For student-athletes in college, the ability to use marijuana as a way to help heal themselves during the course of their respective sport is unavailable due to its status as a banned substance by the National Collegiate Athletic Association.
Cannabidiol, or CBD oil, is one of 80 chemicals found in marijuana, making up about 40 percent of the plant. It is also a recently recognized chemical structure found in certain strains, according to Paul Miller, the emeritus founding director of disability services on campus, as well as the student-athlete assistance program.
Miller said that CBDs differ from strains of regular marijuana due to them lacking the psychedelic effects caused by the THC that is found in the drug.
“It’s basically another chemical structure in cannabis that is like THC, but unlike THC, it doesn’t affect neuroreceptors in the brain that create the kind of high that is typically associated with marijuana and cannabis,” Miller said.
In 2017, the NCAA released a presentation to inform student-athletes about marijuana and the detriments it can have on their collegiate athletic careers.
During the presentation, it detailed the negative effects cannabis can have on the motivation, mental health and respiratory systems of student-athletes, and how that would affect their health as well as their academic and athletic careers.
If student-athletes were to test positive for marijuana during a drug test, they can be declared ineligible for their sport and be withheld from 50 percent of its contests.
Miller is optimistic that CBD cannabis will be permitted in the NCAA in the future.
As more states legalize cannabis and realize it isn’t a performance enhancing drug (PED), it will be more accepted, Miller said, as it could be a more natural alternative to treat pain instead of using opioids.
“Almost every student-athlete I’ve worked with over my career would rather do it as naturally as possible and not have to take PEDs, especially opioids. If there’s another way to control the pain, that’s going to be much less potentially harmful because of some of the addictive responses in your brain,” Miller said.
Until the policy changes, student-athletes can always go to their athletic trainers to help rehab certain injuries or pains they have.
Michael Hoang, Cal State Fullerton athletic trainer, said for things like muscle soreness, the trainers have several methods they offer to help athletes with their pain, such as ice baths, recovery pumps and electronic stimulation.
“It’s called e-stem for short. It’s those electric pads that you put on an area that help with pain and soreness, and overall recovery,” Hoang said.
Hoang also named a few exercises athletes could do at home if they are unable to see the trainers.
“A thing that everyone can do that’s very cheap is to use a foam roll,” Hoang said.
The different techniques in treating soreness and injuries have led to several opinions. Miller said people are going to have to adapt to the change as more states move toward legalization for recreational use.
However, Miller said he doesn’t think student-athletes should consume cannabis before a game to calm their nerves.
“For student-athletes, my mantra is THC cannabis is not performance enhancing in any way,” Miller said. “You don’t want to have the neurological effect of the THC if you’re going to be in some intense training or competition. Obviously, that’s not going to be beneficial, just as alcohol (isn’t).”
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