-As the NFL tries to do its part in battling the opioid epidemic, it turns its gaze to cannabis. But is it missing a more obvious alternative?
That’s the word that describes the NFL best – its place in culture, its financial status, its impact in the news cycle. The NFL has been touting its own self importance for years, and combined with ravenous fans and billion dollar margins, its a self fulfilling prophecy.
Indeed, so imbued with Americana, the NFL is representative of the national consciousness in many ways; the omnipotent advertising, the greed infused but superficially noble pro-cancer drives.
And, of course, the opioid epidemic.
The NFL and Opioids
A sport in which the bashing of bodies constitutes success should leave no one surprised that players need pain solution managements. But sports – across the globe – at large have had issues with substances. We have records of the ancient Roman Olympic trials stripping winners for using substances that were frowned upon. An American icon, Lance Armstrong, rocked the sporting world with the news of his doping scandal. The NBA had a long standing taboo with cannabis, the league executives aware of heavy use across the league, but unwilling to go beyond nominal enforcement of league – and federal – marijuana prohibtion laws.
The lattermost substance has drawn significant attention across the sporting world, however. With the legalization – and, more importantly for the NFL, the softening moral perception surrounding cannabis – of the ubiquitous plant, studies have consistently shown that marijuana can have some utility in aiding the recovery of athletes. Considering that it can be consumed without the need to smoke it, and that it can now be legally obtained in many states in more normalized, regulated forms, many athletes are revealing their prior affection for cannabis and how it has aided them in times past.
These comments have had even more worth coming on the heels of revelations – perhaps unsurprising for many astute NFL observers – that the misuse of opiates as a pain management technique in the NFL as rampant. NFL players, subjected to brutal interactions with their coworkers on a daily basis, are almost always playing hurt – if not outright injured (a common distinction used in the NFL which applies peer pressure to injured players; “You’re just hurt”, coaches will say, “not injured.”)
But does the NFL really care?
Is the NFL really interested in Cannabis replacing opiates?
For those of who you do not follow the NFL, you may just wonder why players don’t simply take a more cautious approach to pain management.
If they’re hurt, why not sit out until they are better?
As mentioned above, the pressure to preform in the league is suffocating. A superstar, homegrown hero can have one bad season due to injuries and his team may just dump him, blackball him, and end his career. Coaches, desperate to win and rarely lasting more than one losing season, need their best players to play, injuries be damned.
And the NFL?
The NFL is a darkly dispassionate instituion.
Fans and players alike dislike confronting the horrible reality of traumatic brain injuries sustained from their favorite sport. It makes us fans wonder if we can really cheer for the big hit. It makes players wonder if the millions of dollars is worth destroying their brain.
But the NFL? The NFL launched a campaign to misinform and conceal the realities of traumatic brain injuries sustained by their employees. It’s internalized as a fact by league executives, and then manufactured into minuscule pieces so as to mislead the public and the players. And so, in many ways, the league has enabled the opiate abuse by its players; by concealing the truth of their injuries, the NFL doesn’t want to stop their players from numbing themselves to the real damage being done. They’re perfectly fine with team doctors prescribing oxycontin to everyone from the kicker to the waterboy. The fewer questions, the better.
The Players Say No
Football is the ultimate team sport, or so they say.
But in recent years, an ‘honor code’ that has always placed the needs of the team over the individual has thankfully began to erode when it comes to player agency for their own health.
The NFL players association has begun to leverage their considerable power – they are the ‘product’, after all – into forcing the NFL to address the serious issue of pain management and the NFL wide opiate issue.
This has led to the exploration of cannabis.
Medicinal cannabis has long been studied, but only recently been de-vilified by our government, for its potential benefits to human health. It can aid in sleep, appetite, muscle spasms and pain management; it has been a miracle for people with seizures; it can treat the symptoms in a wide range of sometimes obscure health issues; it may even be able to directly treat some health issues such as glaucoma. The science of medical marijuana is developed enough that the NFL players association has essentially demanded that the NFL’s prohibition of cannabis be ignored, or outright ended. This has led to the recent developments which sees the NFL exploring all the derivatives of cannabis – like CBD – to try and aid in pain management, and importantly, minimize the use of opiates.
Are they missing the obvious answer in Kratom?
The science of kratom is, regrettably, lacking in some areas. But thousands of years of use, millions of daily anecdotal stories, and some strong foundational studies reveal that kratom may indeed be the salve the NFL is looking for, but just can’t see.
Interviews abound of kratom’s potential in aiding individuals stop their opiate use, while also maintaining the ability to handle pain management. For any NFL players who have fallen victim to a system of reliance of opiates – be it the physical requirements of managing tremendous pain, or the psychosomatic realities of opiate addiction – kratom can be a vital boon in that it serves to address both issue; it can continue to manage pain symptoms, while also potentially relieving players from the scourge of the opiate epidemic, should they find themselves in that position.
Thankfully, the federal government is beginning to notice kratom outside the obsessive death-stare of the FDA; studies that appreciate the medicinal potential of kratom are being given serious attention. Can the NFL adapt in time?
They would certainly have the funds. The NFL collects billions of dollars a year. If they have enough money to conduct wide ranging studies on the head trauma sustained by their players and then cover up the results, they have the money to study kratom. And why shouldn’t they? Opiates can be appropriate in limited scenarios with strict medical oversight, but spell doom if used over the course of years to numb out the pain of the profession. The cost of opiates, when compared to the potential of kratom, defies equivocation. The potential of kratom is repeated en-masse anecdotally by millions of Americans, from all walks of life, who swear by the plants efficacy; some use it to aid in their sleep; some use it to manage pain; others use it for energy and focus.
That sounds like a touchdown for the NFL.
But will the NFL seize this remarkable gift? Or, at the very least, explore its potential, and offer it for their ailing workforce?
The FDA sure isn’t making it easy; their virulent crusade against kratom and maniacal obsession with using kratom to cover up their own indiscretions in their role in the opiate epidemic may make the NFL nervous about a public relations perception issue. But if the NFL has gotten over the hump with cannabis – a plant that suffered a fate much worse in the 60’s when it was known as the ‘Devils Drug’ – they can surely manage to study kratom, a plant with more in common with coffee than anything else.
It will come down to the motivations of the NFL. Are they simply giving lip service to their ailing players in saying they’ll look at cannabis? Or are they legitimately interested in preserving their players? You’d think the NFL would have intrinsic motivation to protect their workforce, but they’ve shown time and again that they feel players are replaceable.
But the players are standing up. And they need to be informed about the potential of kratom. Not only can it aid in their pain management issues, but it can aid in recovery, help with sleep, and a wide range of other issues which is supported by wide anecdotal evidence and burgeoning science.
While the NFL is taking the right steps in in expiring alternatives to opiates, they’re missing the mark.
Kratom is right in front of them, and at the very least, deserves a serious look as a balm that may address the needs of many of its players.
Cannabis may be a first down. But in a league obsessed with winning, the NFL needs to go for the goal line.
Kratom is waiting there.
Peace and Love,