The Problems With CBD Oil Explained
“If we go back about five years, I had players I worked with asking me about CBD,” says Graeme Close, professor of Human Physiology at Liverpool John Moores University and nutrition consultant with England Rugby.
“Five years ago it was quite an easy conversation: ‘It may be useful, it may not – I didn’t know much about it – but it’s prohibited by WADA (the World Anti-Doping Agency)’.
“Then in 2018 they removed it (from the banned list). As an academic/practitioner, that was not a good enough answer anymore.
“The starting point for me was with all the anecdotes you hear about how often it’s being used, (we had to) assess as many pro rugby players as we could, how prevalent was its use, why are people turning to it, what are the main reasons? How much do they know about it from an anti-doping perspective, and what are the perceived benefits so far?”
You may have seen rugby personalities talk about CBD – the cannabinoid found in the hemp strain of cannabis that has been linked to enhanced recovery, better sleep, relief with muscle soreness. Yet as was suggested by Dr Mark Ware in our companion piece, Chronic Pain, Cannabis and Rugby, with quality research “there is nothing on human pain and CBD. It’s astonishing that we don’t have data on that.”
Read next: CHRONIC PAIN, CANNABIS AND RUGBY
So in August, Close, his colleague Andreas Kasper and LJMU released the results from a study they had done that highlighted the high prevalence of CBD use among professional rugby players, despite warnings that there are still risks attached to its use. They found 26% of professional players surveyed (517 professional league and union players from UK-based competitions) had tried CBD oil and 8% were currently using it.
Worryingly, the team at LJMU found that only 16% of professionals surveyed had sought advice from trained sport nutritionists. A whopping 73% were getting their information from the internet, despite the risks of anti-doping violations.
Decision makers: World Anti-Doping Agency (Getty Images)
Although not prohibited by WADA, CBD often contains traces of other cannabinoids such as THC (the psychoactive compound tetrahydrocannabinol, the part of cannabis that creates the ‘high’), which is prohibited and illicit in quantities above 1mg per bottle. The real risk is that there is evidence to show that many CBD products have much higher levels of THC than stated on product packaging.
Close takes a balanced view. He tells Rugby World: “We published a paper, maybe five years ago now, which basically shows that rugby league players are in pain every day of their life during a competitive season. It subsides as it gets towards the game day but you’re never back down to zero.
“What we also know is that with some traditional pain medication (like non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs)), even Ibuprofen, if you take it long enough it’s related to stomach ulcers. Then you move on to the opiates like tramadol, and we know that they are addictive. There are problems with players who have openly admitted at the end of their careers to being addicted to opiate-based painkillers.
“So if we’ve got something with a side-effect profile that appears to be less than the traditional (painkillers), and the anecdotes suggest it’s effective in pain relief, I do think as academics we’ve got a responsibility to investigate it.
“The huge caveat to all that is at the moment it’s still a big anti-doping risk. I do believe it is still too soon for any athlete to be using it. I think people like myself have a responsibility to research it, and if it’s safe and it helps with pain relief and it’s got less side effects, then we have to work together with the authorities to find a way to make it able for athletes to use.”
Talking point: CBD products are part of a national discussion (Getty Images)
With the need for higher quality control in the field – as with the aforementioned issues with misleading labels – and new products coming out, quality research is imperative. There are different avenues yet to be explored, too.
While we may be aware of the reputable brands who have the low levels of THC they claim, there needs to be a study into the possibility of accumulating THC to such a level that a player fails a drug test.
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Of course the issue is how to go about conducting such studies?
As Kasper points out, you cannot use elite athletes as a control group for something like this because you risk them failing a test. Certain amateur competitions come under the WADA code, too. You have to carefully consider who you use.
Read next: IS IT TIME TO RETHINK STRENGTH & CONDITIONING IN RUGBY?
So is it an exciting time to be looking into this?
“If you were to ask me as an academic, with my professor of human physiology at LJMU, is this exciting or worrying, I’d say it’s exciting,” says Close. “We’ve got something here that has got so much potential.
“It’s like a skier finding (untouched) white powder snow. You can go and have some fun with it. Who knows what we’re going to find?
“You’ve got to remember that the way all this was discovered was people were trying to work out what was going on with cannabis, particularly THC – why was it having all these effects on the human body?
“And then we discovered the human endocannabinoid system. There’s a system in place whereby these cannabinoids bind to receptors and have major effects, and then you find a body producing its own endocannabinoids. It’s got so much potential.
Elite level: England in action during the Six Nations (Getty Images)
“Then you say, ‘Graeme, as consultant nutritionist with England Rugby, is this exciting or worrying?’ I’d say it’s terrifying because it’s a failed drug test waiting to happen!”
He again brings up recent studies that showed it’s “the wild west out there”.
And in February, the Food Standards Agency (FSA) set a deadline of March 2021 for CBD businesses to provide more information about CBD products and their contents. It also advises the pregnant, breastfeeding or those taking any medication not to consume CBD products, and said healthy adults should take no more than 70mg a day.
From the elite sports perspective, Close and his cohorts are keen to get to the bottom of a few key issues: does it actually work, what dose does it work at, and what are the WADA and safety issues related to that? Know all that, they say, and they will be in a much better position to advise athletes.
As for the performer, it’s best they seek the advice of professionals away from the testimony of mates, instead of scrolling through the internet.
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How CBD Is Being Used In Rugby
Cannabidiol (CBD) was not popular a few decades ago, with many people not aware of its existence. A few that were familiar with it were mostly medical researchers devoted to exploring its possible health benefits. Their efforts have popularized CBD, with the buzz surrounding it louder than ever before. Today, many people know what CBD is and the benefits it has.
Its health benefits have compelled many sports organizations across the world to reconsider their position on it. Several high-profile athletes are now using CBD products for various purposes. This brings up the question this article will be addressing: how is CBD being used in rugby?
The Legality of CBD in Rugby
Perhaps, the most significant development concerning cannabidiol is the World Anti-Doping Agency removing it from the list of banned substances. Up until October 2018, CBD was included on this list. The agency announced that they will be removing it from their prohibited substances after calls from various entities. Both athletes and sports organizations positively received the decision, with most of them involved in campaigns to legalize the product.
Even after its legalization, rugby unions did not instantly follow suit. A few months later, they adapted to the new rule. This has led to an increased number of rugby players incorporating CBD products in their routine.
Potential Uses of CBD in Rugby
Rugby is a sport that can be potentially painful and dangerous. Many rugby players have resorted to using different types of painkillers in order to keep up with the game’s physical demands. Companies like flawless CBD are offering great CBD options. Even though most of these painkillers can effectively reduce the pain, continued use of such medicines can cause unwanted side effects. Opioid addiction is the most dangerous side effect —it can cause death.
Various studies have been done to explore CBD’s pain relieving potential. Experts suggest that CBD can help activate your body’s endocannabinoid system . This is the system responsible for inflammation as well as managing pain. Despite that this is an ongoing research, signs show that CBD can actually relieve pain.
With the product considered a non-psychoactive agent, it doesn’t cause any cognitive alteration effects that are linked with the use of cannabinoids such as THC. Furthermore, CBD does not have the side effects associated with the use of anti-inflammatory drugs and painkillers.
Benefits of CBD for Rugby Players
CBD has become very popular in rugby. Most rugby players believe that CBD can help them with following issues:
Since concussions and head trauma are very common in rugby, protecting your head will help limit the possible brain damage. CBD contains neuroprotective effects that help protect the hippocampus— a part of the brain mostly affected by brain damage.
Inflammation can prolong the healing process of a cut, bruising, swelling, and any other injury. It is one of the most common immune responses of an active rugby player. Highly charged workout sessions can aggravate muscles, but it is worse when a player gets involved in serious contact. Used as a protective response, inflammation can make it more difficult for a rugby player to heal from injury.
Besides, it can increase pain and elongates the recovery process. This can be dangerous for a professional rugby player. Luckily, CBD contains anti-inflammatory properties that limit blood flow to the injury—speeding up the recovery process. You are likely to heal faster when you use CBD for injury treatment.
Tips Rugby Players Can Use When Choosing CBD Products
After a long time, CBD has finally been allowed in sports. However, there are some exceptions— some substances are still banned. As a rugby, you need to ensure that the CBD product you are using doesn’t put you at risk of disqualification. Cannabidiol is the only substance approved for consumption by athletes.
Other substances such as THC are still banned. So, if a rugby player is caught using such products, they risk disqualification. Luckily, most CBD products on market don’t contain large amounts of THC. Below are some tips rugby players can use to choose the right CBD products:
Know the THC levels in the CBD product: There are different levels of THC in CBD products. Many manufacturers believe that the efficiency of a CBD product is improved when THC and CBD work synergistically. WADA, the agency tasked with eliminating doping in sports, banned the use of THC substances by athletes.
Therefore, to avoid the risk of disqualification, monitor the THC content of your CBD product. You should also get your product from a legal CBD dealer like Zamnesia to purchase your CBD products or Cannabis Seeds .
Know the type of plant your CBD extract is derived: There are two main plants where CBD is extracted: marijuana and hemp. Marijuana contains higher THC levels— around 5 to 40%. On the other hand, hemp contains only 0.3%. This is why it is important to use CBD products derived from hemp.
It is clear just how much CBD products can positively change the sporting world. In rugby, players are taking a shorter period to recover from injuries and eliminating pre game anxiety. Without a doubt, CBD will become more mainstream in the near future.
CBD & Rugby
Current and former professional athletes, including Rob Gronkowski, Megan Rapinoe, and Lamar Odom, are endorsing the use of CBD. While others, including Finn Russell, Jerome Kaino, and Kim Hamilton, use it to ease knee pain, sleep better, and cope with aches, respectively.
This is because CBD has promising properties in treating several conditions related to rugby competition, such as inflammation, joint pain, and muscle soreness.
Based on recent research studies, here’s why players from around the sporting globe are using CBD and what you should know about it.
Why Are Rugby Players Using CBD?
Rugby is a sport that involves both low and high-intensity aerobic/ anaerobic activities including jogging, sprinting, sidestepping, and frequent high-intensity collisions. As a result of repetitive high-intensity collisions, players from both sides of rugby experience muscle soreness and increased inflammation. The resulting pain usually lasts several days after the game, affecting the player’s everyday function, and may last throughout the entire season.
The traditional method to reduce muscle soreness and inflammation is pain medication (non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs) such as Ibuprofen or opioids like Tramadol. Long-lasting use of NSAIDs can cause stomach ulcers, while opiates-based painkillers are highly addictive. Many players have openly admitted at the end of their careers to being addicted to opiate-based painkillers. Therefore, players and support staff struggle to reduce inflammation and pain and improve recovery strategies without a safer emerging method such as the use of CBD.
Another important benefit of CBD is that it is completely non-addictive, in fact CBD is well recognised and used as an anti-addictive treatment for addictive overeating, to come off smoking and alcohol addiction.
Studies have suggested that CBD has a better safety profile for both humans and animals (1). In a report by World Health Organization, it’s indicated that CBD doesn’t seem to have the potential of dependence or misuse, unlike opioids-based pain killers (2).
These are the main reasons why CBD and rugby are becoming a popular combination.
Pain Management Strategies In Rugby Players
|Traditional Pain Killers||Safety Profile||CBD Products||Safety Profile|
|Non- steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs) e.g. Ibuprofen
Side Effects: Stomach ulcers, kidney damage, heart attack and addiction
|No||CBD oils, capsules, and gummies
No side effects
|Opioids based painkillers e.g. Tramadol
Side Effects: Addiction and accidental death
|No||CBD lotions, balms and ointments
No side effects
How Does CBD Help Rugby Players?
CBD is the short abbreviation of Cannabidiol, which is found in the hemp strain of cannabis(3). Several research studies show that CBD does help with pain, inflammation, sleep, and several other issues. It’s a non-psychoactive treatment for pain, which means you don’t feel “high” after using it.
Our body possesses an Endocannabinoid System (ECS) that helps regulate numerous functions including your mood, appetite, memory, and sleep. More than fifteen research studies have shown that CBD helps reduce chronic pain and inflammation by interacting with ECS Receptors (4).
Therefore, CBD should be valuable for athletes participating in rugby and other physically demanding sports.
How Does CBD Help Rugby Players?
Effective for reducing musculoskeletal and joint pain (5).
Improves Sleep Quality
Enhances sleep-inducing molecules, such as adenosine, in your brain (6).
Possess anti-inflammatory effects, thus promotes recovery and performance (7).
Alternative to opioids
As effective at reducing pain as opioids but without any risk of addiction (2).
Alternative to NSAIDs
As effective at reducing pain as NSAIDs but without any risk of addiction, stomach ulcers and heart attack.
What Does the Research Say?
A recent research study published in 2020 glanced at the increased level of CBD use in Rugby Union and Rugby League. In this study, 517 professional rugby players were asked about the use of CBD. The study concluded that 25% of all athletes assessed have either utilised or continue to use CBD. The main reasons for CBD use in those players were reduced recovery and pain and improved sleep, with most of the players reporting a perceived benefit (8).
Legality For Athletic Events
In 2018, the World Anti-Doping Agency (WADA), which regulates rugby’s anti-doping policy, removed CBD from its prohibited substance list (9).
Major League Baseball (MLB) removed Marijuana from the drugs of abuse list (10).
National Hockey League (NHL) hasn’t banned the use of cannabis or CBD. However, cannabis use isn’t encouraged. The organization has taken a unique stand on cannabis that doesn’t raise heavy penalties like suspensions and fines. Instead, NHL participants with elevated cannabinoids are only required to go through an assessment by an NHL-approved physician. In some cases, athletes are given recommendations for rehabilitation.
Other major sports and athletic organizations still prohibit the use of THC (Marijuana’s psychoactive component).
What Professional Sports Allow CBD/Cannabis?
|World Anti-Doping Agency||Yes||No||No|
|Major League Baseball||Yes||Yes||Yes|
|National Hockey League||Yes||Yes||Yes|
Matter of Concern
Although CBD is becoming so popular among athletes, the only matter of concern is if the product you buy doesn’t contain what it says on the label. You are at risk of doping violation if the CBD product actually has a significant amount of THC or other prohibited substances. The risk further rises if you take CBD from an unreliable source, as it may be impure or mislabelled.
If you’re an athlete and will be drug tested, you should carefully read product labels. Additionally, do your research and find a reputable brand.
References & Resources
- Machado Bergamaschi, M., Helena Costa Queiroz, R., Waldo Zuardi, A., & Crippa, A. S. (2011). Safety and side effects of cannabidiol, a Cannabis sativa constituent. Current drug safety, 6(4), 237-249.
- World Health Organization (WHO). (2018). Cannabidiol (CBD): critical review report.Geneva, Switzerland: WHO, 36.
- National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine. (2017). The health effects of cannabis and cannabinoids: the current state of evidence and recommendations for research.
- Darkovska-Serafimovska, M., Serafimovska, T., Arsova-Sarafinovska, Z., Stefanoski, S., Keskovski, Z., & Balkanov, T. (2018). Pharmacotherapeutic considerations for use of cannabinoids to relieve pain in patients with malignant diseases.Journal of pain research, 11, 837.
- Halawa, Omar I., et al. “Role of Cannabinoids in Pain Management.” Essentials of Pain Medicine, 2018.
- Murillo-Rodriguez, Eric, et al. “Anandamide Enhances Extracellular Levels of Adenosine and Induces Sleep: An In Vivo Microdialysis Study.” Sleep, vol. 26, no. 8, 2003, pp. 943–947.
- Nagarkatti, Prakash, et al. “Cannabinoids as Novel Anti-Inflammatory Drugs.” Future Medicinal Chemistry, vol. 1, no. 7, 2009, pp. 1333–1349.
- Kasper, A. M., Sparks, S. A., Hooks, M., Skeer, M., Webb, B., Nia, H., . & Close, G. L. (2020). High prevalence of cannabidiol use within male professional rugby union and league players: A quest for pain relief and enhanced recovery. International journal of sports nutrition and exercise metabolism, 30(5), 315-322.
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The information on this website is not intended to replace traditional medical treatment, but is offered as additional, complementary information. There are many scientific studies and anecdotal reporting of the far reaching benefits of CBD Oil, and associated CBD products that we feel it is important to bring this information to our customers attention as part of our mission to educate, inform, and promote honest transparency. However, it is important to note that CBD Oil is not a registered medication, it is registered as a natural food supplement.
Alternative therapies should not be used as a substitute for a varied, nutritional and balanced lifestyle, or an alternative to prescribed medication. If you are pregnant, breastfeeding, taking any prescription medication or are currently undergoing medical advice, please consult your doctor before use.
As with most medications, there is no guarantee of specific results from taking CBD, and results can vary from person to person. That said, we are confident in our CBD Oil and associated CBD products and would love to hear from you of your experiences with CBD.