By Ken Reed
Former NFL quarterback Jake Plummer, along with other former football players, are on a mission to get medical marijuana approved as a safer pain management option for NFL players relative to the addictive opioids that many players rely on today.
Plummer is a leading advocate for the medical marijuana movement. But he’s certainly not alone. Many former players testify to medical marijuana’s effectiveness in treating their pain from debilitating injuries suffered while playing football. They also talk about how it eases their depression and anxiety and extol other cannabis benefits.
“I had pain,” says Plummer. “That’s why I left the game after 10 years. It was just the beatdown. Having to take anti-inflammatories all year to get through the season. I didn’t like the way my body was feeling.”
Plummer began taking a cannabis-derived oil called Charlotte’s Web, which doesn’t have enough THC in it to get a person high. It was the only change he made to his daily regimen.
As a result, he says his muscle and joint pain is mostly gone, along with most of the random headaches he suffered from before starting his cannabis oil regimen.
“I don’t have those creaky five or six first steps anymore,” says Plummer.
“I can get down on the ground and play Legos with my kids. I can sit down on my feet with my knees bent, jump up and take off.”
Other former players tout the positive results they’ve received from medical marijuana.
“I went through a real bad depression and laid down on the railroad tracks and tried to commit suicide myself so it was just by the grace of God that I found God and found cannabis as well,” said Boo Williams, former NFL tight end.
“[I had] constant thoughts of suicide and depression and rage and all these things that were neurologically disrupting my life and I can’t say enough about making that transition,” former NFL offensive lineman Kyle Turley said. “I don’t take an aspirin to this day, an Aleve, an Advil, nothing. I have a strict cannabis regimen that I use.”
The former players say they don’t experience any significant side effects from their cannabis-based treatments, unlike the numerous side effects they experienced with conventional opioids, anti-flammatories and other medications.
The players are looking for the NFL to relax it’s hard-line stance on cannibas, in all it’s forms. They also want research done on medical marijuana’s potential as a neuroprotectant, a substance that can protect (or even repair) a damaged brain.
Some believe that research will reveal that cannabis can be an effective treatment for CTE. “If this has any possibility of helping out with that—oh my God,” Plummer says. “It could save the game.”
The former players believe the NFL is moving too slow on this. They think the NFL’s priorities are warped, that medical marijuana is too far down the league’s to-do list. Former Ravens tackle Eugene Monroe provides an example of the league’s strange priorities. “I saw recently that we changed the rules about players wearing hoodies on the field,” he says. “We have time for that but don’t have time to take care of our players’ health?”
Dr. Ryan Vandrey is a behavioral pharmacology expert at Johns Hopkins University and one of the nation’s leading marijuana researchers. He lists a number of ailments that medical cannabis might someday treat: chronic pain, PTSD, seizure disorders, multiple sclerosis.
“In my mind, there’s clear evidence that cannabinoids will be a big part of medicine moving forward,” Vandrey says.
“What we need is to know how to tap into that system in our bodies. The problem is that it’s cannabis. It comes with this long history of political baggage, with extremely impassioned and emotional support and opposition. The politics and the passion for or against the drug are clouding people’s judgement for seeing it for what it is.”
The former NFL players are being assisted in this effort by numerous parents of children who suffered from terrible seizures and then found relief by using medical marijuana.
“No one’s talking about smoking weed all day long,” Plummer says.
“We’re not advocating the use of marijuana. We’re advocating it as a pain med. I think the NFL should at least allow an adult man who is putting his body, brain and limbs on the line for entertainment to choose between opioids, which could make him dependent for the rest of his life with lots of side effects, and an all-natural, non-addictive, non-toxic medicine just the same.”
Plummer acknowledges the movement will need increased research to answer the numerous questions that still remain regarding medical marijuana. But he’s confident research will have positive outcomes and add to all the amazing anecdotal stories about cannabis’ effectiveness.
“I found myself leading a movement that cannot be stopped,” Plummer says. “There is no way you can stop a movement like this.”
The NFL is indeed talking about researching medical marijuana but it’s time to move beyond the talking stage to actually conducting research.
If the NFL truly cares about the health and safety of its players, it will speed up the process.
— Ken Reed, Sports Policy Director, League of Fans
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Ken Reed appears on the Ralph Nader Radio Hour (at 38:35) to discuss his book The Sports Reformers: Working to Make the World of Sports a Better Place, and to talk about some current sports issues.
- Reed Appears on Ralph Nader Radio Hour League of Fans’ sports policy director, Ken Reed, Ralph Nader and the New York Times’ Tyler Kepner discussed a variety of sports issues on Nader’s radio show as well as Reed’s updated book, How We Can Save Sports: A Game Plan. Reed's book was released in paperback in February, and has a new introduction and several updated sections.
League of Fans is a sports reform project founded by Ralph Nader to fight for the higher principles of justice, fair play, equal opportunity and civil rights in sports; and to encourage safety and civic responsibility in sports industry and culture.
Vanderbilt Sport & Society - On The Ball with Andrew Maraniss with guest Ken Reed, Sports Policy Director for League of Fans and author of How We Can Save Sports: A Game Plan
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