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   Oct 30

The NFL Should Be Investing In Marijuana Research If It Wants To Survive

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Forbes, Jason Belzer, October 18th, 2015

The National Football League has survived more public relations crises in the past year than most multi-billion dollar organizations endure in a decade. Yet the greatest existential threat to the NFL — if not to the existence of football itself — still remains Chronic Traumatic Encephalopathy, or “CTE.”

As former All-Pro linebacker Junior Seau’s documented struggle with CTE demonstrated, the presentation of symptoms that occurs in those stricken with the disease are not always readily apparent. Concussions and sub-concussive impacts on the brain cause the rapid brain decay that is a precursor to CTE. Eventually, the lobes of the brain blacken and lose density—causing depression, early on-set dementia, Parkinson’s disease, and eventual death.

Terrifyingly, the vast prevalence of the disease may not have been known until fairly recently. Just this year, Boston University found the existence of CTE in the brains of 96% of 91 tested subjects, all of whom played football at some organized level. When the disease was first discovered in 2002 in the brain of former Pittsburgh Steeler Mike Webster by Dr. Bennet Omalu, the NFL initially tried to limit the fallout from the discovery. According to Omalu, “NFL doctors told me that if 10% of mothers in this country would begin to perceive football as a dangerous sport, that is the end of football.”

Why  it remains to be seen whether Junior Seau's death was preventable, his suffering from CTE would certainly have been helped by the usage of marijuana

If the league were to finance this research, they would face an avalanche of cries of hypocrisy, as the league has a strict no-drug policy. Realistically, the program is often taken as seriously by its players as the league’s selection of the policy’s mandated testing date of April 20th (the unofficial holiday of recreational users of Marijuana). Players who have not been cited or arrested for drug possession, and who have not tested positive as part of the league’s drug program, need only to pass the single yearly Marijuana test and are then free from testing until the next off-season. Quite notoriously, players simply pass the annual test and continue to use the drug therapeutically for injuries during the season. Medical Marijuana is legal in 23 states, recreational use is legal in three states, and the drug has been decriminalized in many of the United States’major cities, yet the drug remains “illegal”for use by players.

Although the initial publicity for the NFL might be negative, the potential impact reaching into future generations is tremendous. Not only would the league attempt to cure a major medical question that plagues modern sports, but it could potentially set a precedent for major corporations to push Marijuana research forward to fully discover the drug’s potential. The looseness of the NFL’s current Marijuana policy, as well as Commissioner Goodell’s recent statement that the league is willing to support research into Marijuana’s medical uses specific to football, suggest that this partnership is a more than viable option.

Original article posted at Forbes.com

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