Professional athletes get hurt. Real hurt. They are constantly pushing their bodies to be stronger and go harder. Kevin Durant is the most recent example of what can happen as a result of pushing your body harder. Doctors will often prescribe opioids and painkillers to help players push through their soreness and pain, but athletes are looking for other ways to deal with the pain that are more natural. In June of 2018, Big3 became the first professional league to allow their players to use CBD for pain management and recovery. In April of 2019, they announced a partnership with CBD company, cbdMD.
CBD is a cannabinoid found in the hemp plant. It works with the body’s endocannabinoid system to regulate homeostasis. The endocannabinoid system has receptors that help manage pain, inflammation, mood, and more. CBD binds with those receptors to help promote healing, stress relief, and overall well being.
CBD’s popularity has taken off in the past couple of years. Was it the endorsement from Dr. Sanjay Gupta or something else? The signing of the 2018 Farm Bill? The World Anti-Doping Agency removing it from the prohibited substance list? No one knows for sure. But it seems like everywhere you look you can find someone talking about CBD. When the Big3 announced their partnership with cbdMD, in a statement from Big3 co-founder Jeff Kwatinetz he said “We did this out of compassion for our guys because CBD can help them without enhancing their performance or having an intoxicating effect. It’s a win win.”
More and more basketball players are trying out CBD to help them with their ailments. Lower extremity issues, like sprained ankles and “Jumper’s Knee,” often plague players. They are constantly dealing with pain and inflammation, which is why CBD has become an option they turn to. Research is playing catch up right now. The legal status of CBD before the 2018 Farm Bill made it hard for researchers to discover all of the benefits of CBD. But early studies are promising. One study done in rats found that CBD was useful for healing fractured bones in rats and made them less likely to break again. Another report from the National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine found that patients who used cannabinoids experienced less pain.
The NBA doesn’t allow for CBD use, but many retired players and Big3 players have talked about the success they have had with using it. In a Forbes interview, Ice Cube talked about why they’re allow players to use CBD. “These guys put their bodies on the line for us and the fans to entertain us with their talent. And as they’re hurting and in pain and there’s something out there that can help them, that doesn’t enhance their performance or intoxicates them…. To me, it’s simple compassion.”
Athletes from various sports are hoping that compassion will make its way to their own leagues. Bellator and the UFC allow their MMA fighters to use it. The MLB is lenient towards it. The NHL is a maybe. It depends on the player and how much is detected. Adam Silver, NBA commissioner, has mentioned in the past that he would be open to learning more.
For now, the Big3 remains ahead of the crowd. Watch the Big3 in action every Saturday and Sunday on CBS and CBS Sports.