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NFL awards $1 million to fund cannabis pain research, including at UCSD

Study finds cannabis could relieve headaches
Posted at 2:44 PM, Feb 01, 2022
and last updated 2022-02-01 17:44:49-05

SAN DIEGO (CNS) - The National Football League has awarded $1 million to two medical research teams -- including one at UC San Diego -- to research the impact of cannabis and CBD on pain management and recovery from sports-related injuries, it was announced Tuesday.

UCSD and the University of Regina in Canada were selected among 106 submissions for research proposals executed by the NFL-NFLPA Joint Pain Management Committee, with UCSD's team to assess the therapeutic potential for cannabis for "relief of post-competition soft-tissue injury pain in elite athletes."

According to an NFL statement, athletes outside the NFL will use vaporized treatments following game-related injuries, with the outcomes monitored via remote phone apps. Participating athletes will receive treatments of either 4% THC, 12% CBD, a combination of CBD and THC, or a placebo, according to UCSD, which said that while no conclusions can be drawn until the study is completed, investigators believe the THC and THC/CBD combinations will prove to be the superior treatments.

"Our team is excited to receive this funding to conduct a systematic, `real-world, real-time' study with professional athletes, and which should shed further light upon the many anecdotal reports that cannabis is helpful in reducing post-competition pain," said Dr. Mark Wallace, co-principal investigator and director of the Center for Pain Medicine at UC San Diego Health.

According to a UCSD Health statement, professional rugby players were chosen for the initial trial, which will not only evaluate pain relief and recovery, but also any effects on physical function, sleep, cognition and mood.

"An innovation of this research is using a `real-world model' of the NFL's competitive injury burden with a group of elite athletes who experience similar injuries," said Thomas Marcotte, professor of psychiatry at UCSD School of Medicine. "It's a first-of-its-kind randomized trial to examine the possible practical efficacy of cannabinoids on post-competition pain."