What are the Potential Benefits to Athletes?
Unfortunately, due to restrictions on the use and testing of cannabis, there are very few human studies to support the benefits of CBD oil. Currently, there are over 30 clinical trials being done in Europe, so hopefully more evidence will be available soon.
Pain relief. Anyone who regularly exercises has most likely needed pain relief, whether due to injury or training-based soreness. Both preclinical and clinical studies have shown the benefits of using CBD for chronic pain. Over-the-counter painkillers, called Non-Steroidal Anti-Inflammatory Drugs (NSAIDs e.g. ibuprofen), can be dangerous to athletes, especially ultra-distance athletes. This is because there is a higher risk of gastric trauma, particularly if taken as a prophylactic. This can range from benign dyspepsia to life-threatening upper GI bleeding. Therefore, it is unsurprising that athletes are looking for alternative, safer, and more natural treatments.
Anti-inflammation. Cannabinoids are powerful anti-inflammatory agents, so could benefit athletes looking to relieve inflammation, swelling, and pain, especially if recovering from an injury. With both pain-relieving and anti-inflammatory properties, CBD could provide a safer alternative to NSAIDs for some.
Sleep aid. Athletes are aware of how crucial sleep is to aid recovery and allow the body to repair itself. If you are pushing your body during training, then you will likely need more and better quality sleep. The Health Harvard website states: ‘studies suggest that CBD may help with both falling asleep and staying asleep’ which could help athletes recover.
Is it legal for athletes? What about drug testing? CBD is available as an ‘isolate’ or ‘broad spectrum’. Broad spectrum contains CBD and other cannabinoids found in the hemp plant, which could potentially include trade amounts of THC. If the CBD was derived from an EU-certified industrial hemp (such as our Cannabis sativa plants), the THC content is legally required to be less than 0.3%. Some CBD users prefer broad spectrum due to a reported ‘entourage effect’ of all the cannabinoids together. CBD isolate only contains CBD without any other cannabinoids. From an anti-doping standpoint, CBD isolate would be the best option for anyone undergoing zero-tolerance drug testing.
Whilst CBD is not a banned substance for athletes in or out of competition, there is a risk if the product does not contain what it says on the label. For example, if a product contained a significant amount of THC, there would be a risk of a doping violation if drug tested. It is your responsibility to research and choose a reputable brand with lab analyses of their products readily available.