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CBD & Sports Medicine

I have been researching cannabinoid therapy and CBD since I retired from playing hockey in 2010 and it has been an amazing healing tool for me. I wanted to share a little about what I’ve learned with you.

Cannabidiol (CBD) has been a hot topic in the field of pain management and alternative medicine. CBD is a naturally occurring compound that is extracted from the cannabis plant. This cannabinoid is one of over 123 known cannabinoids and has several amazing properties that make it noteworthy. One being its anti-inflammatory and pain management properties. Where there’s pain there’s inflammation. CBD has amazing anti-inflammatory properties making it a great all-natural alternative to conventional pain medications, many of which do more harm than good. Please remember that CBD is just one of many different compounds in the cannabis plant so it’s important to note that we are talking about one single molecule isolated by itself and not full-spectrum CBD which contains other cannabinoids and terpenes, creating an entourage effect.

As CBD becomes more studied and understood by the general population, it continues to show great promise in becoming a remarkable healing modality. Soon, it will become the go-to option for pain management. CBD has begun making the rounds in the sports recovery space and rightfully so.  Athletes are consistently pushing their bodies to the limit. Intense training regimens puts the body under a lot of stress which eventually leads to wear and tear and potential injury. Preventing injuries is of the utmost importance for any athlete since many injuries can leave lasting damage affecting long term performance and short-term recovery.

Ingesting an anti-inflammatory compound like CBD after practice, training or games is extremely important to help flush out acute inflammation and lactic acid in the muscles. CBD can also help to aid in the repair of any other damaged or injured parts of the body which certainly assists in the overall recovery process. Pain is obviously something that all athletes are familiar with and need to address in a sustainable manner that is not harmful to the body or mind. Currently, most sports teams are still using traditional pain management practices relying on conventional anti-inflammatory drugs, over the counter pain pills and prescription painkillers. While one could argue they help get the job done, they also can do a lot of harm. The drugs tax the liver heavily and prescription painkillers are not to be messed with. I have seen teammates and friends get swallowed in the opioid epidemic and it is a dark road. No one deserves to ever have to go through this hell in many cases simply because they got hooked on a pain management drug they were prescribed while injured. So, the good news is, we have a safe, all-natural alternative that is an amazing tool to combat pain and inflammation.

CBD: A Ray of Hope for Sports Recovery

Beyond its amazing ability to be an alternative pain management tool, CBD can really help calm the nervous system and help keep anxieties and stressors minimized. This is important in athlete recovery and in just basic fundamental recovery. When we are not stressed and anxious, we are more relaxed. When we are in a more relaxed state we sleep better. When we sleep better, we recover more efficiently. Sleep is the spine of the recovery process. When anxiety and stress are improved, inflammation can be reduced and you wake up feeling fresh, energized, and relaxed. When you are properly rested, you naturally perform better. CBD has helped me sleep better and recover faster. 

CBD is a ray of hope for sports recovery because it gives us a safer and more effective option to manage the inevitable grind of the season. It allows for overall better recovery while addressing many of the issues related to the recovery process. Injuries and Injury-related pain can cost an athlete a lot of time. In some cases, they lose their job or are never able to fully recover from their injuries and are forced to retire. The problem with our current options for sports recovery is that they aren’t safe, so we should be focusing on solutions that not only get us back on the field or ice sooner but ones that are safe to use long term and won’t run the risk of addiction.

Is CBD Legal?

At the end of 2018 in the U.S., hemp, and hemp-derived CBD became legal under the federal farm bill. Any cannabis variety grown below .3% THC falls under the industrial hemp laws and is sold online and in health food stores across the country. Also, in 2018, CBD was taken off the list of prohibited substances by the WADA (World Anti-Doping Agency). WADA made it clear that this did not mean that athletes can begin using Resinous cannabis or marijuana. The psychotropic compound in cannabis (THC) is still prohibited. Athletes governed by WADA or other sports governing bodies are advised to use CBD in its isolated form without any trace elements of THC. Consult your sports governing body for clarification on this.

What Makes CBD So Amazing?

CBD has been quietly studied for some time now. And there is a growing body of scientific literature that supports the fantastic effects this cannabinoid has on our body and brain. CBD works by directly interacting with our endogenous cannabinoid system which is very much interconnected with our nervous systems. This endocannabinoid system is designed to keep the body regulated and maintain homeostasis within the body. We have small receptor sites throughout the body and brain where the cannabinoids attach and do their magic. Above and beyond CBD assisting with inflammation, anxiety/stress and sleep, cannabinoids like CBD have neuroprotectant and neurogenesis properties. In fact, in 2003 the U.S. government’s department of health and human services had the US patent 6630507 approved for cannabinoids as antioxidants and neuroprotectants. The cannabinoids are found to have particular application as neuroprotectants, for example in limiting neurological damage following ischemic insults, such as stroke and trauma, or in the treatment of neurodegenerative diseases, such as Alzheimer's disease, Parkinson's disease, and dementia. This information is very promising and further research on how CBD can help protect the brain and help treat concussions & TBI. There is hope for athletes of all ages, veterans, and anyone who has experienced brain trauma.

Virtually no side effects besides a few rare claims of it not being compatible with some prescription medications. I personally have had nothing but positive effects from my use of CBD for the last 6 years. I have not heard a single negative story besides people getting ripped off buying low quality or mislabeled products. Always ensure the CBD you purchase comes from a company that provides full transparency and testing on product composition.

For me, it is perfectly clear that cannabinoids like CBD will play a huge part in the future of sports medicine and recovery. Preventing and minimizing inflammation, reducing stressors, managing anxieties, promoting relaxation, and a good night's sleep in a safe sustainable way is the key to optimum daily recovery.

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