Concussions and Cannabis:
Are the NFL, NHL, MLS, Youth Sports and Hospitals Paying Attention?
When I began researching cannabis, I found a great documentary called The Scientist: Are We Missing Something? This documentary tells the story of Israeli scientist Raphael Mechoulam who has been studying cannabis since the 1960’s. As a young graduate student, he was looking for a relatively new area to study and decided to pursue the study of cannabis.
The documentary starts with a great story of how Mechoulam got cannabis product to study. He had a friend who was a policeman so he arranged to pick up 4 kilograms (roughly 9 pounds) at the station. After some coffee and pleasantries, Raphael took this large bag with him and he took public transport (a bus) back to his office. You can imagine the looks he got as the smell wafted from the package!
From there, the documentary highlights some notable achievements that Mechoulam and his team created and other discoveries they made along the way. For example, it is noted that back in 1978 a study in Brazil was done looking at cannabis and epilepsy. Overwhelmingly, the study showed that cannabis is effective in controlling cannabis. But as Mechoulam notes, “and then nothing happened.” He and his team also isolated the cannabinoid THC (tetrahydrocannabinol, the element in cannabis that can cause euphoric effects) and in his lifetime Mechoulam has published over 350 papers. So if anyone knows cannabis, it is the Grandfather of Cannabis, Raphael Mechoulam.
One study that caught my attention was on the effects of CBD and concussions. Cannabidiol is the element in cannabis that does not get one high but fights inflammation. Mechoulam and his team wanted to find out if cannabis had any effect on concussions and decided to study car drivers who had been in accidents and experienced concussions. Because Israel is a relatively small nation (about the size of New Jersey) they were able to administer large doses of CBD to car crash victims within 4 hours and what they found was amazing. The victims recovered quickly and it was as if the concussion never occurred. Then, other countries sent their car crash concussion victims but if CBD was not administered in the 4 hour window, it was less effective. There was relief and repair up to 12 hours but again, the takeaway was that CBD needs to be administered in large doses quickly when a concussion occurs.
Think what this could mean to athletes who compete in dangerous sports with a likelihood of concussion such as football, hockey, soccer, mixed martial arts, and boxing? And what about our nation’s drivers who get concussions? In nearly every case I have to imagine that a hospital is within 4 hours and that CBD could be easily administered. Maybe one day we can put Mechoulam’s research about concussions into action. Until then, many athletes are already taking matters into their own hands and are using CBD and THC for recovery. It will be an issue that sports leagues will have to confront- and as soon as one major league approves CBD/THC, others will surely follow.