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NFL & NFL Players Association Team Up For Studying Pain Management Using Marijuana In A Legal Way





The NFL Players Association and NFL have decided to study further on the potential of marijuana for being used to ease out the pain experienced by players due to sports injuries. This can serve as a paradigm change in the approach of the league which has also been hinted at by several players till date.

Committee Formation

Two brand new medical committees shall be formed by the union and the league which will help in solving various medical issues. The review of policies and practices of the teams shall also be undertaken for prescribing medication to the players. Various controversial topics will be tackled by the committees of NFLPA and NFL. Different players had previously expressed frustration over imposing bans and other stringent punishment on players who have been tested positive for marijuana.

Allen Sills, the league’s chief medical officer, revealed in a phone interview that, “I think it’s a proud day for the NFL and the NFLPA to come together on these issues in a very public way.” He further added that “I think it demonstrates the spirit of cooperation we have around our health and safety issues. … Both of these committees are about providing the best health care we can to players.”

Roadmap Ahead

Both union and league officials revealed that the committees will start with their work soon enough. However major policy changes if any shall be made using traditional channels of the collective bargaining process in between NFLPA and NFL or through annual negotiations held jointly over administered drug policies.

Amongst the two committees, one shall specialize in pain management whereas the other will specialize in mental health and wellness. Apart from studying the possibilities of marijuana, the pain management committee will also study different strategies which can assist the players. Sills also revealed that “We’re asking our pain management committee to bring us any and all suggestions. We’ll look at marijuana.”

Marijuana Ban

Marijuana, as we all know, stands out as the top contender of the league’s banned substance. However former players hold the opinion that marijuana can help them tackle problems which arise from playing violent sports. It is thus desirable for the NFL to relax its standards for the betterment of its players.

Expert Speak

Eugene Monroe is an offensive lineman of Baltimore Ravens who had earlier called on the league for showing a green signal to the usage of medical marijuana. Monroe revealed in 2017, “This pain is never going away.” He further added that “My body is damaged. I have to manage it somehow. Managing it with pills was slowly killing me. Now I’m able to function and be extremely efficient by figuring out how to use different formulations of cannabis.”

Roger Goodell the NFL Commissioner held the view that the league should allow players the usage of marijuana for managing pain provided they can support the same with valid scientific and medical claims. A pain management specialist shall be appointed by each NFL team within the 2019 season who will work in close proximity with the league, players, and union.

Effective Pain Management Tool

The NFL had revealed in July 2017 that it shall work in collaboration with the NFLPA for studying potential marijuana usage to ward off painful sensations. The union was at that time studying the issue along with its very own pain management committee and did not respond to the same immediately.

NFLPA’s executive director DeMaurice Smith revealed in a January 2017 interview that the union was preparing itself for undertaking a “less punitive” approach of dealing with the usage of recreational marijuana by the players. The union and league have started discussions on bringing about a collective bargaining agreement and their present labor deal shall run through the 2020 season.

Thus, any alterations to the sports marijuana policy shall be considered for CBD negotiations. Alternatively, they will come through the yearly deliberations of both the sides about their drug policies. The committee shall study pain management and receive recommendations for a prescription drug monitoring program which shall “monitor all prescriptions issued to NFL players by club physicians and unaffiliated physicians.”

Bottom Line

Sills ended the interview saying that “This concept of prescription monitoring is happening throughout medicine, not just in the NFL.” A grievance was filed in May 2017 by NFLPA which accused both the teams and league of violating the terms of CBA which governed safety and health issues. The main reason behind this grievance is allegations against team members of recklessly using painkillers like opioids to ward off pain.

A person possessing knowledge about NFLPA’s viewpoint in regards to the new medical committee formation revealed that “One of the outcomes of that [grievance] was to create something jointly that will generate far more trust. I think this will lead to far more transparency. It will be a process that we will have to work to perfect. We’re both serious about it.”

Each team will be mandated by the union and the league for having a clinician who will spend 8-12 hours weekly at the practice facility of the respective teams. According to Sills, “This is a person who’s coordinating a network of providers.”

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