Cannabidiol (CBD) products are starting to gain traction in the world of sports, following the World Anti-Doping Agency’s decision to allow athletes to take CBD during competition. This has been a big breakthrough for CBD, and medical marijauan advocates within sports. For some sportspeople, CBD is simply a safer alternative than the drugs typically prescribed for pain and inflammation. For others, CBD is a unique tool for recovery, that can help to increase overall performance.
CBD is also much more accepted in society than it was a few years ago. Back in 2017, NASCAR stopped racer Carl Long from having a logo for the CBD company Veedverks on in car. Two years on and CBD manufacturers are starting to sign high-profile sponsorship deals with professional athletes. These include tennis star John Isner.
In this post, we’ll introduce you to six athletes who compete in professional sports, and are currently taking or have advocated for CBD. We’ll focus on their story, and also look at whether the science backs up their reasons for using products.
UFC: Nate Diaz
Nate Diaz has never shied away from his support of not just CBD, but cannabis in general. And he made the headlines in a big way after losing to Conor McGregor at UFC 202. In the post-fight conference, Diaz was vaping in front of the press, who unsurprisingly wanted to know more. While there was some speculation afterwards that Diaz was actually vaping weed, he insisted at the time that it was a legal CBD-infused e-liquid.
Diaz then proceeded to give the press a rundown on what CBD is and how it is beneficial for people like him. The champion fighter explained how CBD oil is good for recovery, and as a substitute to opioid pain medications. Opioid addiction has been a problem for multiple UFC competitors, including Bas Rutten. These drugs are generally effective at reducing pain. But it’s the side effects, and addiction and overdose risks that are putting off both sportsmen and the general public.
Adding to the concept of CBD for recovery, Diaz said that products could be used for the “healing process and inflammation”. And it is true that CBD has a novel therapeutic effect on inflammation. This potentially makes it safer and more effective than other drugs. CBD exerts anti-inflammatory effects by interacting with the endocannabinoid system (ECS). In turn, the ECS transmits messages to the immune system.
In a physical and intense sport like mixed martial arts, getting the recovery right and learning how to manage pain is essential for long-term success. However, that didn’t stop Diaz from getting into trouble at the time – back in 2016 – for using CBD. The cannabinoid had not then been removed from the anti-doping agency WADA’s banned list. Diaz did avoid the one-year suspension that was originally mooted for his violation. He was ultimately just given a reprimand, escaping further punishment.
Tennis: John Isner
John Isner is one of America’s most popular tennis players, reaching the top 10 on the ATP Tour and winning the coveted Miami Open in 2018. Isner is renowned for his huge, booming serve. He played the longest match in tennis history at the Wimbledon Championships in 2010 against Nicolas Mahut. The match ended with Isner winning 70-68 in the fifth set, lasting for more than 11 hours in total. But while the focus on Isner is usually for what he does on-court, the North Carolina athlete has recently been making headlines for his endorsement of Defy, a United States brand that makes a CBD sports drink.
Isner talked about the relationship between CBD and athletic performance. He commented that he “plays a sport where taking a single point off can be the difference between winning and losing a match”. It’s for that reason, the American says, that he uses the Defy sports drink. Isner’s link-up with Defy is the first such CBD endorsement deal in sports.
At 34, Isner’s best tennis days may be behind him. However, he is part of a trend as far as older sportsmen embracing CBD goes. Recovery and pain management becomes more difficult with age. Hemp CBD products like CBD sports bars are helping millions of people suffering from all kinds of discomfort. If a dose of Defy enables Isner to deal with physical health issues and maintain focus, he may yet achieve even more success in his tennis career.
World’s Strongest Man: Eddie Hall
Eddie Hall realized his dream in Botswana in 2017, when he won the World’s Strongest Man title for the first time. The Briton became the first from his country to take the crown since Gary Taylor in 1993. In the past couple of years, Hall has not just been getting coverage for his remarkable in-competition exploits, but for his CBD advocacy, too.
As with so many pro athletes, Hall loves CBD hemp oil because it is a natural option for recovery and pain relief. He also says that it helps him with inflammation and swelling, and for improving sleep. Eddie notes that he is getting results with different types of CBD products, including vape juices, tincture oils and drinks in a video on his Facebook page. As with many CBD users, the strongman takes CBD at regular intervals, so that he can keep his levels topped up.
Hall is also keenly aware of how important it is to only buy CBD products from quality brands. The emerging industry has led to so many companies getting in on the market boom. CBD users in the United States know this more than most. This ie because the Food and Drug Administration does not – as of August 2019 – regulate CBD products.
Golf: Bubba Watson
Bubba Watson is known for being one of the most mercurial golfers on the PGA Tour. His unique style of play led him to victory at the prestigious Masters tournament in Augusta, Georgia, in 2012. He then repeated the feat two years later. And, always looking to take his game to the next level and find that crucial edge over his opponents, Watson is now using CBD. The Florida star signed a multi-year deal with cbdMD in May 2019. He is perhaps the most well-known active golfer to be taking and publicly supporting CBD products.
In a CNN interview, Watson talked about how it’s important for golfers to avoid injuries and to get enough sleep, particularly with age. The PGA Tour, however, has voiced concerns about players taking CBD, since the industry is unregulated. But Watson is confident that he has done the necessary research, and has a product that will keep him safe for drug tests. Indeed, he went so far as to say that taking CBD has been a “no-brainer” for him.
CBD is still the only cannabinoid permitted by WADA. The crucial compound to avoid is psychoactive cannabinoid THC. Bubba, 40, hopes that he’ll still be competing for tournament wins at the age of 48, like five-time major champion Phil Mickelson. CBD is just one extra tool to help get him there.
Darts: Gary Anderson
Gary Anderson is a two-time world darts champion from Scotland, and is still performing at the highest level well into his 40s. This isn’t as surprising as it would be in other sports. Throwing darts is a fairly stationery activity. But it’s still important to feel physically and mentally fit on stage. Just a small percentage drop-off in performance can be the difference between victoryr and defaeat. Recently, Anderson has been struggling with back problems. But he has spoken on social media about how CBD oil is helping him to return to fitness.
Having had to pull out of the Premier League and other important tournaments in the 2019 season, his CBD discovery has come at the right time for Anderson. On Twitter, he amusingly said that his whole family – including the dog! – had been using and benefitting from products. As well as relieving pain, there are a couple of other ways that CBD may help in precision sports like darts. CBD is possibly helpful for concentration, and its anxiolytic qualities may be useful for those with sports anxiety. Historically, players have settled their nerves with a couple of beers. But darts is a more serious and professional sport nowadays. And throwers seeking a competitive advantage may be able to harness CBD as a performance enhancer.
NFL: Derrick Morgan
NFL players have had it tougher than perhaps any other sportspeople when it comes to finding the right medication. Extreme pain is a fact of life for those involved in this extremely physical sport, and many players have called for the NFL to allow medical marijuana and CBD use, as an alternative to opioids. Many American footballers are also worried about the long-term effects of head injuries and concussions. That’s why Derrick Morgan and others are turning to CBD as a safer form of sports medicine.
Morgan is a linebacker who has become concerned about chronic traumatic encephalopathy (CTE), a neurodegenerative disease that affects many former NFL players. The disease is caused by repeated head injuries. After doing his research, Morgan decided to start taking CBD, since it can help “protect your brain and protect your body”. The appeal of CBD for Morgan is that it’s non-intoxicating. This is the case with so many who use CBD but not cannabis.
The American is hoping to increase the profile of CBD in NFL with his advocacy in the coming years. Morgan is clear that he’s not calling for players to be allowed to use the cannabis plant in the traditional sense and “get high”. Instead, he is stressing the importance for more research into an injury that affects – and is devastating – for many NFL players. Morgan is following in the footsteps of Eugene Monroe. The latter became the first active NFL player to speak out in favor of medical cannabis, back in March 2016.
Do athletes need to be worried about taking CBD?
CBD products are not a typical medicine. They are actually sold as food supplements in an unregulated market. Therefore, many sports bodies are warning that CBD use could land athletes in hot water. However, this says more about their lack of understanding of the CBD industry than anything else. Players do have to be careful about ensuring they get products made with pure CBD extracts. But there are plenty of high-quality brands nowadays.
Just to recap. Here are the reason why sportspeople are using CBD:
- For sleep
- To ease pain
- For recovery
- For head injuries
- To improve overall performance
CBD is available in 100% non-intoxicating form with CBD-isolate products – these contain 0% THC. Moreover, even though the FDA doesn’t regulate products, the best manufacturers hire labs to do this. A third-party seal of approval and a publicly available lab report is essentially a guarantee that a CBD product is safe.
Athletes are no strangers to taking drugs and going close to the legal lines but not crossing them. Doing so is often necessary for success in hyper-competitive environment. For that reason, CBD and sports will likely have a fruitful relationship going forward.