No matter the sport, being an athlete is a responsibility that takes up a lot of someone’s time, strength, energy, and concentration. It is depletion of these attributes, paired with the drive of competition, that forces athletes to take good care of their bodies, both physically and mentally, or suffer the consequences. One way that athletes can do this is by using CBD products to help relieve certain symptoms, but is it legal? Here at EarthMagic we ask the question, Does CBD give an “unfair advantage” to those who consume, vs those who do not? Let’s explore.

At this point, scientific studies, anecdotal research, and first-hand accounts, all have posted corroborating evidence that CBD has many health benefits for a wide and diverse range of people. Among these people are athletes who go through a variety of physical and mental stresses during their training and competitions. In this article I’m going to go in-depth how CBD can benefit athletes, if it creates an unfair playing field, and lastly highlight a few athletes known for endorsing CBD products.

How Does CBD Work? Does It Benefit Athletes?

Before going into what symptoms and conditions CBD can help relieve, it is important to understand how CBD is absorbed by your body. CBD is a cannabinoid. When cannabinoids are consumed, they generate their effects by attaching to receptors inside your body. The human body has two receptors for cannabinoids, named CB1 and CB2.

CB1 – CB1 receptors are primarily located in your brain. These deal with things such as physical activities (coordination and balance), emotions and the feelings associated with them, and memories and the feelings they incite.

CB2 – CB2 receptors are found in your immune system and affect inflammation and pain and their corresponding feelings.

Knowing where these receptors are found and what these receptors affect helps us to understand how and why CBD can be beneficial to athletes. Because every sport is vastly different and unique from one to another it is impossible to explain how CBD could benefit every type of athlete from every type of sport. Instead, there are three key areas I am going to talk about that have communal benefits for every athlete and sport alike.

Improved Recovery

Swelling or Inflammation of overly used muscle groups is very common among athletes. It happens when an athlete pushes themself to their limit, or past their limit, where they sustain an injury. Thanks to the CB2 receptors in our immune system, CBD can help to reduce that negative inflammation, thusly making the recovery process faster for said athlete. It also helps to relieve the pain and dis-comfort from the injury itself, allowing for more rest and shorter recovery times.

Improved Sleep

Sleep is vital for all of us, but athletes especially, to recover and perform at their best. Lack of sleep can be a result of many things, including pain, anxiety, or an active mind. Luckily for us, CBD can help with all of that by reducing anxiety and helping us to relax, resulting in more restful sleep.

Improved Mood

Being an athlete, at any level but especially for the professional, comes with its own unique stressors. Between the countless hours of training and routines, the anxiety of performing in front of a crowd, the constant quest to refine and improve your skills, it’s easy to imagine how any athlete can get mentally overwhelmed. CBD helps to reduce anxiety levels, which helps to improve our mood. Many sports require strong concentration, meaning athletes must be in a good mindset in order to perform their best. It’s been said that victories are 90% mental and 10% physical. What competitor wouldn’t want their full potential on tap? Is that an unfair advantage?

Who Benefits the Most?

Due to CBD’s natural ability to diminish our dis-comfort, literally any athlete can benefit from CBD, making it difficult to identify which athletes benefit the most. For understandable reasons, CBD usage is more popular among extreme contact sports such as football, hockey, and MMA. This does not mean that it can’t benefit athletes in non-contact sports however, as minor injuries and muscle strains can be caused by many things, such as poor rotation when throwing a ball or taking an awkward step and rolling an ankle.

CBD has been known to be very beneficial for runners, both long and short distance, due to its ability to reduce inflammation and help speed up the recovery process. It also helps to relieve joint pain caused by the constant impact that reverberates throughout the entire body. This reduction in inflammation is the same reason that it is beneficial to football players, skiers, and any other athlete. Much like certain over-the-counter medications, it works for everybody. This homogenized benefit is sounding less and less like an unfair advantage, and more like a “power-up” available to all those who want to preform at their best.

Are Athletes Permitted to Use CBD?

Certain professional sports organizations, such as Major League Baseball (MLB), the National Hockey League (NHL), the Professional Bowlers Association (PBA), and recently the National Football League (NFL) allow for the usage of CBD products. Others, such as the National Basketball Association (NBA), take a stance against CBD due to it being a cannabis by-product.

The tricky thing for the NBA is that although their drug testing includes tests for marijuana, CBD typically won’t show up on the results. This is mainly due to testing looking for the dominant cannabinoid found in Marijuana, THC. However, there have been instances where CBD found in a player’s system has resulted in a failed drug test. Hopefully for these athletes’ regulations will be amended to reflect a broader understanding of how our bodies process CBD, how we benefit from CBD, and what, if any, are the performance enhancing capabilities of this cannabinoid.

Professional Athletes Who Advocate For CBD

While the saying might hold true, “…there is no such thing as bad publicity…”, I am a believer that no one wants negative things said about them. The same goes for the hemp, and incidentally, the cannabis industry, making it even more important that popular professional athletes endorse CBD. The spotlight that athletes help to shine on CBD assists in spreading awareness about the advantages that CBD has for athletes, and for the rest of us. Let’s look at a few famous professional athletes known for being believers of CBD and its benefits.

Mike Tyson

One of the most prolific boxers of his time who finished his career with a record of 50-6. Since retirement he has starred in movies such as “The hangover,” “Ip man 1 & 3,” & “Scary movie V” and TV shows “Entourage,” and “Mike Tyson mysteries” to name a few.  If you have not heard of him, or his signature face tattoos, maybe now is a good time to look him up.

He has publicly promoted CBD in a video in which he referred to it as a “Miracle Oil.” He is quoted as saying “I’ve never felt as healthy in my life, I’ve never felt as clear in my life,” When talking about consuming cannabis. Mike Tyson has gone on the record crediting cannabis and CBD with major improvements to his mental and physical well-being, and proudly noting that there’s also never been a time he’s taken so few pills.

In 2018 “Iron-Mike” launched Tyson Ranch, a 40-acre cannabis ranch in California. In 2019, the serial entrepreneur and celebrity businessman kicked off his podcast, Hotboxin’ with Mike Tyson, where he interviews athletes, celebrities, and comedians while consuming cannabis. It currently has over 40 million listens.

Jake Plummer & Brett Favre

Jake Plummer and Brett Favre are former NFL quarterbacks who played for numerous seasons at the highest level possible. Plummer, after undergoing hip surgeries, began using CBD oil to help improve his joint and cartilage functions. He has become a major advocate for CBD and even helped co-found the Athletes for Care organization which focuses on safer treatment alternatives for athletes. Meanwhile, Favre has lent his name to CBD brand Green Eagle and is their current official brand ambassador.

Nate Diaz & Joe Rogan

Nate Diaz is a professional fighter in the UFC who has been involved in several high-profile, physically intense fights inside the octagon. He has always been very open about his use of CBD oil and other cannabinoids and claims it helps him to recover faster from his injuries after fights. Joe Rogan is a UFC commentator, comedian, and host of a very successful podcast. Rogan is a huge proponent of CBD, cannabinoids, and psychedelics. Recently he has partnered on a CBD beverage line aptly named, Flaming Joe.

Megan Rapinoe

Women’s soccer legend Megan Rapinoe is not only an extraordinary ball player and feminist icon, she is also an passionate advocate of CBD for athletes. Her successful career stretches back to the 2004 FIFA U-19 Women’s World Championship. She has competed on teams in the US, Europe, Australia, and now plays for the Seattle Reign Football Club.

She has been praised for her outstanding leadership of the 2012 Olympics US Women’s National Team, helping them take home the gold medal as well as the FIFA Women’s World Cup in 2015 and 2019.

Rapinoe has been publicly outspoken regarding the advantages of CBD oil as a healthy, natural method to maintain general wellbeing while training and competing. She has also discussed the importance of changing the “status quo” around pain management in all sports, for all athletes.

Closing Thoughts

It seems that the major barrier between CBD and athletes and the relief they require is their respective leagues drug policy. While certain athletes competing in certain sports are not “allowed” to use CBD products, we know that it can, and has, helped several other athletes in varying sports. With continual research and refinement of the available CBD products, we can only hope that CBD will continue to help athletes have long and healthy careers. The caveat here is, as long as the respective governing bodies allow CBD for all participants, there is no unfair advantage given to those who choose to take CBD vs those who abstain.