 2018. “I try not to oversell it, because I don’t want to sound insane. But if you can stop taking other pain medications, if you have a natural solution, that’s probably the better option.”1

Landis is among many athletes, whether pro or amateur, who view cannabis as an integral part of their medical toolkit when they recover from injuries. Cannvas.Me spoke to several medical cannabis experts to learn more about what exactly cannabis can do to those aching bones, muscles and ligaments.

“Cannabis can be an analgesic and can help with chronic neuropathic pain as opposed to other types of pain,” says Ryan Vandrey, associate professor of Behavioral Pharmacology Research Unit at Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine. “But comparing it to something like ibuprofen, those kinds of studies still need to get done.”

Another researcher echoes Vandrey. “The general idea is that cannabis can decrease inflammation and can assist in muscle pain recovery,” according to Dennis Jensen, an associate professor in the Department of Kinesiology and Physical Education at McGill University. “There’s also a psychological aspect to cannabis consumption, where it may help some people with chronic pain find a way to sleep.”

Cannabis as Helpful Medication for Athletes Recovering From Injury
Such a benefit makes cannabis highly sought after by athletes of all sports, especially if they want to avoid other treatments, such as steroids that come with more significant side-effects and varying levels of legality.

Retired NHL player Riley Cote told Cannvas.Me he regularly uses cannabis tinctures and oils to treat issues common to most NHL enforcers, past and present, such as anxiety, inflammation, and lack of sleep. 

Cote predicts a future where sports team doctors won’t just prescribe pills when an athlete faces a severe injury. “Team doctors aren’t willing to put their careers on the line right now, but I can see that changing down the road, when many doctors realize the sports-recovery model needs to evolve to reflect how safe cannabis can be for athletes.”2

Because CBD is so often prescribed for its therapeutic benefits, it’s critical to ensure a patient is getting that compound in their medicine, a challenge that is proving difficult these days. Vandrey and his colleagues took hundreds of CBD products sold in the U.S. to labs and found that two-thirds of CBD items aren’t properly labeled. “CBD is being sold outside of regulatory control, outside of the state programs where cannabis is legalized,” says Vandrey, noting that such mislabeling can be extremely detrimental to those recovering from injuries and requiring CBD to help them, among other drugs.

Time will soon tell us more about what THC, CBD and other cannabinoids can offer the injury-plagued athlete. Jensen says, “Legalization has given researchers the opportunity to study the claims made by cannabis advocates [on how it helps with chronic pain recovery]. We should hopefully get those questions answered quickly.” 

  1. https://www.outsideonline.com/2296261/athletes-ditching-ibuprofen-cbd-marijuana
  2. https://cannvas.me/Articles/Health-and-Fitness/Why-a-Former-NHL-enforcer-is-embracing-cannabis

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