In the world of sports, CBD is one of the hottest supplements on the market. Athletes of all ability levels—from weekend warriors to top-level pros—are jumping on the bandwagon. To hear many of them tell it, CBD is a game-changer when it comes to recovering from hard workouts and minor injuries.
Much of the fanfare can be traced back to 2017, when the World Anti-Doping Agency (WADA) announced that, beginning in 2018, CBD would no longer be included on its list of banned substances.
Less than a year later, the BIG3 basketball league gave its players the green light to use CBD for recovery and pain management—becoming the first professional sports league in the United States to do so. Co-founder Jeff Kwatinetz described the move as a “major step to support their health.”
Since then, CBD’s popularity has grown exponentially. There’s no shortage of former ballplayers actively promoting it as a safe and effective substance. Paul Pierce, Lamar Odom, Rick Barry, Jamal Mashburn, and Al Harrington have all publicly gone to bat for CBD. Moreover, Pierce, Odom, and Harrington have even launched their own lines of CBD-based products.
Now let’s dig a little deeper and get to the root of CBD’s appeal to basketball players and athletes in general.
What Exactly is CBD, Anyway?
CBD is one of many naturally occurring chemical compounds in the cannabis plant. These compounds are called cannabinoids. There are two principal cannabinoids in marijuana: CBD and THC. At the molecular level, they are nearly identical, but their effects are quite different.
THC is famous for its psychoactive properties. In other words, THC, not CBD, is the reason why you feel stoned after ingesting marijuana. THC is also responsible for some of the weed’s unpleasant side effects, like anxiety and heart palpitations.
Conversely, CBD has been shown to significantly reduce anxiety. It is also commonly used to help treat depression, pain, inflammation, epilepsy, mental illness, and auto-immune diseases. A growing body of scientific research supports the use of CBD for these therapeutic purposes.
Is CBD Legal?
The federal government legalized industrial hemp in 2018, which means that all CBD products made from hemp are legal in all 50 states. Now, what’s the difference between industrial hemp and marijuana? They’re both parts of the cannabis family; the major difference is in the THC content.
Marijuana usually contains somewhere between 5 and 20 percent THC. That accounts for weed’s intoxicating effects. With hemp, the level of THC is restricted to 0.3 percent—nowhere near enough to make a person high. Hence, the 2018 Farm Bill provided for the legalization of hemp.
So the takeaway is: CBD made from hemp is legal everywhere, but CBD made from marijuana is only legal in states that have legalized recreational marijuana.
That’s why athletes need to be extremely careful when supplementing with CBD. The last thing you want to do is unwittingly buy a CBD product derived from marijuana and then be surprised when the THC shows up on a drug test.
To preclude that kind of scenario, a lot of athletes choose to use a CBD product completely free of THC.
How CBD Can Help Basketball Players
CBD has plenty to offer basketball players, mostly because of its strong anti-inflammatory properties. Basketball may not be a collision sport, but it is certainly a contact sport. Players are constantly coming into physical contact with each other, whether it’s during a hard drive to the bucket or while going up for a rebound. Needless to say, this contact results in a lot of wear and tear.
Injuries to the leg, ankle, and foot are by far the most common. Traditionally speaking, the treatment for a sprained ankle or bruised foot involves taping, icing, and the use of NSAIDs (aspirin, ibuprofen, etc.). While these types of drugs are generally safe, they are not recommended for long-term use. Some even increase the risk of heart attack and stroke.
Therefore, a lot of ballplayers are switching to CBD to help them recover from sprains, strains, soreness, and other minor injuries. Depending on the location and nature of your injury, you may opt to administer CBD via topical cream, oil drops, or capsules. It can also be ingested in the form of a post-workout shake.
CBD can benefit you when you’re not injured, too. For example, it has shown some effectiveness in treating insomnia. As all athletes understand, you can’t perform at your best if you’re not getting enough sleep. It’s during sleep that the most important phase of muscle recovery occurs. Taking CBD before bedtime can help you achieve deeper and more restful sleep, which translates to better recovery and, ultimately, a stronger, healthier body.