The Toronto Wolfpack is an unusual sports franchise. In 2016, they were the first North American team to compete in the British Rugby League Football system, and they promptly won a league title in 2017. This year, they did something even more unprecedented. The Wolfpack launched a line of CBD products developed specifically for athletes, and thus became the first pro sports team in the world to do so.
CBD Oil for Athletes
“Rugby is a gladiatorial sport. You have your fair share of bumps and bruises and for recovery and inflammatory pain management CBD products are very, very effective,” David Argyle, chairman of the Toronto Wolfpack, told VICE.
The Wolfpack’s “HowlBrands” line will include therapeutic relief balms, sports pain CBD tinctures, CBD-infused soaks, topical roll-ons, and “healing sticks.”
The sports component of CBD’s emerging widespread use might be relatively small, but it’s hugely influential because athletes are among society’s most-watched and admired people. But CBD’s use in sports is also extremely telling about its usefulness in managing pain. Dozens of current and former pro athletes publicly endorse CBD use. For many, it’s a huge cause; few people deal with as much chronic bodily pain as pro athletes. Their advocacy has been effective: in 2018, the World Anti-Doping Agency removed CBD from its list of banned substances.
Not surprisingly, many of the athletes most vocal in their advocacy for CBD are from sports with the highest degree of pain — professional football, UFC, boxing, ultramarathoning, weightlifting, and even ice skating. Chronic pain is usually synonymous with inflammation, and few remedies on the planet are as effective as CBD at bringing down the inflammation.
“[CBD] lowers the amount of many, many pro-inflammatory cytokines — things that our body makes naturally in response to any inflammatory response,” said Dr. Orrin Devinsky, director of the Comprehensive Epilepsy Center at NYU Langone Health, told the New York Times in an article about athletes and CBD.
Here are six athletes who use and advocate the use of CBD.
- Jake Plummer
Jake “the Snake” Plummer was a star NFL quarterback for a decade before retiring. “I had pain. That’s why I left the game after 10 years,” he told SB Nation. “It was just beatdown. Having to take anti-inflammatories all year to get through the season. I didn’t like the way my body was feeling …” I was miserable…I was mad, pissed off. Questioning: Why the hell did I play football?”
Then he discovered CBD, and it changed his life; among other things, he could play with his kids without pain for the first time since he’d become a father. He was so moved by regaining his health that he became the spokesperson for When Bright Lights Fade, a movement aimed at helping former NFL players who suffer extreme pain from their playing days. Plummer, utilizing his fame, also advocates for children in extreme pain who he believes could benefit from CBD.
“This is to wake up the whole population, not just the NFL,” Plummer said.
- Nate Diaz
In 2016, UFC fighter Nate Diaz got the sports world’s attention when, following a bruising loss to champ Conor McGregor, he arrived at his post-fight press conference puffing on a CBD vape pen. “It helps with the healing process and inflammation and things like that, so you want to get these for before or after the fights, in training,” Diaz told reporters. “It’ll make your life a better place.” Nate and his brother Nick, a former UFC fighter, have since launched Game Up Nutrition, a line of plant-based supplements that include CBD-infused products aimed at helping athletes live healthier and recover better.
- Al Harrington
Former NBA player Al Harington ran a couple hundred thousand miles during the course of two decades as an elite basketball player. He endured multiple knee surgeries and then, right after retiring, a botched knee surgery. “I had a staph infection, and I thought it was going to kill me,” he told GQ magazine. “It got in my bloodstream, so I had like seven different cleanouts during that time. And I was introduced to CBD. I promise you: I’ve had three surgeries since I got introduced to CBD that day in Vail, Colorado, and I have never touched a Vicodin, Oxycontin, anything.”
His experience with CBD was such a revelation Harrington started his own CBD company, called Harrington Wellness.
- Eugene Monroe
The NFL has a problem with its former players. One report found chronic traumatic encephalopathy (CTE)—brain damage caused by repeated collisions—in the brains of 87 of 91 deceased NFL players. Not long after that study, Eugene Monroe became the first active NFL player to publicly declare he was using CBD and advocate its use both for chronic pain and brain trauma. He was promptly released by the Baltimore Ravens three weeks later, but his activism had only begun.
“This pain is never going away. My body is damaged,” Monroe told the Washington Post. “I have to manage it somehow. Managing it with pills was slowly killing me. Now I’m able to function and be extremely efficient by figuring out how to use different formulations of cannabis.”
Monroe is a leading voice for the When Bright Lights Fade Campaign and contributed $70,000 dollars to fund research on NFL players and CBD.
- Mike Tyson
Few people on the planet have been beating up more than former heavyweight champion Mike Tyson. Yet of late, unlike so many former champs, Tyson appears vibrantly healthy. He says the reason is CBD. “I think it’s the miracle oil,” Tyson said on the Church of What is Happening Now podcast. He feels so strongly about it he’s launched his own line of cannabis health products, Tyson Ranch, with its signature product, a CBD topical called CopperGel. “Nobody knows pain better than I do,” Tyson said. “I’ve tried every pain relief under the sun, and nothing works better than CopperGel.”
- Avery Collins
Ultramarathoner Avery Collins was a pioneer the “canna-athlete” movement when in 2015, at the age of 22, he posed for a Wall Street Journal photo taking a bong hit of marijuana. Collins smokes marijuana when he runs, and he runs a lot; he competes in 100-mile races and trains by running 20 to 40 miles a day. Collins claims the psychoactive component of weed, THC, helps him mentally endure running. But a less-heralded part of his story is his use of CBD salves to aid in recovery.
“To run 100 square miles, like the race I’m doing this Friday, I could be out running for 28 straight hours. Once you stop, you sit down and it is crazy, your body has been so used to running for over a day it thinks it is still going, so your muscles just throb and throb, and all of a sudden it all stops and everything swells up,” he told Leafly. “That’s where [CBD] really plays a big part…You can really cut down not only on the fatigue but you can calm the muscles and shoot down a lot of that inflammation.”
Doctor Mike Hansen, MD
Internal Medicine | Pulmonary Disease | Critical Care Medicine
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