Article by Zach Harris, Merry Jane
This Sunday, hundreds of millions of people around the world will watch the Philadelphia Eagles and New England Patriots square off in the NFL’s 52nd Super Bowl. But as millions of Philadelphians prepare to finish the NFL season by climbing street lights and sparking bonfires downtown, thousands of active and retired professional football players and the doctors that treat them are only beginning to uncover the long-term realities of the hyperviolent sport.
Subjected to repeated head trauma from Pop Warner youth football until the day they retire, and steered towards dangerous prescription painkillers anytime the injuries become too much to bear, professional football players have felt the repercussions of both neurological damage and opioid addiction for decades. While initial trials have shown cannabis’ near-miraculous ability to reverse the effects of concussions in addition to helping users kick opioid habits, a lack of federally approved research and the NFL’s conservative leadership have continually pushed the league’s dangers out of the public eye.
In an effort to bring the NFL’s overlooked medical issues to light and craft a new path forward, the American Medical Marijuana Physicians Association (AMMPA) will host a conference in Miami this coming May, where doctors, athletes and cannabis professionals will come together to examine ways in which medical cannabis could be used to help athletes not only throughout their playing days, but well into retirement.
To find out more about the upcoming conference, and learn about the challenges facing both physicians and football players in applying cannabis as a medical treatment, MERRY JANE spoke by phone with AMMPA co-founder Dr. Jason Pirozzolo.
MERRY JANE: What is the AMMPA, and how did the football-focused conference come about?
Dr. Jason Pirozzolo: AMMPA is the largest physician-based medical cannabis organization in the world, and part of our mission is to raise awareness of the potential benefits of medical cannabis — we’re here to support patients and doctors who utilize this alternative treatment. Our goal with this conference is to create a platform for high level scientific discussion by bringing together the topics relating to NFL athletes and medical cannabis, effectively merging the two worlds of traditional western medicine and alternative cannabinoid medicine.
The conference’s keynote is Dr. Bennet Omalu, the man who discovered CTE and was portrayed by Will Smith in the movieConcussion. First, what is CTE? And how can medical cannabis help?
CTE, or chronic traumatic encephalopathy, is a progressive degenerative disease of the brain found in people with a history of repetitive brain trauma, which just so happens to occur with football players. As for medical cannabis, research shows that CBD possesses an anti-inflammatory and a neural-protective property, and in recent studies with animals, CBD has actually been able to reverse the effects of CTE.