Is Marijuana a Treatment for NFL Concussions?

By Justin Simms

A diagram of a normal and a concussed brain.

A diagram of a normal and a concussed brain.

In a time of much controversy over the use of medicinal marijuana to treat concussions in the national football league, NFL commissioner Roger Goodell has mentioned he would consider removing the debated substance from the banned substance list.  According to Sports Illustrated, Goodell has said ‘“We will obviously follow signs. We will follow medicine, and if they determine this could be a proper usage in any context, we will consider that. Our medical experts are not saying that right now.”’  This statement comes as no shock due to the tremendous amount of attention concussions and head injuries have been getting from current players, former players, and fans of the game.

Concussions in the NFL have gained attention due to the suicide of Junior Seau last year, a former star linebacker for the San Diego Chargers.  After the autopsy, it was revealed that Seau had brain damage that led to depression, which was probably caused by the multiple concussions Seau sustained over his nineteen year NFL career.  Seau’s family has donated his brain to be tested by scientists to help better understand head injuries.

Countless other former NFL players with a history of concussions have reported having the condition chronic traumatic encephalopathy (CTE), a type of chronic brain damage that may lead to types of dementia such as Alzheimer’s disease.  Dr. David J. Langer, the director of neurosurgery at Lenox Hill Hospital in New York explained “conclusive evidence proves that repeated concussions lead to CTE.”  Recently, a $765 million settlement was reached between former NFL players and the NFL over concussions sustained by these former players.

In an effort to lessen the amount of concussions, the NFL has implemented new rules that try to protect the safety of its players, especially plays that potentially will result in a concussion.  A controversial new rule that bans helmet-to-helmet hits has contributed to the 13% fewer concussions in the NFL this past season; a big step in the right direction for the NFL.

Medicinal marijuana has been reported to help heal concussions by many NFL players, who claim that the substance is less addictive than painkillers such as Vicodin, which is normally used to treat concussions.  While marijuana may help the symptoms of concussions, Dr. David J. Langer says that marijuana does not heal concussions, but rather alleviates some of the symptoms associated with the condition.

With all of the medical research that has been conducted to this day, there is no conclusive evidence that medicinal marijuana helps to heal concussions.  Rather, marijuana may help to alleviate some symptoms that are associated with concussions, such as severe headaches and dizziness.  Commissioner Roger Goodell will have to make a tough decision and decide whether the positives outweigh the negatives in regards to removing the ban on marijuana in the NFL.

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