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Finally, the NFL Offers to Take a Serious Look at Weed Research

The league is softening its stance on the potential medical benefits of marijuana. Research shows why that might be a good thing.
NFL commissioner Roger Goodell.

NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell.

The National Football League has offered to work with the NFL Player's Association to study the pain management potential of marijuana, the Washington Post reported on Monday night. The Player's Association has already begun research on the potential medicinal uses of the drug, but, until now, the league's position has been that the risks of marijuana outweigh any medical benefits. 

As recently as April, NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell listed among his concerns the "addictive nature" of the drug. "There are a lot of compounds in marijuana that may not be healthy for the players long-term," he said in an interview with ESPN Radio.

But Goodell appears to be coming around to the mountain of studies on the health benefits of weed—which is good, because there's a mountain of research to suggest the benefits could be pretty substantial for NFL players in particular, whose brains take a beating. Below is a round-up of some of Pacific Standard's previous coverage of weed research:

  • "In a comprehensive report on the health effects of cannabis from the National Academy of Sciences, researchers concluded that there is 'conclusive or substantial evidence ... for the treatment of chronic pain in adults.' In a separate study, those who used marijuana to manage pain were no more at risk for serious health detriments than those who did not. A report from the National Academy of Sciences found that cannabis can be used to treat chronic pain in adults," Nick Hagar wrote in April.
  • "THC, the main psychoactive substance in the cannabis plant, may reduce inflammation in the brain and even stimulate the formation of new brain cells," Tom Jacobs reported back in 2008.
  • And as I wrote in May of this year, THC improved cognitive performance in aging mice, and, given that the endocannabinoid system in humans works much the same as it does in mice, it could one day be shown to slow cognitive declines in aging humans as well. 

Maybe next the league will turn its attention to the effects that football itself has on its players.