CBD has a plethora of benefits in aiding with inflammation, anxiety, depression, and seizures. While there are several other benefits, this article will focus on why CBD for athletes has been successful in treating pain, alleviating anxiety for competitions, promoting bone health, and even combating the behavioral impairments associated with CTE.
Additionally, we’ll unravel some CBD myths and touch on some debate in regards to CBD and the Tokyo 2020 Olympics.
CBD for Athletes: The Benefits
1. Performance Stress Anxiety
Stress can be a hindrance to an athlete’s overall performance, but several clinical trials have analyzed the effects of CBD on performance stress and anxiety.
The NCBI states that the results of a few studies concluded that CBD has little influence on anxiety in low-stress situations in healthy participants but has seen positive results in studies where participants are placed into stress-inducing conditions. Healthy patients and those who suffer performance stress anxiety have benefited from CBD usage.
2. Improved Sleeping Habits
Because athletes are constantly traveling and training consecutively throughout the week, it’s no surprise that athletes would suffer from lack of sleep and insomnia. Fear not, CBD for athletes has also impacted an athlete’s sleep schedule.
A placebo-controlled, double-blinded crossover trial found that 160mg of CBD has helped athletes sleep without waking up. CBD has also been reported to help athletes suffering from insomnia.
However, lower doses like 40mg or 80mg determined that there is no evidence to support better sleep, so the dosage amount does matter during the treatment process.
3. Bone Health
Athletes are bound to suffer from catastrophic injuries during their career whether it’s from overworking or accidents, but preclinical studies reported that CBD has improved the healing process for femoral fractures in rats.
Dr. Gabet, a researcher at the Bone Research Laboratory, says that CBD makes bones stronger during the healing process and helps with the “basis for new mineralization of bone tissue.” Bone restoration can help an athlete recover from traumatic injuries and help continue their career without causing permanent injuries.
4. Inflammatory and Pain
CBD for athletes has been proven to alleviate inflammatory and pain associated with rigorous training. Rob Gronkowski, a retired Patriots player, admitted that he used CBD as a painkiller. Likewise, another athlete who participated in the Tokyo 2020 Olympics endorsed CBD for treating pain which will be covered later in this article.
According to Healthline, CBD has been deemed useful for treating both chronic inflammation and acute injuries from overexertion in sports. CBD also acts as a treatment for joint pain and improved weight-bearing for rats. More information on different types of CBD products to help treat inflammation can be found in this blog.
5. Chronic traumatic encephalopathy (CTE)
The aggression of sports like American football often instills fear into players because of the likelihood to develop CTE. SatiMedUSA states that a 2011 study on mice discovered that activating the cannabinoid receptors may help “limit nerve cell damage and promote healing by enhancing blood flow to the brain.”
SatiMedUSA continues by stating that some studies suggest that if CBD is used before or within 12 hours of a brain injury, there is a chance it can limit the damage if another injury were to happen.
Though more studies must be conducted to support these claims, athlete Nick Lowery has advocated for more CBD research for players suffering from CTE. Lowery says that his teammate, Mike Webster, and ProBowl teammate, Junior Seau succumbed to CTE and died.
Lowery believes that CBD for athletes is not “just a game-changer, but a league changer.” This can very much be the case because CBD can lessen the symptoms of behavioral impairments like depression, anxiety, paranoia, and aggression in both people not diagnosed with CTE and athletes suffering from CTE.
CBD and the Olympics
The Tokyo 2020 Olympics has stood out not only because of the pandemic but also because athletes have become transparent about their use of cannabis products. However, controversy has shrouded the competitive scene with confusion and hypocrisy.
Megan Rapinoe, a professional soccer player, told Forbes that “CBD has become part of my all-natural recovery system that I use throughout the day to help with pain and inflammation, stabilize my mood, and get better sleep.”
Rapinoe has mentioned that she was competing in the Olympics without CBD pills and gummies because of the risk factor associated with traveling with CBD products. The controversy surrounding Rapinoe and her promotion of CBD products rose when Sha’Carri Richardson was suspended from competition for using marijuana.
According to the New York times, Richardson won the women’s 100-meter race in Oregon back in June, but her victory became void when she tested positive for using marijuana to help cope with the death of her mother. Rapinoe was compared to Richardson shortly after her suspension.
Rapinoe was met with backlash on Twitter for promoting Mendi CBD products. Twitter users spoke out against Rapinoe, stating that the acts of the Olympic administrators were racist and sexist towards Richardson.
On both sides of the debate, many have recognized the differences between THC and CBD. According to EuroNews, the World Anti-Doping Agency (WADA) removed CBD from the prohibited substances list in 2017, but THC substances like marijuana are still not allowed.
The WADA states that “All natural and synthetic cannabinoids are prohibited except for cannabidiol (CBD).” The statement also specifies that “all synthetic cannabinoids that mimic the effects of THC are prohibited.”
CBD and Anti-Doping Rules
Even though the WADA allows the use of CBD products, there can still be risks in consuming these products because it’s nearly impossible to separate THC and other prohibited substances from CBD.
Some CBD products have been mislabeled, which can result in a suspension from competition if the product is not from a reliable source. According to USADA, a study conducted states that “69 percent of the products examined contained different levels of CBD than what was identified on the label.”
21 percent of the products tested had traces of THC that were enough to impair or intoxicate the user. What this means is that you can’t trust the contents of every product. Some athletes could have mistakenly received a positive drug test because of misleading product labels.
In order to be tested positive, the THC threshold must be above 150ng/mL. If any other cannabinoid is reported in the body - even the smallest amounts - the athlete could be disqualified or suspended. If some of the products listed in the study can potentially induce a psychoactive effect, then the athlete must refrain from using that product or risk not competing.
Tackling this issue is easier said than done as a solution requires heavier federal and state regulations to ensure that the consumer knows what they’re buying.
CBD is a performance-enhancing drug
When you compare CBD with steroids, which one do you think is the performance-enhancing drug? Well, it’s not CBD. Anabolic steroids give the athlete an unfair advantage while CBD promotes improvements in an athlete’s wellbeing, such as their mental and physical health.
CBD is used for medical purposes while THC is for recreational use
Marijuana has been legalized for medical or recreational use in several states, marijuana and THC is still stigmatized for being seen as a purely recreational drug. The high effects of THC do not override the benefits that come from the substance.
ProjectCBD states that the federal government considers THC Marinol as a Schedule III pharmaceutical to help treat nausea and boost a person’s appetite. Similarly, Harvard Health Publishing recognizes that marijuana can also help treat weight loss, glaucoma, PTSD, irritable bowel syndrome, and Crohn’s disease.
As we covered previously, CBD does have its benefits, especially for athletes, but it would be wrong to generalize THC as purely a recreational drug when the substance has been clinically proven to help patients.
CBD is most effective without THC
This myth is not entirely true, but it does vary based on a person’s needs and what works for them. The Entourage Effect suggests that parts of a cannabis plant work together to help give users a positive and unique experience.
Though adverse side effects may occur when taking THC, Heathline states that rat and human studies concluded that CBD may help subdue unwanted side effects like anxiety, hunger, and sedation.
Unfortunately, more research is needed in order to establish the validity of the theory, but that doesn’t mean that CBD and THC should be separated. Anecdotes from patients and individuals that have used these substances simultaneously reported improvements in their wellbeing.
CBD is not psychoactive
It would be unfair to consider CBD as non psychoactive because of the mental health benefits that come with its use. Athletes like Megan Rapione used CBD in her regimen to help manage her anxiety during competition, but she did not use CBD to get high.
Written by Brianna Borik