NFL-NFLPA Pain Management Committee holds fact-finding forum with CBD manufacturers

Shalise Manza Young
Yahoo Sports Columnist

It’s a near-certainty that NFL players will try to get marijuana testing eliminated in the new collective bargaining agreement; the big question, of course, is what NFL owners will demand they give up for such a reasonable request.

But there was a small step taken in that direction on Tuesday, when the joint NFL-NFL Players Association Pain Management Committee held a fact-finding forum with manufacturers of CBD products designed for use in sports medicine.

Pain management and alternative therapies

Via Judy Battista of, the committee session provided manufacturers the opportunity to offer an update on CBD products available and scientific research and evidence regarding use of such products. There are medical experts among the committee members appointed by both the NFL and NFLPA.

Former New England Patriots tight end Rob Gronkowski has become an advocate for CBD use. (AP/Corey Sipkin)

In a joint statement, the groups said, “The NFL-NFLPA Pain Management Committee is a jointly formed committee tasked with providing advice to the league and union regarding recent developments in the area of pain management for elite athletes.

“In furtherance of its duties, the Committee has been asked to brief the parties on the current state of pain management and alternative therapies, including cannabis, cannabinoids and CBD. The Committee invited manufacturers of CBD products to share their research today so the Committee may hear and consider the possible scientific evidence base for CBD use as a pain management alternative. This meeting was an educational and scientific exercise and does not impact the jointly administered Policy and Program on Substances of Abuse. We look forward to the continued cooperative work of the Joint Committee.”

The current policy on drug use bans THC, the substance found in marijuana and some CBD products, but NFL players have been calling for the elimination of the ban for years, saying cannabinoids are better for their pain management than the powerful and addicting opioids handed out by teams.

The league has argued that there isn’t enough information on CBD use for acute and chronic pain, even though several states made medical marijuana legal over 20 years ago; today 33 states allow medical marijuana or have legalized it entirely.

The co-chairs of the pain management committee recently sent two white papers to team medical staffs that suggest alternatives to opioids for pain management and outline the committee’s view on current research on CBD products and marijuana use.

“CBD is a promising compound, but the extent of its use in the United States outpaces the level of evidence,” one paper said. It also said that multiple controlled trials show cannabis and two FDA-approved cannabinoids are effective in treating chronic pain and neuropathic pain, but those trials used small sample sizes and short follow-up periods, raising concerns about what can be extrapolated from the trials.

The paper warned that cannabis remains a banned substance under NFL rules.

Last month, Dallas Cowboys owner/general manager Jerry Jones told a sports radio station to “expect an adjustment” to the marijuana policy in the new CBA, meaning there’s a powerful ally for that change to come to pass.

Many former players, including Ryan Leaf, Rob Gronkowski, Jim McMahon and Ricky Williams, have touted the benefits of CBD products.

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