NFL Roundtable Discusses Cannabis and Opioids

Chicago Bears’ Eben Britton (62) on the sidelines during the second half of an NFL football game against the Carolina Panthers in Charlotte, N.C., Sunday, Oct. 5, 2014. (Bob Leverone/AP)

Four former National Football League players sat down in Toronto last month to discuss old injuries sustained during their playing careers, the rampant opioid addiction now plaguing the league, and the NFL’s hesitant stance on cannabis consumption.

The players—Marvin Washington, Leonard Marshall, Eben Britton, and Grant Mattos—spoke about the pain they’ve endured both during and since their playing careers in an effort to draw attention to the issues and encourage current players.

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“Sitting together with the group of guys that spanned four decades of football and talking was therapeutic,” Washington, a former NFL defensive end, said of the experience. “Too many times we think we are going through something alone, but this will show guys that they are not. Maybe this will start conversations all around the country between former players and ultimately lead to change.”

The roundtable discussion, produced by cannabis website Herb, also delved into how cannabis has helped players cope with pain and injuries suffered from the game. Marshall, a 12-year NFL defensive lineman, talked about the benefits of CBD, a non-psychoactive cannabinoid commonly used to treat chronic pain.

“If players are going to get NFL teams to move away from the use of synthetic pain drugs to treat injuries, I feel they need to band together and form an alliance with one another regarding the use of CBD,” he said. “The general public may think these players are just looking to get high, however, many of these players are just looking to get healthy, and that’s more than fair.”

In recent months, the NFL has begun opening up to the idea of allowing medical cannabis in the league. Officials wrote to the NFL Players Association in July, offering to work together to study cannabis as a potential pain management tool for players.

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“We look forward to working with the players’ association on all issues involving the health and safety of our players,” Joe Lockhart, the NFL’s executive vice president of communications, told the Washington Post.

Washington has spoken widely in recent years about the physical impacts of professional football. In late 2015, he wrote a piece for the Players’ Tribune revealing the pain that he endured during his career, diving into details around concussions and related conditions. The full article is available on the Players Tribune website.

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