Can Cannabis Treat Concussions? NHL Players Want To Know
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The National Hockey League has been pretty forward-thinking in its approach to marijuana use among players. Cannabis isn’t on the NHL’s list of banned substances, and players caught using cannabis substances aren’t automatically fined or suspended. Now the league’s alumni association has taken things a step further by partnering with a major cannabis company on a study of cannabis and concussion treatments.
The National Hockey League Alumni Association announced that it would join forces with MSO Canopy Growth in the study. The research, which started in 2019, focuses on using cannabinoids as a treatment for post-concussion neurological diseases in retired NHL players. The study began amid changes in how professional sports leagues treat cannabis and support by athletes for the benefits of cannabis for training and recovery.
Glenn Healy, executive director of the National Hockey League Alumni Association, said when the study launched that retired NHL players can face “physical consequences after they hang up their skates that can be devastating for both players and their loved ones for the rest of their lives.”
He said the study offers retired players “the promise of help and hope.”
The study involves about 100 former NHL players, who will participate in a randomized, double-blind study to assess the impact of cannabis on concussion-related health issues. Researchers hope to conclude the study this year.
EEKA Health Canada's Dr. Amin Kassam, a neurosurgeon who has led four neurosurgery programs over two decades, leads the study. Dr. Richard Rovin, a neurosurgeon who completed post-graduate training at Harvard University Medical School, joins him.
Both doctors bring a wealth of knowledge in neuroscience, molecular cell signaling, brain mapping, and clinical trial design to the study. The hope is the study could result in cannabis therapies that improve the lives of post-concussive patients.
All the study participants live in Canada, where cannabis has been legalized at the federal level nationwide.
Attitudes about cannabis are changing in professional sports—albeit slowly. In addition to retired players openly advocating the use of cannabis, the leagues have started to change policies.
The NHL led the way. League leaders became the first among the major North American professional sports leagues to stop punishing players for marijuana use. Instead, they offer them help if needed. But anything short of toxic levels of THC in the bloodstream means nothing happens, and everyone moves on.
In Major League Baseball, the league and the union worked together to make changes in the league’s drug policy. The league took cannabinoids off the league’s “drugs of abuse” list, adding opioids, fentanyl, cocaine, and synthetic marijuana.
And the NFL no longer suspends players for testing positive for cannabis. Instead, a panel of medical experts reviews the case to see if the player needs treatment. However, according to ESPN, the NBA policy remains the same, with players facing a $25,000 fine for a second positive test.