Athletes put a lot of stress on their bodies as a result of training, and while this can lead to improved performance, it can also lead to injuries and pain. Many athletes are looking for safer and more effective methods of pain management, and one option that has been gaining attention is cannabidiol or CBD.

How does CBD Work

CBD is a phytocannabinoid found naturally in the cannabis plant. Unlike THC, which is also found in cannabis, CBD is not psychoactive. For a long time, research into the effects of CBD on the body was limited due to the legal status of marijuana. However, recent studies have begun to shed light on the potential benefits of CBD for athletes.

CBD works by interacting with the endocannabinoid system (ECS), which is a system of receptors in the body that modulate the activity of neurons. The ECS produces two endocannabinoids called 2-AG and EAE, which bind to receptors called CB1 and CB2 in the nervous system. By binding to these receptors, CBD can inhibit the release of certain neurotransmitters, which can help to reduce inflammation and pain. For example, when CBD is used to treat epilepsy, it may reduce seizure activity by reducing the buildup of glutamate, an excitatory neurotransmitter.

One of the key advantages of using CBD for pain management is that it does not have the risks associated with other medications like non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs) and opioids. Chronic use of NSAIDs can have negative effects on the body, and opioid addiction and overdose are serious public health concerns.

CBD is legal for athletes, as the World Anti-Doping Agency (WADA) and the US Anti-Doping Agency (USADA) removed CBD from their lists of prohibited substances in 2018. However, it is important to note that only CBD was removed from the prohibited list and that THC and other synthetic cannabinoids are still prohibited in competition. Additionally, the legal status of CBD can vary depending on the location, and it is important to check the laws in your area.

In conclusion, CBD may be a safe and effective option for athletes looking to manage pain and inflammation, however, more research is needed to fully understand the potential benefits and risks of CBD. It is important to note that the legality and regulations of CBD use may vary by location and athletes should check their respective sporting organization’s policies on CBD use as well.

6 Benefits of CBD for Athletes

Relieve Pain

Studies have shown cannabis (mostly THC and far less CBD) is effective for reducing pain, including musculoskeletal pain from exercise, as well as stiff joints. (5) There is little research on CBD alone or a 1:1 ratio of THC to CBD. This is an area where anecdotal evidence and biological plausibility are the best we have until research catches up. Despite the lack of hard evidence, CBD does appear to relieve pain effectively for many athletes.

Alternative to NSAIDs

Athletes have been consuming over-the-counter non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs) like ibuprofen (Advil) and naproxen sodium (Aleve) for decades, but they may not be as safe as we once thought. Ultradistance athletes, in particular, are typically advised to avoid NSAIDs during long training sessions and events, due to increased risk of renal damage. But even if your workouts and events are short, long-term or frequent use of NSAIDs may increase your risk for heart attack and stroke.

Some athletes have found the pain relieving effect of CBD can reduce or eliminate their use of NSAIDS for exercise-related pain, with minimal side effects. According to The Essentials of Pain Medicine, Fourth Ed., “There are no documented deaths from cannabis or cannabinoid-based products. In a systemic review of studies of oral and oral-mucosal cannabis for various medical conditions, the majority of adverse events reports were considered non-serious (96.6%).”

Alternative to Opioids

According to the CDC, in 2016 opioids were involved in more than 42,000 deaths in the US. Opioid pain medications (i.e. morphine, codeine, oxycontin) are highly effective for pain management, but carry a significant risk of addiction and death by overdose. Cannabinoids are not as effective as opioids for relieving acute, high-intensity pain (5), but may be effective for long-term pain management – either alone or in conjunction with other medications – with far less risk of dependence or accidental death.

Interested in CBD for Athletes

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