NFL commissioner Roger Goodell said he would consider allowing medical marijuana use among players if medical professionals determined it would be beneficial in the treatment of concussions, according to Daniel Kaplan of Sports Business Journal.
With the upcoming Super Bowl featuring two teams from states that have legalized marijuana (Denver and Washington), attention has turned to the league's substance abuse policy, which currently prohibits the drug — even though players may play in states where the substance has been decriminalized.
Speaking at an event in New York earlier this month, Goodell left the door open for reevaluating the policy in light of medical research, ESPN reports.
"I don't know what's going to develop as far as the next opportunity for medicine to evolve and to help either deal with pain or help deal with injuries," Goodell said, "but we will continue to support the evolution of medicine."
Marijuana has long been noted as an effective pain reliever, something that could prove beneficial to those who suffer chronic injuries as a result of playing football. Some medical experts argue that the substance could play an active role in the treatment of concussions, as well.
The Concussion Litigation Reporter, a monthly publication focused on legal practice in the area of sports concussions, recently quoted medical researcher Clint Werner:
Severe head injuries automatically trigger the production of an excessive amount of neurotransmitters called glutamates. When there are too many of these chemicals in the brain, they can initiate a chain reaction of cell degradation and impairment. The cannabinoids, which we find in marijuana, work as effective antioxidants, potentially neutralizing the glutamate activity and stopping the cascade of neuronal damage that can follow.
The league's substance abuse policy is covered in the current collective bargaining agreement, which isn't set to expire until 2021. But as states continue to legalize marijuana, the league will face increasing scrutiny to do the same.