Researchers to investigate the effects of cannabinoids on pain management, The National Football League (NFL) is donating $1 million to University of California San Diego and University of Regina (Canada)

NFL Donates $1M to Cannabinoids Pain Management Study

The National Football League (NFL) is donating $1 million to University of California San Diego and University of Regina (Canada) researchers to investigate the effects of cannabinoids on pain management, and neuroprotection from concussion in elite football players, respectively. The awards are part of the NFL-NFL Player’s Association (NFLPA) Joint Pain Management Committee, which aims to facilitate research to better understand and improve potential alternative pain management treatments for NFL players.


Dr. Kevin Hill — the co-chair of the committee, director of Addiction Psychiatry at Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Center, and associate professor of psychiatry at Harvard Medical School — said the committee received over 100 research proposals from clinicians and researchers around the world as part of the program.

Dr. Mark Wallace, co-principal investigator and director of the Center for Pain Medicine at UC San Diego Health, said the researchers will “conduct a systematic, ‘real-world, real-time’ study with professional athletes … which should shed further light upon the many anecdotal reports that cannabis is helpful in reducing post-competition pain.”

Dr. Patrick Neary, an exercise physiologist and professor in the Faculty of Kinesiology and Health Studies at the University of Regina, said his team “believes that different cannabinoid formulations found in medical cannabis have the potential to benefit athletes suffering from the acute and long-term chronic effects of concussions.”

“One reason is the [DEA] scheduling of cannabis makes it harder to do this research, but the main reason is that stakeholders really aren’t interested in advancing the science,” Hill told the AP. “You have states and companies that are making a lot of money selling cannabis products, selling CBD products right now. So they don’t feel the need to prove the efficacy of these products, and millions of people are using them. So that’s the predicament that we’re in as health care professionals or organizations that really care about the health and safety of our constituents, the players in this case.

“We really want to know, do they work? And every day I meet with patients who are interested in cannabinoids, and it’s the same thing — we really don’t know the answers to that. So it becomes a very complicated risk/benefit discussion. So I’m thrilled to be a part of something that actually is going to get toward finding some answers to the questions that everybody’s been talking about for years.”


“The specific goal of this project is to determine whether cannabis/hemp-based cannabinoids, i.e., [CBD] and [THC], can be used safely and effectively for pain management and to reduce the use of prescription medications including opioids in post-concussion syndrome athletes,” the research proposal says. “An additional goal is to assess the neuroprotective properties of cannabinoids to reduce the incidence or severity of acute and chronic concussion in professional football players.”

Notably, NFL players will not participate in the study as cannabis use remains barred under the collective bargaining agreement. Instead, the studies will be conducted using “elite professional athletes outside of the NFL.”