The NFL is under pressure to keep players safe. As the dialogue about injuries and life after football becomes more prevalent and open, more players are disclosing their own struggles, both emotional and physical. Former Pittsburgh Steelers wide receiver Antwaan Randle El recently lamented the state of his body and mind, revealing he is in a lot of pain and has a poor memory. He blames football.
On Thursday, Bears legend Jim McMahon talked about his own suffering. "Back then it was painkillers. I played my whole career on pain killers," he told ABC7's Ron Magers. To manage the incessant pain, McMahon now uses marijuana. "It's easier on my body and I can get through a day without a problem...For me it works. I had to get off of those pills and this is the perfect answer for me," he said.
According to the CDC, addiction to painkillers has reached epidemic levels. In fact, accidental overdose is a leading cause of death among young people. Fourteen percent of people who abuse prescription painkillers end up trying heroin, which provides a similar feeling at a fraction of the cost.
More and more states are allowing the use of medical marijuana even though there have been very few clinical trials to validate its effectiveness because of federal regulations. For McMahon, however, it has provide relief from intense pain and has increased the quality of his life.
Will the trend towards the legalization of marijuana and reported effectiveness for pain management lead the NFL to reconsider its drug policy? At the beginning of the 2015 season, both Le'Veon Bell and Martavis Bryant of the Pittsburgh Steelers missed games because of marijuana, which also a popular recreational drug. If marijuana gains traction as a legitimate pain management option, the NFL may have to reconsider its policy on drug infractions that involve marijuana.