Marijuana and the NFL

(Photo:  Erik Daniel Drost)

(Photo: Erik Daniel Drost)

One of our very first Freakonomics Radio podcasts focused on brain trauma among NFL players. Writing for Vice, David Bienenstock argues that NFL players might benefit hugely from medical marijuana. He points to an editorial in the Washington Post earlier this year, describing research indicating that marijuana could protect player’s brains from the long-term effects of traumatic brain injuries:

As it turns out, recent studies are starting to contradict the notion that marijuana kills brain cells. Last year, researchers at Tel Aviv University in Israel gave low doses of THC, one of marijuana’s primary cannabinoids, to mice either before or after exposing them to brain trauma. They found that THC produced heightened amounts of chemicals in the brain that actually protected cells. Weeks later, the mice performed better on learning and memory tests, compared with a control group. The researchers concluded that THC could prevent long-term damage associated with brain injuries. Though preliminary, this is just one of many promising studies exploring marijuana’s benefits for the brain.

Bienenstock believes the drug can also play a role in pain relief.  “Marijuana is also a remarkably safe, effective pain reliever, with none of the dangerous side effects of commonly prescribed pharmaceuticals,” writes David Bienenstock. “Meanwhile, according to a study published in Drug and Alcohol Dependence, retired NFL players misuse prescription painkillers at a rate more than four times higher than the general population.”

All this is of course assuming that NFL players aren’t already smoking a ton of dope, which wouldn’t appear to be a great assumption. FWIW, NFL commissioner Roger Goodell is open to the idea of allowing medical marijuana — which, if you think about it, could be win-win for him: helping the players’ health while alleviating pressure on the league to police marijuana use.

(HT: The Daily Dish)


As usual, medical marijuana is touted as a solution where simply legalizing the stuff is deemed "too extreme". This is of course no solution at all.

Show me one chemotherapy patient who smokes pot to aid with symptoms like nausea and loss of appetite, and I'll show you a hundred potheads who once told a doctor they had a sore back or trouble sleeping so they could score "green cards".

What percentage of NFL players legitimately need medical marijuana because no other safe painkiller works for them? What percentage of NFL players wouldn't mind being able to toke up freely after mumbling a few magic words to the team physician?

I don't think you could design a better way to take the integrity and momentum out of the argument to legalize weed.

Medical marijuana is marijuana legalization's worst nightmare.

Voice of Reason

At the end of the day, if the average person can smoke pot, have a reasonable chance of not getting addicting, and not see any massive side effects if used in moderation, I don't think that there are any arguments for Schedule 1-ing it. I understand that some people need to be preventing from killing themselves in select circumstances, but short of that, people should be able to make their own decisions when it doesn't affect others.


That's exactly my point. Medical marijuana leaves pot in its scheduled status while simultaneously pretending that it's "medicine" that needs a presciption, like Vicodin or something. All because the relevant people don't have the cojones to suggest we should simply legalize (de-schedule) it.


Anyone else wondering how the researchers simulated NFL style brain trauma with the mice? I'm not being facetious, serious question here, did they have the mice run into a wall or something to replicate a receiver getting "lit up" by a defensive back?


I don't do the research myself, but I've seen the device used. It is basically dropping a rod with a weight on it from a fixed height to deliver a pre-calculated impact force. Pretty medieval!


Has anyone noticed that this year's Superbowl is between the only two NFL teams from cities with legalized marijuana?


Seems like Seattle has much better weed.


Now that more research is coming out, I would be very interested in seeing if any studies will crop up that examine the impact marijuana smoke has on the lungs. It's intereting that tobacco smoking has steadily fallen over the years while 2 states recently legalized a substance that I assume most of its citizens are inhaling. There is no research now to fall back on, making me very curious to learn the full health implications of pot.