Athletes are exposed to more physical stress than the average individual. This makes them especially at risk of injury, and it requires that they keep their bodies healthy and in peak condition. CBD may be able to help with many of the issues athletes face.
For example, CBD may be able to help athletes find effective pain relief without the harsh side effects of prescription or over-the-counter pain medications. It also may help to reduce anxiety and stress and support deep, restorative sleep. More on each of these below.
CBD vs. Traditional Pain Medication
In 2014, the US Department of Health performed a study which found that 8.6 million people suffer from sports and recreation-related injuries annually. Thus, it’s unsurprising that athletes and medical professionals alike are in search of a more holistic approach to sports-related pain. The seven most common sports-related injuries include ankle sprains, groin pulls, hamstring strains, shin splints, knee injuries–specifically ACL tears and patellofemoral syndrome–and tennis elbow.
All of these injuries have a tendency to cause physical pain. While there are plenty of pain-relief options on the market for athletes and non-athletes alike, most medications can have adverse effects. CBD for athletes, on the other hand, poses minimal risks.
Studies show that chronic use of non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs), such as aspirin and ibuprofen, heighten the risk of ulcers and gastrointestinal bleeding, heart attacks or strokes, high blood pressure, and kidney failure. Also, NSAIDs can react negatively with a plethora of other drugs.
Many athletes seeking a short-term solution to dull pain caused by strenuous activity or injury turn to frequently-prescribed opiates such as OxyContin and Vicodin, putting them at risk of addiction. A staggering 130 people in the United States die every day as a result of an opioid overdose, and eighty percent of people who use heroin first abused prescription opioids.
When considering the alternative of CBD for athletes, it’s important to take into account recent studies showing that CBD has an impressively low-risk profile. A 2017 study which focused on the safety and side effects of cannabidiol confirmed and extended the often described favorable safety profile of CBD in humans.
Although CBD for athletes seems to be a much safer alternative than more traditional treatment methods for athletes, is CBD as effective in relieving and managing pain? Let’s take a look at what we know so far about the efficacy of CBD as a painkiller.
CBD as a Painkiller
Cannabidiol (CBD) works by attaching to the CB1 receptors in the endocannabinoid system (ECS). Recent studies show that the ECS has beneficial effects on modulation in chronic pain treatment. Ultimately, the study concludes that further research is necessary to assess the full effects of CBD on chronic pain.
Professionals in the research and medical communities often cite CBD for its anti-inflammatory properties. Inflammation is a familiar source of pain, which is why CBD for athletes is a promising method of relief.
In 2016, researchers found that CBD gel significantly reduced joint swelling, limb posture scores as a rating of spontaneous pain, immune cell infiltration, and thickening of the synovial membrane. The importance of this study lies in its use of topical CBD. The study makes mention of CBD’s poor bioavailability, suggesting that topical application of CBD might be more effective than some of the more common methods of use, such as orally-ingested oils, vapor, and edibles. Thus, athletes may find the most relief by using topical CBD products.
Calming Anxiety and Relieving Stress
Everyone experiences anxiety at some point in his or her life. Stress is a common daily occurrence for most Americans.
It’s possible that athletes, who are often under more significant physical stress than the average person, might be more susceptible to heightened anxiety as well. Keeping track of performance, being coached and interacting with teams, keeping up a rigorous training schedule, and participating in a major athletic event are only a few of the elements that can lead to anxiety and stress in athletes.
The rise in awareness about CBD’s ability to help relieve anxiety has many people hopeful. Similar to pain medications, many anti-anxiety medications have adverse effects, which can include physical and psychological dependence. One helpful study in particular exhibits some of how CBD helps with especially crippling forms of anxiety disorders. There are many studies that focus on CBD’s anxiolytic properties which are worth exploring.
You might find it surprising that sleep disorders are common among athletes. After all, with so much physical activity, one might assume that sleep would come rather naturally. In 2016, the University of Eastern Finland found out that this perception isn’t the case.
From a research standpoint, sleep issues in athletes are relatively easy to treat. Systematic examination, counseling and individualized treatment plans generally yield positive results. However effective these methods may be, they’re also time-consuming and require a sizeable amount of effort and energy–a few resources that athletes are often lacking with tight schedules and intense training. CBD might be a similarly effective, yet more convenient form of sleep support for athletes.
A recent study explored the effects of CBD on insomnia. By collecting data from over 400 participants using a digital app which assessed the effects of CBD and other cannabinoids in the volunteers’ normal sleep environments, researchers came to a profound conclusion. They found that CBD significantly reduced insomnia symptoms, and did so more effectively than THC.
CBD for Athletes: Final Thoughts
Recent studies suggest that CBD may be an effective option for physical pain. While the research is still limited, researchers are hopeful about the future of CBD as a holistic alternative for pain management. A more holistic method through which athletes use CBD is especially appealing, considering the often ill-fated outcome of prescription medications.
CBD’s help soothing feelings of anxiety positions it as a safe remedy for athletes struggling with this type of psychological stress.
And finally, CBD can help athletes get a good night’s sleep–even if they have a big event coming up the next day.