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Traumatic Brain Injury Treatment: Medical Marijuana and Sports

Medically Reviewed by: Christine A. Doerbecker, BS, RPh

It seems like most sports events have been modified or canceled for the rest of 2020 due to the Coronavirus pandemic. Although we cannot fully bring sports back ourselves, the least we can do is give some information about medical marijuana and sports! Studies show that medical marijuana can play a key role in sports medicine, including traumatic brain injury treatment. Let’s jump right in!

What is a Traumatic Brain Injury?

Traumatic brain injury (TBI) is a common cause of death and disability in the United States, with effects lasting a lifetime. TBI’s can only be caused by some form of hit or blow to the head and can range from mild to more severe. Athletes and those living with active lifestyles are more likely to sustain a TBI. According to the CDC, “In 2014, about 2.87 million TBI-related emergency department visits, hospitalizations, and deaths occurred in the United States, including over 837,000 of these health events among children.”

For those who recover from a TBI, there are still many painful and debilitating side effects that could follow. Issues with basic motor skills, strength, chronic pain, recognition and social skills are several possible side effects.

TBI’s also hold many cognitive consequences, including trouble paying attention, feelings of confusion, and impaired speech among other things.  

Benefits of Marijuana and Traumatic Brain Injury Treatment

A TBI may cause the body to release toxic chemicals that cause further damage to the brain, including excitotoxicity, oxidative stress and inflammation. While both THC and CBD have beneficial effects on TBI’s, CBD has been found to reduce the brain’s oxidative stress following a traumatic brain injury and works as a neuroprotectant to reduce neurological impairment and swelling.

Professor Yosef Sarne of Tel Aviv University in Israel discovered that cannabinoids may prevent long-term brain damage by administering cannabis before or shortly after a TBI.

Marijuana can also help manage some of the symptoms of TBI including nausea, lack of appetite and poor sleep and it can help improve mood as well.

Success in Canada

With the introduction of Canada’s Cannabis Act (2018), another step towards research is being done into how cannabis can affect sports recovery and performance. Currently, CBD oil is legal for athletes to use in Canada.

THC and other cannabinoids are forbidden because the combination is deemed to be performance enhancing, harmful to health, or it violates the spirit of the sport; however, CBD is an exception because it is a non-psychoactive derivative of cannabis.

While cannabis may not be performance enhancing itself, it is something that can ‘improve performance’ by managing pain, anxiety, and stress.

With the allowance of CBD oil, another step is taken towards legalizing and normalizing cannabis use in sports medicine. 

Medical Marijuana and Professional Sports in the U.S.

Recently, we are seeing more and more athletes turn to cannabis for soreness, pain and other injuries. So, where do the four major U.S. sports leagues stand on marijuana use?

  • NFL: National Football League players will vote soon on a proposed collective bargaining agreement, that if voted for, would dramatically reduce the cannabis testing window from nearly four months to two weeks, raise the threshold for positive tests, and eliminate suspensions for positive tests. Overall, the new policy would “increase emphasis on clinical care over punishment.”
  • NHL: Even though the National Hockey League tests for cannabis, there is no punishment for positives. If a player has “abnormally high levels” of THC, the positive test is treated as a matter of health care, just like alcoholism.
  • MLB: Major League Baseball removed marijuana from its list of banned substances back in December and now treats it the same as alcohol. Players will still be disciplined for using or possessing cannabis at the ballpark.
  • NBA: Marijuana remains on the National Basketball Association’s list of banned substances, and players are subject to four random tests during the regular season, with punishment escalating from entering a drug program (first positive test) to a $25,000 fine (second) to a five-game suspension (third) to a 10-game suspension (fourth).

Strains Solevo Recommends For TBI’s

TBI’s could fall under the PA qualifying conditions of damage to the nervous tissue of the spinal cord with objective neurological indication on intractable spasticity and chronic pain.

Depending on what symptoms you are experiencing, we generally would recommend looking at medicines that have a higher CBD content because of the extra neuroprotection.

Some high CBD strains Solevo Wellness recommends are:

  • Lemon G
    • Lemon G is a CBD rich strain with a delicate lemon flavor and uplifting and relaxing effects. 
  • The Wife
    • The Wife is a robust CBD hybrid with a nearly 20:1 CBD/THC ratio.
  • ACDC
    • ACDC is a high CBD sativa-dominant hybrid that is ideal for daytime pain relief and inflammation.
  • Harlequin
    • Balanced in CBD and THC, Harlequin can relax with sedation and provide clear-headed, alert effects. 

When marijuana is swallowed (via tablets, RSOs, capsules etc.) it is metabolized by the liver to active metabolites that more easily cross the blood-brain barrier, which also must be considered when dealing about brain injuries.

We always recommend speaking with a pharmacist or PCC so we can design a treatment plan specifically for you and your needs.

At Solevo Wellness, your health and wellness are our first priority. We have options available to view our menus and Online Reserve. As always, PA Medical Marijuana cardholders, including first-time patients, may walk in at any Solevo Wellness location without an appointment.

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