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The popularity of CBD products has seen an explosion in America over the past couple of years. With this explosion we’ve started to a variety of use cases where CBD products have become especially popular. One of those popular areas is found in CBD for athletes in both post, during and pre workout consumption.
Many athletes see CBD as an alternative that allows them to reduce intake of over-the-counter drugs that help with muscle soreness and inflammation others use it as a cognitive enhancer to improve focus and alertness.
Athletes Using CBD
There is still much more scientific research needed on the benefits of CBD for athletes. However, athletes using it have added their personal experience to public discussion and offer anecdotal evidence to the mix.
CBD in MMA and The UFC
In the world of mixed martial arts (MMA), the ability to reduce soreness, treat injuries, and aid muscle recovery is central to the training regimen of successful fighters. Many fighters have turned to CBD as both a post and pre workout supplement.
Fighting as a lightweight in the UFC for over ten years, Diaz is a known user of both CBD and cannabis.
In a post-fight interview in 2016, a reported asked Diaz what he was smoking. Upon which, Diaz responded by saying it was CBD and that “it helps with the healing process and inflammation.”
Since then, both Nate and his brother Nick have been strong proponents of CBD, cannabis and other plant based supplements to their MMA training.
Another MMA fighter who is a strong advocate for CBD Saying on social media that “it’s part of his nightly ritual”.
But it’s not just CBD that “Suga Sean” believes in. In 2019, he released his own cannabis strain called Suga Show OG. A potent cross between Lemonhead and OG 92.
Michelle Waterson is another UFC fighter who sees CBD is an important part of her training and post-workout program.
Michelle says that preparing for a UFC bout can be draining mentally, ‟it’s hard to shut your mind off when all you want to do is win!”. And that CBD helps her to “let go, relax, rest, and recover.”
Comedian and UFC commentator Joe Rogan, in his podcast the Joe Rogan Experience, has not only talked about UFC fighters taking CBD but opened up about his own use of it.
Rogan trains in MMA in his free time. On his show, he has extolled the topical application of CBD on sore muscles and ingesting it for treating general anxiety.
Speaking with Maynard James Keenan on his podcast, Rogan said the topical CBD for him was “the best thing I’ve ever found for alleviating soreness and stiffness.”
CBD In the NFL
CBD and American Football have a tense history in recent years. Both players and the league are not sure how to respond to the advent of the non-psychoactive product.
The NFL in January of this year held a fact-finding meeting on the possibility of CBD allowing CBD as a non-opioid pain treatment. This statement comes following the described “exploding” use and the anecdotal support for cannabis-derived supplements.
Many former players like Terrell Davis and Jake Plummer have said that using CBD has helped treat persistent pains from their football careers. Others like Eugene Monroe, Tiki Barber, and Joe Montana have gone further and started cannabis-based companies.
In 2016, Monroe was one of the first NFL players to speak about using CBD. Soon after, his contract terminated. Some people, including Monroe himself, believe the contract cancellation was due to his outspoken advocacy.
Monroe now speaks about his personal use and his advocacy for cannabis products for athletes on his website and through his work in Green Thumb Industries.
At the moment the NFL still says NO to CBD products for their athletes.
Golf Players Using CBD
While not often thought of as exacting the same physical toll as professional fighting or American Football, golf is proving another popular sport for athletes to use CBD.
The necessary longevity for gruelling golf tournaments has meant some professionals have included CBD into their supplement regime. One of the most forthright of golfers has been Bubba Watson. Watson not only cited the problems of injury and strain but included his personal experience of better sleep during long tournaments.
Speaking about his desire to extend his career beyond 40-years-old Watson said that taking CBD for him was a ‘no-brainer.’
Phil Mickelson was caught taking what looks like a CBD tincture on camera during the 2019 Masters. We still don’t have confirmation that it was in fact CBD, but everything points to it.
Others, like Lucas Glover and Scott McCarron, attribute their enhanced performance on the course to their experiences with CBD off the course.
The unique situation of CBD and golf players has emphasized the perceived mental benefits of the hemp product: either in the claim to sleep better and as a result, recover better, or reduce the anxiety that comes with the high-concentration sport.
The Present and Future of CBD and Athletics
Anecdotal evidence suggests that athletes are increasingly turning to CBD as more companies and advocacy groups promote the claimed benefits. Though enthusiasm for it appears to be growing, athletic groups have been slow to grapple and adapt to the new supplement.
The 2018 Farm Bill made it legal to farm hemp. Following its passage, sporting groups have taken different approaches to the substance’s possible presence in sports.
As mentioned above, the NFL is looking into CBD. However, its blanket ban on THC products and its overall skepticism on cannabis effects means that it is not likely to accept the substance soon. The PGA does allow for the use of CBD, but most other sporting groups still have it banned, in part related to the problem of testing.
As much as advocates of CBD wish to separate it from THC, the two still have structural similarities. Reports in the past have shown that CBD products may have impermissible levels of THC and other cannabis products, often by mistake. Even trace amounts of THC becomes difficult with the possibility of athletes failing drug tests for improper labeling or information on products purchased online.
On the level of national laws, many states have been struggling to create coherent laws on the legality and regulation of different CBD products. Part of the challenge is due to their variety. In the US, the FDA allows for its sale only if the marketing does not promote it as a drug or medicine. However, this stipulation is not clear between the federal and state levels of law.
In the UK, the FSA is undergoing a review due for 2021 on CBD products. The review could pull the products from the shelves, partly to avoid the problems of mislabeling.
All these factors make the future of CBD in athletics uncertain. However, with the increasing number of athletes using it in their training regimes, it seems it will need to find a place in modern sports.