Can Marijuana Ease NFL Players' Pain? Claims Are All Over The Field

Screen Shot 2016-02-05 at 11.44.33 AMPain is now one of the central issues in both the sports and political arenas, especially given the firm grip that opioid abuse and addiction currently has on dependent sufferers in the United States, and the fact that it shows no signs of letting up.

At the same time, marijuana is being both legalized and lionized. A vidid demonstration of this is Jim McMahon's recent revelation that the former Chicago Bears quarterback used marijuana to help kick his 100 Percocet/month habit, which was induced by the multiple injuries he sustained during his long, 15-year NFL career.

"They were doing more harm than good," he said of his addiction to the painkiller. "This medical marijuana has been a godsend. It relieves me of the pain or thinking about it, anyway."

According to the Chicago Tribune, McMahon's major setbacks included early onset dementia, severe headaches, depression, memory loss, and vision and speech problems. McMahon also claimed that he suffered a broken neck. He's part of a class action suit against the NFL claiming "negligence and misconduct in handling concussions."

Screen Shot 2016-02-05 at 11.47.08 AM

There's also the case of former Denver Broncos wide receiver Nate Jackson, who spoke to HBO's Real Sports in 2014 saying that marijuana was essential to getting him through the litany of injuries and immense pain he suffered on NFL fields.

"Marijuana was something that helped me as the season wore on," Jackson said at the time. "My body would break down. I was in a lot of pain."

As marijuana continues to enter "mainstream" medicine in the U.S., claims about its benefits always inflated have jumped further. So, I thought it might be interesting to survey some of the clinical studies of the use of marijuana vs. pain, just to see if there is evidence to support the claims of these former players.

There certainly seems to be some, but, as the following chart shows, it is not always so easy to tell what's real and what is not. This is by no means a comprehensive review, but, rather, a sampling of several studies. It is designed to illustrate that, although there may very well be some use for marijuana and/or its components, there is no answer yet.

Screen Shot 2016-02-05 at 11.39.27 AM