Will the NFL ever allow marijuana as a pain reliever?

Absolutely fascinating read from Howard Bryant at ESPN about the use of marijuana as a pain reliever for NFL players. Bryant argues that it would be “immoral to deny players the right to use it.” Will the NFL ever change its policy? Will Roger Goodell pioneer a new era in sports?

The answer is quite simple. No, he won’t. And that’s a shame, a damn shame really.

Howard’s argument here is spot on.

But what was illegal yesterday may be legal tomorrow. And because football players deal with pain management more acutely than athletes from other sports, a more virtuous and forward-thinking approach for the NFL would be to stimulate discussion of marijuana use. This is a league in which the locker room culture still demands that athletes play through it all. And given that marijuana is a legitimate pain reliever — especially for the migraines that can be a byproduct of head trauma — and is far less dangerous and potentially addictive than, say, OxyContin, it is almost immoral to deny players the right to use it.

In Flex We Trust

In Flex We Trust


Narcotic abuse is a real problem among NFL players, both active and retired. In a study published in Drug and Alcohol Dependence, retired NFL players were four times as likely to misuse opioids in comparison to the general population. Most of that has to do misuse during their playing days.

So why not marijuana? Why not go with a safer alternative?

Some will say it’s a legal issue, though it’s decriminalized in 20 states now. Others will say it’s a social/cultural issue. It’s more acceptable to pop a pill than light a joint. Still, others will say that marijuana has the potential for abuse.

Uh, you don’t think guys are taking vicodin/oxycontin when they aren’t in pain? Please. Get real.

It’s time for the NFL to take a serious look at this. Sadly, I don’t believe Roger Goodell has the vision, I don’t believe he’s brave enough to make a statement. I hope I’m wrong.

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