CBD and Sports – Should it be Allowed?

I just read a few days ago about a young football player, C. J. Harris, ruled ineligible to play at his Georgia high school because he takes CBD oil to manage his epilepsy. Even though CBD is legal in Georgia and at Auburn University where he was offered a spot on the roster, the NCCA (National Collegiate Athletic Association) has a strict zero-tolerance drug policy.

CBD is not a narcotic but a non-psychoactive compound and many strains have high levels of CBD with little or no THC, the compound associated with the ‘high’ or euphoria. Research has shown that it has effectively been used to manage epilepsy, especially in children, such as Charlotte Figi, a young Colorado girl who suffered 300 seizures a week. Charlotte’s Web, a strain high in CBD with virtually no THC was developed and administered to Charlotte.


Another child, Preston James, travelled with his family from North Carolina to Colorado, seeking CBD as a way to manage his relentless seizures. Both of these children were given high doses of CBD and achieved amazing results.

Also, known for its anti-inflammatory properties, CBD is ideal for athletes. However, even a trace amount is against the hard and fast rules of the NCCA.

Current Status of the WADA

In January 2018, the World Anti-Doping Agency (WADA), removed CBD from its list of prohibited substances. The WADA states (on page 8)

“The banning of the following cannabinoids:

• Natural cannabinoids, e.g. cannabis, hashish, and marijuana.

Time for a Change• Synthetic cannabinoids e.g. Δ9-tetrahydrocannabinol (THC) and other cannabimimetics.


• Cannabidiol.”

It is important to note here – cannabidiol may also contain degrees of THC which remains a prohibited substance.

There is an annual revision of the list, and Director General Olivier Niggli stated that the process takes over 9 months, taking into consideration such things as scientific and medical research, including information gathered from law enforcement and pharmaceutical companies.


The WADA Previously

The World Anti-Doping Agency in 2004 defined three criteria as their reasons for banning all cannabinoids in all sports citing: (1) potential of cannabis to enhance sports performance, (2) risk it imposes on athletes, and (3) violation of the spirit of sport.

A great deal of this study is about tetrahydrocannabinol (better known as THC, the compound that gives the ‘high’ or euphoria) and the way it affects the brain and body and once ingesting it, the potential for health risks and sports enhancement; they mention little on CBD and its effects.

As of January 2018, CBD will no longer be on the banned list or classed as a performance enhancer. This is excellent news for the sporting world in general.

There is very little information on WHY the WADA has changed its stance, but one can surmise it has a lot to do with the many clinical studies conducted and individual testimonials. Perhaps it is because of such statements as the following by renowned organizations and professionals:

“CBD may be a powerful anti-epileptic, anti-depressant, anti-nauseate, sleep aid, relaxant, sedative, anti-inflammatory, and anti-proliferative.” ~ David Bearman, physician, medicinal marijuana

“CBD exhibits no effects of abuse or dependence potential and no evidence of health-related problems associated with CBD.” ~ The World Health Organization (page 5).

“It’s CBD. It helps with the healing method and inflammation and stuff like that.” ~ Nate Diaz, UFC

Derrick Morgan, Titans linebacker, states, “don’t get hung up on the stigma. It is all about player health and safety.”

Common Sports Complaints

Some common complaints are sore muscles and fatigue (we can expect this unless it becomes Chronic fatigue and lasts much longer than it should). Others include knee and shoulder injuries, tendinitis, tennis elbow, sciatica, strains in the hamstrings, and groin injuries.

The knee is the body’s largest joint and is made up of bones, tendons, cartilage, and ligaments. This can lead to the possibility of many injuries such as fractures, dislocations, sprains, and fractures to name a few, and can, in some cases, require surgery. Knee injuries account for almost fifty-five percent of sports-related injuries.

guy on ground with pain in knee

Some of the most common shoulder injuries are dislocation and separations, cartilage tear, rotator cuff tear, and injuries to the biceps and joints. According to the American Academy of Orthopaedic Surgeons, 7.5 million people in 2006 visited a doctor’s office for shoulder problems. Treatment includes exercise and anti-inflammatory medication.

Tendinitis is inflammation of a tendon and occurs most commonly from overuse, characterized by pain, stiffness, swelling, and inflammation. Treatment includes rest, cold packs, gentle exercise, and stretching.

Most of us have come across the term Tennis Elbow (epicondylitis). The inflammation of tendons and muscles within the forearm can cause this injury and may have an effect on golf players as well.

This happens because of overuse of the muscles and can become inflamed and painful. Treatment includes rest, ice packs, supports or injections with cortisone or anesthetics, and in some cases surgery.

Sciatica (or Lumbar Radiculopathy) affects the back, hip, and outer side of the leg. Along with the pain is a burning sensation, numbness, or tingling pain, and usually affects one side. Treatments can include bed rest, stretching, medications such as muscle relaxants, pain relievers, anti-inflammatory, cortisone, or surgical procedures.

A pulled hamstring is an injury to muscles at the back of the thigh and is common in sports such as track and field, soccer, and basketball. It may cause swelling or weakness. Treatments include rest, ice packs, elevation, and compression. Severe injury may require surgery.

A groin injury can range from minor to severe, where there is a complete loss of muscle function. It is common in ice hockey and football players, and approximately ten to eleven percent affect these two activities. Treatment for this injury includes rest, ice, NSAIDs (nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs), heat treatment, compression shorts, and rehabilitative physiotherapy.

How Does CBD Help

CBD (cannabidiol) is one of the major components found in cannabis; the other is THC (tetrahydrocannabinol). CBD is non-psychoactive and makes up 40% of the plant’s extracts, while THC is the component responsible for the ‘high’ or euphoric state.

Scientific research and studies have shown CBD is used to manage pain, promote bone health, may reduce inflammation, and can aid in managing other conditions.

This would be beneficial for the pain, swelling, inflammation, anxiety, and stress associated with some sports injuries listed above.

On a personal note, my husband has sciatica because of years of hockey playing, and shoulder pain from years of tennis. He has been using CBD products for close to two years and sleeps better than I do!

Final Thoughts

It is a significant step in the right direction by the World Anti-Doping Agency in removing Cannabidiol from its list of banned substances.

Hopefully, the NCCA will follow suit and allow young C. J. Harris in Georgia to continue to use CBD to treat his epilepsy and give his promising football career a chance.

Disclaimer: This article does not constitute a legal or medical endorsement. It is up to you to make sure using CBD is legal in your area of residence. It is also advisable to seek the advice of a medical practitioner for any treatment.

FDA Disclosure

Do you suffer from pain associated with Sports and would you consider using CBD to manage it? I would love to hear your comments.

2 thoughts on “CBD and Sports – Should it be Allowed?”

  1. Great article on CBD. This is going to be a controversial issue for a long time. I don’t understand why the medical community hasn’t stepped in to get this approved across the board for things that have been proven to be helped by it.
    I have friends who use it for pain and they swear by it.
    I think there is still a big misunderstanding about CBD and THC.
    Thanks for the valuable information.

    • Hi Curtis,

      Yes, you are correct; it will be an ongoing issue for a long time to come. Your friends are smart! And where you live has a lot to do with getting approved. Here in Canada, medical marijuana has been available since 2001 and they are now in the process of trying to get Recreational Marijuana legalized. 

      I still have many friends who think THC as soon as you say CBD. They still don’t get it. It is an educational process for sure.

      Thanks very much for your comments.


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