Cannabis & Athletes: Injury

by | Jun 28, 2021 | Athletes | 0 comments

Unfortunately, injury is a very real and very common part of being an athlete at any performance level. Some sports obviously have a higher rate of injury than others. Collision sports like football pose more risk of injury to players than others, so it’s important athletes know the proper way to heal injuries when they inevitably occur. 


Injury Management

There are a number of different types of injury recovery available, including surgery, time off work or training, health aids like crutches, and undoubtedly some form of physical therapy. Cannabis products have quickly become another popular option for injury management, with many athletes choosing to treat their chronic and acute pain and inflammation with cannabis products. These products come with little to no side effects making them a popular choice for athletes who need to be especially mindful of what they put into their bodies or what they use to treat themselves and how that could affect their athletic performance. 


Many high performing athletes will attest that doctors have prescribed them any number of medication to treat injuries, including opioids, muscle relaxers, and steroids. While these treatments are often effective in pain management or healing, they also come with a long list of risks that many people would rather avoid. That’s where cannabis can be key. 


Cannabis Products

NSAIDS have long been a popular product with athletes for preparation, recovery, and injury. However, as effective as they can be, they are also known to cause a variety of dangerous side effects like bleeding gut and liver problems [1]. Of course other treatments like opioids come with the risk of addiction, which will derail anyone’s goals, athletic or otherwise. Cannabis can offer many of the beneficial pain relief treatments as prescription medication but without the risk associated with them.


Which product works best for each person will depend on their own needs and personal habits. Some of the most popular cannabis products are tinctures, edibles, and topical salves. Which product is best for an athlete’s specific injury needs is something the athlete and their doctor should discuss, taking into consideration the extent of the injury and any other important treatment or medication history. For some injuries a topical salve might be the best and most effective option. For other injuries, athletes might gain more benefit from a more inclusive treatment like daily cannabis tinctures.


How Does it Work

Cannabidiol (CBD) is one of the most popular and used cannabis products in the world, especially when it comes to recovery and athletics. CBD is a chemical compound found in the marijuana plant with a long list of possible benefits for all different types of people with many different types of aches and pains. Unlike THC, it doesn’t have any intoxicating effects, making it especially popular with athletes who would need its benefits for issues before or resulting from competition. CBD has quickly become a preferred treatment for a number of issues, some of which are important to an athlete in training, but how exactly does it work with the human body? What makes it so effective?


To start, in the case of CBD, it doesn’t bind to the endocannabinoid system (ECS) receptors, allowing it to keep the endocannabinoids from being broken down and giving them the ability to maximize their effect on the body. Experts are still researching how exactly CBD interacts with the ECS system, but the current research suggests that CBD has a beneficial impact on almost all systems within the human body [2]. The endocannabinoid system has many functions within it.


The Endocannabinoid System

The ECS is responsible for controlling and maintaining homeostasis within the body, making it one of the most important systems in the body. The ECS is important because all our internal systems need to remain in balance in order to work effectively. If any issues are registered the ECS kicks in and focuses on the location of the issue in order to stabilize it. 


There are three primary elements in the endocannabinoid system: 

  1. Endocannabinoids. Chemical compounds the human body naturally produces. These are structurally similar to endocannabinoids, the chemical compounds found within cannabis and are the key to cannabis interacting with the endocannabinoid system.
  2. Cannabinoid receptors. Endocannabinoids and cannabinoids are both able to attach to these receptors allowing them to communicate with a variety of systems inside the body. This specific communication is what enables the ECS to detect and correct any noticed instability.
  3. Enzymes. Proteins that work to break down the cannabinoids and endocannabinoids after they’ve attached themselves to the receptors and achieved homeostasis. Enzymes are there to make sure the cannabinoids do not create an overcorrection once the risk has been effectively corrected.


What Does it Help

Pain Relief

Cannabis does not work like prescription pain relievers to completely numb all pain, instead it buffers the pain and diverts attention from the area of pain in order to make the pain manageable. This is especially important for athletes when they are looking to ease any pain they may have to deal with after an injury. Recovery usually involves rest and healing, but it could also involve powerful medications that have the potential to derail an entire training program or even cause a dangerous dependency. Cannabis is an alternative treatment for pain without dependency or training interference, which makes it a superior pain relief product. CBD is effective at reducing chronic pain, but it’s also effective at easing musculoskeletal pain commonly felt after exercise or injury [3]. Many people turn to nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs after a sports injury, but because those drugs have negative side effects after prolonged use, such as renal damage and increased risk of heart attack and stroke [4], many people choose alternate options like cannabis.



Long known for its anti-inflammatory benefits, scientists believe CBD’s analgesic effect makes it useful in treating sore and tired muscles. With its added benefit of pain relief, CBD can go a long way in helping to relax and ease the discomfort of athletes with sore overworked muscles, especially the type of pain they experience regularly [5]. Athletes who enjoy high-intensity workouts may want to try CBD prior to a workout because some believe this helps ease muscles into and out of anaerobic mode. Combined with proper stretching and massage, many notice an apparent difference in muscle recovery [6].



Professional athletes have been using skin ointments and salves for years. Their normal recovery will usually include using some sort of healing or soothing salve on their injured skin or sore muscles. Studies have shown CBD to be a powerful antibacterial compound. Researchers have found CBD to be a potent treatment for the types of bacteria that cause issues on the surface of human skin, especially in the case of skin trauma like cuts and scrapes. This is important for athletes who may come in contact with any number of substances during an activity [7].



Sleep is one of the most important parts of any recovery or healing process. We all know how important rest is for the body. It allows it the time it needs to restore after an injury. There are few things more important than a restorative night’s sleep. However sometimes the pain or discomfort of an injury may cause an athlete to be restless and unable to fully rest. Studies have found that cannabinoids can be used as an effective treatment for those suffering from insomnia or other sleep conditions, with results showing up to a 66% increase in the quality of sleep in people who had previously struggled with a full night of rest. This is a huge improvement and a number that all athletes should consider when trying to achieve healing sleep after an injury [8]. 



Athletes put their bodies through a large amount of stress on an almost daily basis. Because of this, it’s especially important for them to always be aware of the steps necessary to prevent, treat, or recover from any injuries. Many of these treatments include medications that have the potential to be dangerous or complicate an athlete’s training regiment. Having the option of using any number of cannabis products instead of potentially dangerous medications can make all the difference in each step of the process.