League of Concussions: The NFL and Head Injuries

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Like many of us, I spent the last two weekends watching football. It was exciting, surprising, and, above all, entertaining. I followed the games along with my fantasy stats, cheered when my players scored, cursed when my opponents did. Then the injuries happened. Tony Romo out with a fractured clavicle, Alshon Jeffrey with a hurt hammy. And Luke Kuechly with a concussion.

These days, it seems at least one player all 32 teams is going through the “concussion protocol,” a series of tests to protect players’ health. There are many sides to this debate, whether the onus is on the players or league to protect the players’ health. In a time where former NFL player Chris Borland retired after a single year citing the health risks as his reason. He had a bright future and could have made a lot of money as an NFL player. He chose his health. In a recent study, 76 of 79 deceased players’ brains were shown to have some sort of degenerative disease[1]. It’s really hard not to understand why Chris made the decision he did.

8803524_300x300A new development in treating brain injuries is on the horizon. Kannalife, a bio-pharmaceutical and phyto-medical company, has been studying Cannabinoids (CBD) for use in treatment[2]. We were lucky enough to sit down with former NFL defensive end and Super Bowl XXXIII champion, Marvin Washington to talk about CBD, Kannalife, NFL player safety, and a controversial new movie, Concussion, starring Will Smith as Dr. Bennet Omalu[3]. Highlights of the conversation will be discussed. To hear the full conversation, see below:

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Marvin Washington

To expand on the conversation with Marvin, CTE stands for chronic traumatic encephalopathy. If you are interested in learning more about the specifics of this, check out the CTE Wikipedia, here . In brief, its slang is NFL Concussion Syndrome, and in one study, 96% of former NFL players have it[4]. That’s a very scary number, especially when you see how popular the sport is. It’s essentially saying, if you play football at a professional level, you will get this disease and it will affect your life when you retire. How many of us have had to deal with a parent or grandparent with a cognitive disability? It’s painful. And there is no reason for it.

Marvin mentioned that the numbers of young children and high school students playing football is down, but millions and millions of people are still playing this sport[5]. Whether or not to play the game is a conversation that needs to happen within families. As Marvin said, families and players are more educated about the risks. Marvin and I love football. And we want to see it grow, but safely, without a 96% likelihood of getting CTE.

Hopefully, these issues will be brought to light this December when Concussion starring Will Smith is released on Christmas Day. Concussion is the story of Dr. Bennet Omalu, the forensic pathologist that discovered CTE. From the trailer (see below), it has Will Smith’s Oscar nom written all over it.

This movie has the NFL running scared. They already are planning a rebuttal to the film[6]. This isn’t the first time the NFL has been involved in some concussion related scandal. Late in 2013, there were rumors the NFL pressured ESPN to distance itself from a PBS Frontline documentary, League of Denial: The NFL’s Concussion Crisis[7]. Regardless of whether or not the NFL pressured anyone, and regardless on the success of Will Smith’s movie. Concussions and CTE are problems. They warrant solutions, wherever they may be found.

I met Marvin through contacts at the Cannabis World Congress and Business Expo in Los Angeles. Marvin spoke about the work of Kannalife, a company doing R&D on the medical benefits of CBD, of which he serves on the advisory board. Kannalife holds the exclusive license for the commercialization of CBD as an antioxidant and neuroprotectant. There is limited research showing the benefits of CBD to reduce short term brain damage[8]. For more on Kannalife, check them out here. 

CBD is a non-psychoactive aspect of marijuana. Meaning, it doesn’t get you high[9]. This gives CBD many positive medical aspects. Mostly because this limits the side effects. It isn’t used for recreational purposes like THC (the psychoactive ingredient in marijuana.). Even in states where medical and recreational marijuana use is legal, it doesn’t change the fact that marijuana is a banned substance in every sport! A UFC fighter just got suspended for five years because of it[10]!

We are on the verge of some very exciting discoveries. In time, not only will CTE be a thing of the past, but very possibly dementia, Alzheimer’s, and ALS.

What are your thoughts? How will the sports world deal with the new evidence that marijuana can be medically beneficial? Comment below!

Stay strong, stay safe. #WorkOutNerdOut

–Kenny

 

Our theme song, performed by Assorted Intricacies, can be purchased here.

[1] http://www.msnbc.com/msnbc/watch/nfl-brain-injuries-an-industrial-disease-416785987662

[2] https://www.kannalife.com/company/

[3] https://www.inverse.com/article/5009-will-smith-s-concussion-has-the-nfl-worried-about-bennet-omalu

[4] http://www.digitaltrends.com/sports/with-96-of-ex-nfl-players-brains-testing-positive-for-cte-something-has-to-be-done/

[5] http://www.cnn.com/2015/03/20/opinions/jones-football-kids-concussions/

[6] http://profootballtalk.nbcsports.com/2015/07/25/nfl-already-plotting-response-to-upcoming-film-concussion/

[7] http://www.cbssports.com/nfl/eye-on-football/23281638/report-nfl-pressured-espn-to-back-out-of-concussion-documentary

[8] http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/18679164

[9] http://www.leafscience.com/2014/02/23/5-must-know-facts-cannabidiol-cbd/

[10] http://www.huffingtonpost.com/entry/nick-diaz-marijuana-r-u-kidding-me_55f74c6fe4b00e2cd5e7bda4

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  1. Pingback: Bumbbells and Dragons: League of Concussions: The NFL and Head Injuries | General Hemp

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