Former Broncos tight end Nate Jackson speaking at a marijuana business conference in Denver. Photo by Brennan Linsley/AP
Any true fan of football can imagine the kind of pain players are in once they leave the field after every game. With 300-pound linebackers slamming into them, heads getting crushed together and in-game injuries that occur on a fairly normal basis, football players endure a world of pains and aches in order to entertain their loyal fans.
However, the pain that these players put up with comes at a very large price for some – most commonly addiction to prescription painkillers. And it’s just this reason that some people (both players and their fans) are looking for a safer alternative to treat the pain that comes with a normal game of professional football.
This is exactly what ex-Bronco tight end Nate Jackson is looking to achieve. At this year’s Cannabis Business Executive Breakfast (CBEB), Jackson told the Associative Press that he believes the NFL should remove marijuana from its list of banned substances and forgo testing players for it.
At the CBEB, Jackson admitted that during his six-year career in the NFL from 2003-2008, he self-medicated with marijuana as a safer and healthier alternative to the copious amounts of prescription painkillers that players are normally given if they receive any form of injury from the field.
“It kept my brain clean,” Jackson explained. “I feel like I exited the game with my mind intact. And I credit that to marijuana in a lot of ways and not getting hooked on these pain pills that are recklessly distributed in the league when a guy gets an injury.”
While some people may be surprised that an NFL player would openly admit to using a substance that is banned by the institution that he plays for, it’s likely there are many others. Because NFL players are only tested for marijuana about once a year, Jackson believes that a good number of the players use them on a regular basis.
“[The NFL is] aware that probably over half of the players smoke weed,” Jackson said. “They’ve been doing it since they were teenagers. The fact that they’ve been doing it that whole time and still made it to the NFL and are able to satisfy the demands of very, very strict employers on a daily basis means that marijuana use is in check. Marijuana is not a problem in their lives.”
The real problem that plagues NFL players? Post-career painkiller addiction.
Last November, the DEA started to investigate NFL physicians who were providing an exorbitant amount of high potency painkillers such as Vicodin and Percocet. Because these substances (which are also banned from being widely distributed to players in the NFL) are so addictive and take such a toll on the mentality of the players, they pose an even greater risk to how players perform during a game than marijuana ever has.
In fact, in an op-ed that Jackson wrote for the NFL last year, he explains the ridiculous policy that the institution has regarding marijuana and how it is taking a great toll on the mentality of those players who would rather take the pills than smoke some weed.
Jackson wrote: “In my playing days, the marijuana smokers struck me as sharper, more thoughtful and more likely to challenge authority than the nonsmokers. It makes me wonder if we weren’t that way because marijuana allowed us to avoid the heavy daze of pain pills. It gave us clarity. It kept us sane.”
Some may believe that marijuana use could still adversely affect the players’ ability to perform during a game, yet Jackson explains that this had never been a problem. None of the players were known to smoke marijuana before a game or practice, but instead afterwards as a way to relax and take the edge off of the pains that plague them. It would be more commonly used not as a performance-enhancing drug, but as what Jackson calls a “performance-inspiring drug.”
The NFL has been quite adamant about keeping the current regulations in place in regards to the allowance of marijuana use amongst players. Last January, NFL commissioner Roger Goodell released a statement saying that he would not be changing the institutions stance on marijuana despite it being legalized in Colorado and Washington, claiming it to be “still an illegal substance on a national basis.”
NFL spokesman Greg Aiello released a statement on the subject, saying: “At this time, the medical advisers to our drug program tell is that there is no need for medical marijuana to be prescribed to an NFL player.” But despite this vote of dissent, there is still hope for marijuana to become part of the NFL medicinal regimen. Aiello continues by explaining that “If science shows it and there is a rigorous process in place to determine that the only drug that could help is medical marijuana, then we would consider it in necessary cases.”
This may not be what Nate Jackson was hoping for, but it’s definitely is a step in the right direction. It may be a bit longer before NFL players can legally use the substance as a medical treatment for the pains and aches that the job incurs, it doesn’t seem to be too hard for them to get their hands on it right now anyway.
Overall, it seems as though marijuana could be a much safer alternative than prescription painkillers for these hard-hitting NFL stars and could lead to a large change in policy for the institution in the near future.
What do you think? Should NFL players be allowed to smoke marijuana as an alternative to painkillers? Let us know what you think in the comments below.