NFL will fund $1 million in research grants on pain management and cannabinoids

The National Football League’s pain management committee and the NFL Players Association announced Tuesday that they will provide $1 million to fund up to five research grants on pain management and cannabinoids.

The grants are expected to be awarded in November.

Interest in the use of cannabinoids, including medical marijuana, outpaces available evidence, according to Dr. Kevin Hill, co-chair of the NFL’s pain management committee and director of addiction psychiatry at Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Center, a Harvard Medical School teaching hospital in Boston.

Hill, who wrote “Marijuana: The Unbiased Truth about the World’s Most Popular Weed,” said the committee has heard mixed results about using cannabis to treat pain, and that medical marijuana and CBD may be risky, citing research on liver toxicity.

He said the league needs “better information, better science” to ensure the use of CBD to treat pain in elite athletes is safe and efficacious.

The league’s chief medical officer, Dr. Allen Sills, said that through its funded research, the NFL hopes to understand how using CBD and medical marijuana to treat pain will affect elite athletes’ performance.

The announcement of the NFL-funded grants comes four months after the league requested industry research on CBD and other cannabinoids for pain management but said it would not pay for the information.

The NFL updated its policy last fall to discourage athletes from endorsing products that contain CBD or other cannabinoids.