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Cannabidiol, more commonly known as CBD, is a non-psychoactive component of cannabis. CBD has become increasingly known as an extract for supporting healthy lifestyles, as well as for treating certain medical conditions. It’s sometimes touted as a “miracle oil” with the ability to help with a wide range of ailments, such as anxiety, depression, seizures, and pain or muscular aches. 

Recently, debate has been raging over its uses and application in sports. For many, the promise of a way to prevent pain from muscle tears and strains is too tempting to pass up. Others, however,  aren’t sure if this violates rules and regulations on the use of performance enhancing drugs. 

Why athletes use CBD oil

During heavy exercises, the muscles of the body will lengthen and contract according to the exercise being performed. Exercise that lengthens the muscle is referred to as ‘eccentric contractions’. If repeated over time, it will eventually cause micro trauma to the muscle. 

The muscle will then adapt to this small-scale tearing by swelling and stiffening, thus causing the soreness referred to as Delayed Onset Muscle Soreness (or DOMS) which takes place 24 to 72 hours after exercise has taken place. There are two main reasons as to why athletes are interested in CBD;

  1. As an anti-inflammatory after heavy exercise
  2. As a sleep aid to boost recovery

The anti-inflammatory properties in CBD are often suggested to reduce the discomfort caused by DOMS and other muscular pain after extensive periods of exercise and are often touted as an alternative to over the counter drugs such as Ibuprofen or acetaminophen. 

Many athletes will often opt for over-the-counter medication for both convenience sake and due to the perception that CBD is a potentially “risky” choice – fearing legal or professional repercussions. 

CBD as a natural remedy

CBD is a natural remedy. Thus, it may not cause any serious health conditions. These include liver damage, skin damage, or potentially asthma. Paracetamol use has been linked to all these ailments. 

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Sleep as part of a recovery routine is extremely important. For one, athletes like Roger Federer sleep for as long as 12 hours a day. Over-the-counter remedies are usually the go-to route for most athletes. This is due to both familiarity and not wanting to risk any association with anything cannabis related. 

The most commonly used of these would be Melatonin. It is relatively safe. However, some studies have linked it to possibly worsening the symptoms of depression.

The next most commonly used sleep-aid is Zolpidem. The drug may cause tolerance and withdrawal conditions. Furthermore, it can also cause death if overdosed on. 

Those battling with anxiety often seek CBD as a treatment of choice. Thus, therein lies its ability to aid with short term sleep disorders. It can also help users achieve REM sleep without heavy medication. 

Who’s using it?

CBD has numerous advocates across the celebrity world, ranging from Kim Kardashian-West to Olivia Wilde. More and more athletes are also becoming vocal advocates for the benefits of the drug. 

MMA fighter TJ Dillashaw is a notable proponent of CBD oil. He even became an official “Green Roads Athlete” and tweeted that they had the “Best CBD products on the market”. 

Other notable figures from the athletic world include former heavyweight champion Mike Tyson. He referred to CBD as a “miracle oil”. 

What the law says

The legislation on its availability and usage varies depending on the area you’re in. It may be hard to believe, but restrictions in sporting circles are not as stringent as you may think. The World Anti-Doping Agency has removed CBD from its list of prohibited substances. 

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For other major sporting leagues, the repercussions for taking CBD or having cannabis in your system can vary. The NFL, for example, will flat-out prohibit the use of cannabis and cannabidiol, arguing that it is still regarded as a Schedule 1 (federally illegal) substance and therefore should not be used by its players. Other leagues, such as the NHL, do not have as severe penalties and are more relaxed when it comes to their players using CBD. 


Many believe that not only allowing CBD, but prescribing it, would be a step in the right direction to prevent players from potentially abusing painkillers, or powerful opioids that are often prescribed by league doctors in response to the injuries they sustain while playing the sport. 

For others, the grey legal area that cannabis occupies is enough to keep it banned from sports outright. Decision makers in sports will now have to develop a more “modern” policy for CBD use.

Since there’s a lack of legal consensus on CBD, as well as on its status in the sporting world, what do you see as the future of its use? 


Edward Hayes

Edward Hayes is a writer and Digital Marketing Executive, writing on a range of CBD and health related topics.

The content in this editorial is for general information only and is not intended to provide medical or other professional advice. For more information on your medical condition and treatment options, speak to your healthcare professional.

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