NFL-NFLPA Pain Management Committee: One Million Dollar Study Underway

nfl pain study can cannabinoids replace opiods for pain

The NFL-NFLPA Pain Management Committee (PMC) was formed in 2019 to help players live healthier and more active lives by providing education and research for the appropriate management of pain.

The PMC has produced educational materials that have been used by coaches, medical staff, and players alike. Furthermore, the PMC committee has devoted itself to finding alternatives to dangerous drugs like opioids in order to promote player health.

Finding Alternatives to Opioids

The PMC has produced videos, presentations, and printed materials for players and team medical staff on how to properly manage pain for athletes. However, their primary focus is finding an alternative to opioids for the pain management of players.

While most sports injuries can be healed through over-the-counter medications, ice, compression, elevation, and rest, this is not true for ligament tears or broken bones that require surgery. Typically, opioids are prescribed to help alleviate the pain of surgery or reoccurring sports injuries.

Opioids cause the brain to produce more dopamine and block pain, but athletes can become dependent and tolerant of the drug, which means they'll need more to help alleviate their pain. Unfortunately, this can lead to addiction, which can derail years of dedication towards their career. In fact, NFL players abuse opioid pain medications four times the rate of the general population.

The PMC began its work in 2020 by conducting multiple forums to learn about the state of cannabidiol (CBD), along with how it's manufactured in North America. Then, in 2021, they reached out to learn more about pain management alternatives from researchers already investigating this topic.

In June of 2021, the PMC is turning its attention to identifying potential research opportunities through a formal Request for Proposal (RFP) process aimed at understanding the impact of cannabinoids on pain management and the athletic performance of football players with a one million dollar funding opportunity.

What Is the Point of The Funding Opportunity?

The NFL-NFLPA PMC is committed to funding research that will explore the efficacy of cannabinoids in managing pain and improving athletic performance. This funding opportunity seeks proposals from researchers who want to conduct clinical trials on cannabinoids for their potential utility as a sustainable alternative treatment for pain management in athletes without any risk of abuse.

With a $1,000,000 fund, they hope to fund five different studies to carry out their research. The PMC is currently accepting applications for pre-proposals until July 31st, 2021, at 6:00 P.M. eastern time.

According to the NFL, there are three primary inquiries that this study should solve including:

  1. "The effects of cannabinoids on pain in elite football players (post-surgical and/or in daily pain management);
  2. The effects of non-pharmacologic treatments on pain in elite football players (post-surgical and/or in daily pain management); and
  3. The effects of cannabis or cannabinoids on athletic performance (e.g., psychomotor, reaction time, cardiorespiratory function) in elite football players."

While Cannabis is still considered a banned substance in the NFL, the most recent labour deal revised the rules on their drug policy, specifically surrounding marijuana. Under the new agreement, players will not be suspended if they're positive for marijuana. Testing will also be limited to the first two weeks of training camp instead of during the five off months between April and August. However, players can still be fined a few week's salaries depending on how many positive tests they've had.

A Breakthrough in The Cannabinoid Research

It's clear that the level of interest in the use of medical marijuana across the industry is higher than the scientific evidence available. This is one of the main reasons the PMC is moving forward with their study to understand how it impacts players and creates sustainable treatment options.

The results of this study are an exciting step forward in cannabinoid research and can help more than just athletes who may be looking for relief or ways to alleviate long-lasting symptoms. Large communities will be able to rely on the results of this experimentation to find a CBD product that works for their pain problems.

Furthermore, with more confident findings from scientifically-backed trials like PMC's funding opportunity, we may see fewer people hesitate to try out these products due to their lack of confidence in anecdotal outcomes or inconclusive studies.

Here is the schedule for the proposed study time-line:

Date(s) Deadline
June 8 - July 31, 2021 Submission window for Pre-Proposals
August 1 - September 6, 2021 The PMC will review all Pre-Proposals
September 13, 2021 Selected Investigative Teams will be notified of their invitation to submit a Formal Proposal and attend Oral Presentation to the R&I Committee
October 25, 2021 Submission deadline for Formal Presentations
Week of November 8, 2021 Oral Presentations to be held
Week of December 6, 2021 Notice of Awards