Kyle Turley hurt plenty during his eight NFL seasons in the 1990s and 2000s. As an offensive lineman, he was involved in jarring collisions nearly every play when his team had the ball. He hurt after his career -– Turley sometimes walks with a cane. And in a recent video, he displayed one by one the bottles of powerful painkillers he used. “Vicodin, Flexeril, Percocets, Vioxx, morphine,” Turley recited as he plopped the bottles down on a kitchen counter. Turley says be became addicted to the drugs and depressed to the point of contemplating suicide. Then last year, he quit the prescription painkillers and started using marijuana to manage his pain. [NPR]Kyle Turley’s story mirrors reports we hear daily from patients who’ve turned to medical marijuana after finding that prescription painkillers caused too many problems to improve their quality of life. Unfortunately, league rules prohibit players from using marijuana, even for medical use in states where it is legal. The benefits Turley has discovered after retiring from football remain unavailable to athletes who still compete. Thanks to the efforts of Turley and others, however, a conversation is emerging about marijuana and pain relief in professional sports. For many familiar with marijuana’s medicinal benefits, it’s a very straightforward argument that a natural and fast-acting drug with few side-effects and remarkably low toxicity would often be an excellent option for athletes who test their bodies on a daily basis. Given what we know about the dangers of prescription painkillers, athletes likely face a heightened risk of dependence or even overdose given the grueling nature of their profession. No one should have to choose between their career and their health, and we’ve had the opportunity to work with many patients who’ve found that marijuana provides the relief they need. As the conversation continues and more research becomes available, we’re optimistic that people from all walks of life who deal with chronic pain will have opportunities to discover whether medical cannabis can help them.
Interest in medical marijuana as an alternative treatment for chronic pain has grown considerably in recent years. It should come as no surprise that athletes, who are no strangers to serious injuries and severe pain, would be joining the conversation about what medical marijuana has to offer.