CBD in Sports
Discover how CBD in sports is creating big waves in the UFC organization, and what this could mean for the future of all professional sports.
Researchers have long suspected that CBD in sports can reduce inflammation, minimize the risk of injury, and aid in the body’s recovery from physical stress. And recently, the UFC (Ultimate Fighting Championship) joined forces with Canada-based Aurora Cannabis to test these claims in clinical trials and to determine the best CBD products for athletes.
The UFC announced the trial — the first of its kind to have professional athletes participate in a “cannabis-friendly” clinical study — late last July. The research will be led by Dr. Jason Dyck, a professor at the University of Alberta and a Canada Research Chair in Molecular Medicine.
“This is a ground-breaking deal, not just for the UFC but for sports and humanity in general,” said UFC President Dana White. White added that he expects the research to support not just UFC fighters but eventually athletes in other professional industries, including the NFL and NBA, as well as “regular people like us [who] workout every day or deal with chronic pain.”
CBD for athletes is nothing new, even if dedicated research on the topic is. Sports, especially at the professional level, take a serious toll on athletes’ bodies, and may cause strains, sprains, inflammation, and make an individual more prone to injury. In a high impact, physical, and competitive sport like MMA, these negative consequences are heightened even further.
It is negative effects like these that make the UFC CBD research so important. By testing CBD on athletes who endure significantly more physical strain than the average person, the results of the clinical study will be an especially good indicator of CBD’s effects on reducing inflammation and speeding up wound healing and recovery.
Is CBD For Athletes in Professional Sports?
At this point, you might be wondering: wait, is CBD for athletes even allowed for professional athletes? It’s a common question, considering that up until recently the consumption of CBD was not permitted in sports. Things have changed however, affording more opportunity and benefits to athletes who could benefit from CBD-related therapeutic relief.
WADA (the World Anti-Doping Agency) is largely responsible for this change. In 2018, the organization removed cannabidiol (a.k.a. CBD) from their list of prohibited substances, making it the only cannabis-related drug allowed on the playing field—or ring. The same year, CBD was removed from the USADA (U.S. Anti-Doping Agency) prohibited substance list.
“Although CBD is allowed under USADA and WADA regulations, we want to be the leaders on educating UFC athletes on CBD use,” said Jeff Novitzky, UFC Senior Vice President of Athlete Health & Performance in a press release. All CBD products used in the clinical study will undergo third-party testing to ensure that they adhere to WADA guidelines.
Why CBD is Beneficial for Athletes
Sports put physical stress on the body at all levels. At the professional level though, that stress is amplified, and may lead to chronic injuries and/or pain, as well as reliance on over the counter and prescription pain relief medications. Because it can both address the stress itself and its consequences, CBD is being recognized as one the best—and safest—tools that athletes have available to them for coping with the physical effects of their activity.
Some of the most prominent known benefits of CBD for athletes include:
- Reduced inflammation
- Reduced pain (both chronic and acute)
- Reduced anxiety
- Better sleep quality
Beyond CBD for muscle recovery and injury prevention, CBD also shows promise of being instrumental in helping athletes avoid opioids, of which many become addicted. It can also help athletes avoid over the counter NSAIDs (non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs), which are not nearly as addictive as opioids but can have many negative side effects, especially when used consistently over a long period of time.
The UFC’s CBD study will be useful not just in confirming the benefits noted above, but in helping combat the issue of athletes buying unknown and untested “CBD” products that either don’t meet WADA guidelines or don’t offer the same key advantages.
The Future of CBD in Sports
When it comes to CBD, sports recovery is one of the biggest innovation drivers. And if it can be proved that CBD can help professional MMA athletes who compete in extreme measures, then it will mean exciting things for athletes who participate in less extreme sports, as well as regular people with active lifestyles who enjoy working out or who are experiencing chronic pain.
There’s no telling quite yet exactly what the future of CBD in sports will look like, but the UFC study shows major progress in the right direction, just as the removal of cannabidiol from WADA and USADA prohibited substance lists did in 2018.
Today, CBD proponents in and outside of the sports industry are actively engaged in changing the way that athletes use CBD to aid in their health, with major potential to change the future of professional sports.