Like a seasoned stoner reluctantly detoxing for a job interview, football fans from coast to coast are feeling a sort of psychological withdrawal from our real national pastime. We are now just a couple weeks out from the end of what was, by every conceivable standard, one of the most dramatic and interesting seasons in NFL history. The domestic violence issues from two seasons ago were last year eclipsed by intermittent labor disputes and the existential crisis that arose from the courageous stand that Colin Kaepernick took by refusing to stand for the National Anthem, which had a polarizing effect perhaps unprecedented in the entire history of sports in America. (That particular controversy is likely to continue in 2018.)
Lost in the political shuffle last season was the groundswell building among active and retired players who are pushing to make medical marijuana part of the discussion. The NFL has dragged their feet on this, but like any business in flux, they are privately open to exploring useful solutions. This is good news for groups like the Gridiron Cannabis Coalition—also, please send me a t-shirt!
Amidst all this, concussions remain the elephant in the room. (Don’t get in front of that elephant, because you might get concussed.) But let’s not be glib, because this is serious business in the business of sport. USA Today reported last month that, despite all the hype, the protections and the protocols, the league tallied concussions at a rate unseen in half a decade—281 from start to finish, not counting the playoffs, a 15.6 percent increase over the five-year average. Pro-pot activists contend that CBD oil and other derivatives can help mitigate concussion symptoms immediately, and anecdotal evidence suggests that it can possibly stave off the effects of chronic traumatic encephalopathy (CTE).
“There were 190 concussions diagnosed during the 2017 regular season (two fewer than in 2015),” according to reporters Lindsay H. Jones and Lorenzo Reyes, “but there was a significant jump in incidents during the preseason with 91, nearly evenly split between games (46) and practices (45). Players were diagnosed with 11 concussions during regular-season practices.” Alarmingly, only 50 of those concussions were self-reported by players. This speaks to their tendency to play through pain, which has had a truly devastating human cost.
Currently, 23 of the NFL’s 32 teams, including three in Florida, make their home in states that have legalized pot use to at least some extent, but players there remain restricted by the league’s drug testing policies. With 72 percent of past and present players reporting personal painkiller abuse, it makes sense for the owners to put preconceptions aside and let the players decide their own destinies. These men are killing themselves for our entertainment, and we as fans should embrace any opportunity they have to find relief, especially since it’s legal.
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