CBD & Sports-Related Brain Injury

CBD oil is taking the sports world over in a great way! With more and more competitive athletes and fitness professionals making the switch, maybe you should too! Ready to discover the healing power of CBD?

Learn all about the therapeutic properties and health benefits of this amazing new Hemp supplement and why researchers think it can help protect the brain.

In this article, you’ll find out how athletes and researchers are using CBD to help with damage due to sports-related brain injury, concussions, and the neurodegenerative effects from years of repeated head-on impacts.


What is CBD?

In early 2018, the World Anti-Doping Agency removed CBD from its list of prohibited substances, and for good reason! At the end of 2018, CBD was also removed from the DEA’s list of controlled substances and stricken from the definition of marijuana.

The decision was made to legalize CBD and it seems to be proving as a great idea because now everyone is using it! CBD is short for cannabidiol and it is one of the primary compounds found naturally in Hemp referred to as cannabinoids, or more specifically, phytocannabinoids.

According to scientific review, CBD has one of the highest safety profiles among therapeutic substances and a very wide range of potential benefits. Furthermore, CBD has a powerful calming effect but isn’t considered “doping” and doesn’t induce the psychoactive effects associated with marijuana use.

Keep reading to learn why CBD has taken over the sports and fitness world as a powerful tool for healing and recovery from sports-related injuries and more!


Half of Football Players Have Signs of Brain Damage, study shows

While any competitive sport comes with the risk of injury, American football has some of the highest levels of brain-related injuries in professional sports.

The residual effects from years of head-on impacts and concussions are often devastating, ultimately leading to neurodegeneration, declining mental health, and loss of cognitive abilities.

In 2016, at the annual meeting of the American Academy of Neurology, a group of scientists led by Dr. Frank Conidi, director of the Florida Center for Headache and Sports Neurology, reported stark statistics from studying retired NFL players’ brains.

More than 40% of retired NFL players show evidence of abnormal brain structures. Among retired NFL players that participated in the study, half of them showed serious problems with executive functions such as reasoning, problem-solving, planning and attention, and difficulty with learning and memory.

Conidi’s team analyzed the brains of forty former NFL players who played on average for seven years and had stopped playing for less than five years. Forty-three percent of the players showed signs of brain damage according to an MRI scan.

According to Conidi, the study data also indicates that it’s not necessarily the “big one” in regards to sports-related concussions that ultimately causes deadly devastating brain inflammation.

Rather, it is the cumulative effect of constant smaller impacts on the brain that build up over time leading to the development of chronic brain disorders and neurodegenerative diseases commonly seen in NFL and NHL players

Another study on football and brain injury conducted at Boston University was recently published in JAMA. Two hundred and two brains belonging to deceased football players were generously donated to help understand chronic traumatic encephalopathy related to American football.

Of the 202 deceased former football players, 177 of them were diagnosed with chronic traumatic encephalopathy or CTE. And an even more recent study (Mez et al., 2017) showed that 87% of autopsied American football players demonstrated CTE.

In short, I think it’s safe to suggest that, due to the nature of the game, American football players have a very high risk of developing brain disorders such as CTE and other neurodegenerative diseases, including :

  • Dementia
  • Alzheimer’s disease
  • Parkinson’s disease
  • Prion disease
  • Motor neuron diseases
  • Huntington’s disease
  • Spinocerebellar ataxia
  • Spinal Muscular atrophy


Traumatic Brain Injury & Endocannabinoid System

According to the authors of a recent scientific paper published in the journal, Frontiers in Pharmacology, modern medicine really has no effective treatment for Traumatic Brain Injury.

The multi-institutional study aimed to find a new way of looking at how we treat brain injuries. Here, we review pre-clinical studies assessing the therapeutic potential of cannabinoids and manipulations of the endocannabinoid system to ameliorate TBI pathology.

The team of researchers says that targeting the endocannabinoid system could help reduce brain damaged caused by traumatic brain injury. The endocannabinoid system is a biological network of receptors found on cell walls and neurotransmitters that are synthesized on-demand within the body’s tissues.

This system is responsible for helping to regulate and balance nearly every aspect of health and wellness. In TBI, the system is involved in aspects of traumatic brain injury-related brain damage such as:

  • Cell death
  • Excitotoxicity
  • Neuro-inflammation
  • Cerebrovascular breakdown
  • Cell structure and remodeling

 The researchers also say that behavioral deficits related to TBI damage respond to manipulating the endocannabinoid system with cannabinoid compounds such as CBD. This includes: 

  • Learning and memory
  • Neurological motor impairments
  • Post-traumatic convulsions or seizures
  • Anxiety

Let’s briefly summarize what this research tells us. First, sports-related brain damage is a serious problem, especially among American football players. Secondly, researchers think that targeting the endocannabinoid system with CBD could improve traumatic brain injury treatment and neurodegenerative-related illness.

Although we don’t have adequate or conclusive clinical research on CBD in the treatment of brain injuries, we do have a growing mountain of scientific evidence supporting it as a novel drug. Multiple international studies have now validated CBD’s anti-inflammatory, antioxidant, and neuroprotective properties.

We also have ample evidence from animal models of treating brain injury with CBD that there is a powerful benefit. For example, CBD has reduced FosB expression following cryogenic spinal cord injury and lowered iNos expression in a mouse model of tauopathy. According to the study mentioned above, this data indicates that, CBD may be a promising future avenue of investigation in the study of neuroinflammation in response to brain injury.


CBD Protects the Brain

Chronic traumatic encephalopathy (CTE) is a severe form of traumatic brain injury (TBI). It’s caused by the accumulation of numerous concussions. It increases the risk of neurological problems later in life and speeds up dementia. 

As we mentioned, American football players are among those most vulnerable to suffering from CTE due to TBI, but researchers think that CBD can help.



The neurodegeneration caused by TBI and CTE is ultimately the result of a cascade of secondary biological mechanisms, such as the build-up of Tau proteins in the brain and chronic neuroinflammation.

The main side effects and symptoms of these types of brain disorders include:

  • Depression and sadness
  • Anxiety and irritability
  • Headaches
  • Confusion and disorientation
  • Unpredictable violence and aggression
  • Cognitive decline
  • Memory loss
  • Communication problems
  • Lack of focus and concentration
  • Poor reasoning
  • Difficulty controlling impulses

Now, no one should tell you that CBD would cure CTE. However, its wide array of scientifically validated benefits might explain why NFL players and world-class athletes around the planet swear by it.

Beyond the numerous benefits already outlined in this article, CBD has powerful properties that could improve symptoms related to CTE, brain injury, and neurodegenerative disorders including: 

  • Natural calming, sedative properties
  • Increases REM sleep time
  • Safe and effective pain relief
  • Anti-anxiety and anti-depressive like effects
  • Muscle relaxing anti-spastic properties
  • Suppresses stress-hormones like cortisol
  • Reduces the inflammatory response
  • Boosts Mood
  • Improves focus and concentration
  • Enhances cognitive functions in the impaired
  • Cardio-protective benefits
  • And much, much more!

While CBD has incredible therapeutic potential in CTE treatment, and is highly valued and cherished among professional sports doctors and athletes, it is not a cure or treatment for CTE or any other neurodegenerative brain disorder.

Remember, serious medical conditions and head trauma always require professional medical attention. Always consult a health care provider and medical professional to treat serious health conditions.


Learn More About CBD

You can learn more about the beneficial health effects of using CBD; discover professional athletes using CBD every day, and find out more about the endocannabinoid system in our other articles linked below.

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We’d love to hear from you! What do you think about CBD for athletes and sports-related brain injuries?

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