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Lifestyle, Research

Unpacking the Relationship Between Cannabis and Athletic Recovery

Mary Ekundayo

by Mary Ekundayo

November 16, 2023 08:00 am ET Estimated Read Time: 6 Minutes
Unpacking the Relationship Between Cannabis and Athletic Recovery

There has been a lot of reaction to the use of cannabis in the athletic community. Events like the disqualification of several athletes after testing positive for THC have contributed to the conversation. Thanks to legalization, researchers can finally conduct thorough research on the plant. Now, researchers are putting in the work to separate myths from facts about cannabis. So, what exactly is the truth about cannabis and athletic recovery? Does it negatively affect athletes, or can it greatly help their recovery? Can it enhance their performance, defeating the need for a fair game amongst competitors? Follow this article closely till the end to get answers to these questions. 

Benefits Of Using Cannabis

As the stigma around cannabis loosens, it has gained massive popularity in wellness and athletics. Studies have shown that cannabis has therapeutic potential. However, more research is currently underway to give these claims more clinical proof.

Here are some of the known benefits of cannabis use. 

Reduced Inflammation

Cannabidiol (CBD), the non-psychoactive property of cannabis, is popular for easing muscle and joint inflammation. Its anti-inflammatory effect has further helped treat muscle spasms that come with conditions like Parkinson’s and multiple sclerosis. There is also an ongoing conversation on its potential to treat chronic conditions like lupus, psoriasis, and Crohn’s disease. Topicals and tinctures are one of the simplest ways to harness the value that cannabis offers for these purposes.

Pain And Soreness Alleviation

Cannabis has also been found to alleviate pain. In fact, it is a recommended alternative for individuals looking to avoid the potential addiction associated with using opioids for pain relief. Zach Scioli, the founder of Revolutionary Health and an advocate for cannabis treatment, speaks of his experience. He said, “Being prescribed extremely strong prescription painkillers to treat pain, I realized their high addiction and toxicity potential. I opted to try CBD oil and high-grade THC extracts to manage pain and inflammation. Looking back, it was the best choice I could have made.”

Better Sleep

Tetrahydrocannabinol (THC), the psychoactive element in cannabis, induces sleep. As such, it helps people with sleep apnea and post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) to get better sleep, which ensures overall fitness. CBD can also reduce stress levels, thus improving one’s quality of sleep. If you are looking for an alternative to regular sleep medications, cannabis is an alternative that has proven useful.

Cannabis And Athletic Recovery

Studies have revealed a significant correlation between cannabis use and positive recovery from athletic injuries. CBD has anti-inflammatory properties that can provide pain relief. On the other hand, the highness associated with THC deals with pain differently. Its euphoric effect can block some pain receptors in the body, which reduces the pain an athlete might be going through. However, most research is focused on CBD.

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Scholars have explained that CBD can treat chronic pain, inflammation, anxiety, spasticity, mood disorders, and sleeping disorders. These effects can accelerate athletes’ recovery after exposure to long and intense sporting activities.

One author of the study stated that “Since training and competition leads to a structural and functional imbalance due to strenuous effort, CBD intake could potentially promote restoration of physical performance.” Nonetheless, there is the expectation that further scientific studies will be done to recommend the standard dosage and frequency of consumption to maximum athletic recovery.

Other Therapeutic Value Of Cannabis

There are a lot of other benefits that athletes stand to gain from using cannabis. Cannabis has potent neuroprotectants, which help to protect the nervous system from damage. In high-impact sports like hockey, football, and martial arts, cannabis can aid recovery from traumatic brain injuries. Cannabis can also help athletes’ mental health by decreasing anxiety and improving sleep, leading to a more focused and healthy mind.

>> Learn more about the therapeutic value of terpenes in the cannabis plant.

Does Cannabis Enhance Athletic Performance?

The World Anti-doping Agency bans cannabis use. One of the reasons for this measure is the belief that it can enhance a competitor’s size, strength, and speed, thus eliminating fairness in games. Although this is a widespread view, there is no scientific proof for the claims.

Ironically, research has shown a greater tendency for cannabis to reduce athletic performance rather than boost it. One study that monitored the effects of hemp on athletes’ strength and ability to exercise revealed that their capabilities were hampered. Dr. Michael J. Joyner, an anesthesiologist at Mayo Clinic, Minnesota, sheds more light on the matter. As an expert in studying elite athletes, the exercise physiologist said, “If you look at any test of physical performance, there’s either no data, it’s a wash, or cannabis makes it worse.” 

There Could Be Side Effects

Cannabis researchers have noted that there could be negative effects associated with the use of cannabis. Reports reveal anxiety, confusion, and paranoia as common side effects of using cannabis. Let’s examine some other effects and how they concern athletic performance:

  • Damaged lungs: The excessive smoking of cannabis can harm the health of athletes’ lungs. It’s no news that proper breathing matters a lot, especially during intense physical activities. As such, athletes should consider the risk of smoking cannabis to avoid any respiratory complications.
  • Impaired motor skills: Although the healing properties of cannabis are undebatable, the intoxicating effects of THC can temporarily impair athletes’ motor skills. This fact implies that using cannabis before stability sports like pole vaulting is dangerous.
  • Severe depression: One health risk reportedly associated with the heavy and long-term use of cannabis is depression and anxiety. Depression challenges an athlete’s fitness because it can lead to a weakened immune system, gastrointestinal issues, excessive weight gain, and blood sugar fluctuations.

In conclusion

Cannabis can greatly help athletes recover from injury and other health issues, leading to a better quality of life. It may be worth the try if you want to combat athletic activities’ physical and psychological challenges. However, it is a substance that athletes should take based on a doctor’s prescription to avoid potentially unpleasant occurrences.

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