Colorado researchers found that cannabis played a possible role in pain management in active athletes through observing a sample of adult athletes and their use of the drug. This is the first study and academic research targeting athletes specifically.
"Athletes typically don't sleep well and are anxious, so we wanted to see what percentage of them use cannabis, their patterns of use, and what the effects are," states researcher and professional triathlete, Dr. Joanna Zeiger.
Zeiger was a professional triathlete from 1998 to 2010, placing 4th in the 2000 Olympics. In 2009 she was injured in a bike accident causing neuropathic and structural damage to her rib cage. She eventually turned to cannabis to combat chronic pain.
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An online survey created by Zeiger and her team showed that out of the 1,161 athletes who completed the survey, 301 reported being current cannabis users, with over half of that number using the drug three times per week or less.
The athletes in the study reported using cannabis for mainly chronic pain, anxiety, and paranoia. They also reported that the combination of CBD and THC was more beneficial than CBD alone, providing calming factors and few adverse side effects.
"Older adults are the fastest-growing demographic initiating cannabis use," Zeiger says. "They turn to cannabis to see if it will help with various ailments, and we want to look at benefits and harms for cannabis in older adults," she explains. She is most interested in exploring the long-term effects that cannabis has on older athletes and their performance.
In the past few years, more and more professional athletes are talking about their cannabis usage. Former sports stars like NHL player Riley Cote says "cannabis and sports five or 10 years ago couldn't coexist in a sentence, and now [cannabis] is looked upon as the ultimate recovery tool."
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