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Survey Shows Sports Medicine Physicians Increasingly Favor CBD for Athletes

Lemetria Whitehurst

by Lemetria Whitehurst

March 18, 2024 08:00 am ET Estimated Read Time: 4 Minutes
Fact checked by Kymberly Drapcho
Survey Shows Sports Medicine Physicians Increasingly Favor CBD for Athletes

Cannabis is now more popular and mainstream than ever, thanks to sweeping legislation that supports its use. Nowhere has this been more surprising than in the sports world. Reflecting this shift, a recent survey published in Translational Sports Medicine provides an updated look at sports medicine physicians’ evolving views on CBD for athletes. 

The findings reveal a variety of opinions, from cautious acceptance to full support. This article explores these perspectives, offering updated insight into the medical community’s stance on CBD and cannabis in sports.

Sports Medicine Physicians Have Increasingly Favorable Opinions of CBD

The survey showed an impressive majority were in support of legalizing cannabis for both medical and recreational purposes. This marked an important change in the medical community’s perspective towards the plant. 

Interestingly, the survey also uncovered that these attitudes are not consistent across the board but were instead influenced by various demographic factors. Age, gender, and the type of medical practice were cited as key determinants in shaping physicians’ views on CBD and cannabis. 

Younger physicians, for instance, held more progressive views than their older counterparts, while opinions differed between male and female doctors. Differences were also noted between physicians from urban versus rural practices.

The survey also revealed a mix of views among physicians on CBD and cannabis in sports, despite a general favorability. Notably, 72% of respondents supported the World Anti-Doping Agency’s (WADA) decision to remove CBD from its list of banned substances. This majority endorsement shows the increasing understanding of CBD’s benefits and a shift towards more lenient policies on cannabinoids in sports. 

Furthermore, the survey provided interesting data about physicians’ recommendations of CBD for medical use–showing that 40.8% of the doctors have suggested their patients use CBD. However, physician recommendations for CBD use are mainly for neuropathic and musculoskeletal pain, with less support for treating more common sports issues like anxiety and concussions.

The NCAA’s Changing Stance of CBD for Athletes

The NCAA has recently recommended the removal of cannabis from the list of banned substances for college athletes. This landmark move marks a pivotal shift in the association’s approach to cannabis as medicine, in line with a broader trend toward giving cannabis a second look. The impact of this recommendation is huge, as it can potentially alter the landscape of sports medicine and encourage holistic athlete health management.

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In addition to the changes observed in collegiate sports, Major League Baseball (MLB) removed cannabis from its list of “drugs of abuse,” treating its use similarly to alcohol consumption. This decision reflects a greater understanding of how cannabis is legal in many jurisdictions and its potentially significant health benefits.

Similarly, the National Football League (NFL) has also made changes to its substance abuse policy. In the 2020 Collective Bargaining Agreement, the NFL significantly raised the threshold for THC and reduced penalties for positive tests.

The National Basketball Association (NBA) also temporarily halted random testing for marijuana during the 2020 season restart, a policy that continued into subsequent seasons. Finally, in 2023, news broke that the NBA would no longer test players for THC.

These developments across major sports leagues suggest a changing tide and the need for more modern policies on cannabis use, aligning more closely with current scientific understanding and societal attitudes. This trend reflects an overall commitment to athlete wellness. It reinforces how important ongoing research and education are in understanding the plant’s role in sports and beyond.

The Road Ahead: Research and Education

Looking forward, the sports world is undergoing a profound change in attitudes toward cannabis, driven by evolving scientific research, changing societal norms, and progressive policies from leading sports organizations. For decades, we’ve known about CBD’s anti-inflammatory and analgesic potential, and scientists are regularly working toward a more precise understanding of cannabinoid ratios

The evolving policies of organizations like the NCAA, alongside shifts in other major sports leagues, reflect a broader movement towards recognizing the potential benefits of cannabis, not just for performance enhancement but for its healing properties. 

As this conversation continues to unfold, the sports community’s ongoing commitment to research, education, and open dialogue will be critical in shaping the future of athlete health management and sports medicine. 

This journey towards understanding and acceptance marks a remarkable new era in sports, one where the well-being of athletes is prioritized, and the medicinal potential of natural substances like CBD and cannabis is fully explored.

Note: The content on this page is for informational purposes only and is not intended to be professional medical advice. Do not attempt to self-diagnose or prescribe treatment based on the information provided. Always consult a physician before making any decision on the treatment of a medical condition.

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