As stories of retired NFL players suffering from severe pain and depression continue to mount, former offensive lineman Kyle Turley is spearheading an effort to treat those issues through the use of medical marijuana.
According to Abby Haglage of The Daily Beast, Turley is the leader of the Gridiron Cannabis Coalition, which is a group of 30 retired players partnering with marijuana extract maker Constance Therapeutics to test the impact and effectiveness of cannabis in terms of pain relief.
Turley—who spent eight NFL seasons with the New Orleans Saints, St. Louis Rams and Kansas City Chiefs—originally discussed the virtues of marijuana use and the benefits of using it in lieu of painkillers on ESPN in November, per Haglage: "My life is getting exponentially better. I'm getting myself back. My mind is starting to come back in many ways, and cannabis allows you to do that, it allows you to deal with these things."
It is difficult for current players to utilize marijuana since using it is against NFL regulations, but Constance Therapeutics owner Constance Finley believes the Gridiron Cannabis Coalition can potentially help convince the league that medical marijuana use is viable and safer than other options, according to Haglage:
My mission is to help people and these NFL players so desperately need help treating the lasting ramifications from the high-impact sport because, as we have seen in the media, all too often the prescription medications they are taking are either leading to addiction or just plain not working for them. We want to embark on scientific research that will clearly show that medicinal cannabis actually can be an option for the issues that NFL players or any athlete deal with.
Head injuries stemming from football remain a hot-button issue, especially following NFL senior vice president for health and safety Jeff Miller acknowledging the link in March.
That was furthered by comments from commissioner Roger Goodell, who agreed with Miller's assessment, per ESPN.com's Kevin Seifert:
The most important thing for us is to support the medicine and scientists who determine what those connections are. We think that the statements that have been made by [Miller] and others have [been] consistent with our position over the years. We've actually funded those studies. So we're not only aware of those and recognize them but we support those studies. A lot of the research is still in its infancy, but we're trying to find ways to accelerate that.
While the hope is that medical marijuana can help those dealing with complications from head injuries and the effects of chronic traumatic encephalopathy (CTE), it could also be a catch-all in terms of addressing general soreness and pain as well.
Football is a brutal sport rife with collisions and injuries, and the bodies of those who play it take a major toll.
Turley and the Gridiron Cannabis Coalition believe they have a relatively safe way to address it, and if it proves to be effective throughout the study, it could be a game-changer in terms of the way former NFL players cope with their health issues.
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