Think cannabis and football probably isn’t the first thing that comes to mind. And indeed, we aren’t about to suggest that players – or the manager! – should smoke a joint before heading out on the field. However, one of the compounds in the plant, cannabidiol (CBD) has plenty of therapeutic uses which may be of value for footballers both on and off the pitch.
What distinguishes CBD from its counterpart cannabinoid delta-9-tetrahydrocannabinol (THC) is that CBD is non-psychoactive – therefore, taking it won’t cause a “high” and induce short-term motor, cognitive or judgemental impairment. The scientific reason for this is that CBD influences receptors in the endocannabinoid system totally differently to THC.
Let’s find out more about the benefits of using CBD in football.
Reduce performance anxiety
The big game is coming up, but nerves and jitters are threatening to affect your performance. Try as you might, thoughts of failure are overriding more positive thoughts of success – the fear of missing an easy chance or fluffing a save could even cause a sleepless night before the match. To stop these feelings from becoming a self-fulfilling prophecy, it’s important to be able to calm the mind, and block out unhelpful thought patterns that don’t serve you.
Some footballers, including Fabian Delph, have had success with meditation, a mental technique that is centered around getting control over one’s thoughts. CBD can also be very helpful, as it subtly alters brain chemistry, to reduce the hyperactivity which is prone to causing anxious thinking. CBD is an agonist of a serotonin receptor which is activated by existing anti-anxiety drugs, and the compound also facilitates a rise of the anxiolytic GABA neurotransmitter in the brain.
As footballers will perhaps not want to vape before a match, the next fastest way to enjoy anxiety relief is by taking CBD oil – Koi CBD stocks a variety of potencies – under the tongue. Edibles and capsules are excellent for those needing to keep anxiety under control for several hours.
Chronic pain is a condition that many people are trying to treat with cannabis. In states that have legalized the plant for medicinal purposes, chronic pain is often a qualifying condition. However, this treatment revolves around the benefits of THC, which reduces pain by offering a psychological distraction from it, thanks to the effect it has on the CB1 receptor. But the cognitive and judgemental impairment from THC means it wouldn’t work so well at managing pain for a footballer.
However, research indicates that CBD and other non-psychoactive components of hemp and cannabis can have a powerful analgesic effect. Scientists don’t fully understand the mechanisms in which these cannabinoids work to reduce pain, but it may be down to enhancing levels of anandamide, which can then bind with the CB1 receptor and the TRPV-1 receptor, which is not part of the ECS, but does regulate the body’s sensitivity to heat and pain.
CBD oil and vaping CBD e-liquid can be used to relieve aches and pains for a match, and also to aid the recovery process. If pain is affecting a certain area of the body, then CBD massage gels and creams may provide more effective relief – CB1 receptors and TRPV-1 receptors are found in the skin, hence why products like the pain rub from HempBombs can alleviate pain.
Protect the muscles
Pulling or tearing a muscle can mean intense pain and a lengthy spell on the side-lines to recover. While injuries are a part of the game, it is possible to protect the muscles, and also to maintain growth by using CBD.
The muscles recover most when the body is in deep sleep, or non-REM sleep. This is because brain activity reduces to a minimum, allowing for an increased blood supply to the muscles, where oxygens and essential nutrients which support muscle healing and growth are delivered. CBD may regulate the body’s sleep pattern, increasing the amount of deep sleep.
CBD is also an anti-catabolic chemical, meaning that it reduces levels of cortisol. This is important for strength training, as high cortisol levels decrease muscle growth. Suppressing cortisol with CBD can therefore be very beneficial when working out, maximizing muscle build.
Footballers are permitted to use CBD
Since the beginning of 2018, footballers and all sportsmen have been able to use CBD thanks to new regulations from the World Anti-Doping Agency. All other cannabinoids remain prohibited, however, so professionals are best off sticking to CBD-isolate products, as these are THC-free.