Super Bowl Champions Say the NFL Needs to Rethink Marijuana, Examine Potential Benefits of Treating Brain Injuries

(Editor’s Note: The following was reprinted with permission from www.nflconcussionlitigation.com)

By Marvin Washington, Brendon Ayanbadejo, and Scott Fujita

Super Bowl week brings back fond memories for us. We shed a lot of blood, sweat and tears to earn our Super Bowl rings. For years, we put our bodies in harm’s way in the ultimate team sport, and for many of our NFL colleagues, the physical damage done in pursuit of our dreams is often permanent, and sometimes terribly debilitating.

The NFL is the preeminent sports league in the U.S. but it is woefully behind the curve when it comes to marijuana and players are suffering as a result. Many former and current NFL players use or have used marijuana to treat pain associated with injuries sustained on the field. There is a compelling body of research showing that marijuana can help treat pain and brain injuries.pot

Roughly a year ago, Commissioner Roger Goodell expressed a willingness to consider the medical use of marijuana for players if medical experts deem it a legitimate option. He said, “We’ll continue to follow the medicine… that’s something we would never take off the table if we could benefit our players at the end of the day.”

It is time for Roger Goodell to make good on that promise. The NFL should lead the way in developing a more rational and science-based approach to marijuana. According to the Drug Policy Alliance, abundant evidence already exists regarding the medical potential and benefits of marijuana. Roughly half of the fifty states (representing nearly half of NFL markets) have legalized the use of marijuana for medical purposes, and over seventy percent of Americans support this reform. It just so happens that this week’s Super Bowl is being played in Arizona, a state that allows the use of marijuana for medical purposes.

First and foremost, the NFL should allocate financial resources to advance medical research on the efficacy of medical marijuana in treating brain injuries. In the case of trauma, a lot of inflammation occurs, which affects cognitive functioning and neural connectivity. A compound in marijuana called cannabidiol (CBD) has shown scientific potential to be an antioxidant and neuroprotectant for the brain. In a sport where closed head injuries are common, the league should be doing everything it can to help keep their players healthy during and after their careers. If the NFL wants to continue to grow its game, it must investigate potential medical solutions for its industrial disease, Chronic Traumatic Encephalopathy (CTE). Even the federal government holds a patent on marijuana for this purpose.

Second, the NFL should abandon its policy of drug testing and punishing players for use of marijuana. The NHL does not include marijuana among its banned substances and, just last week, the NCAA announced that it plans to re-examine its approach to drug testing student-athletes for non-performance enhancing drugs like marijuana because “they do not provide a competitive advantage.” The HBO show “Real Sports with Bryant Gumbel” reported that 50-60 percent of players currently use marijuana regularly, mostly for pain relief. Solid evidence already indicates that such use can reduce reliance on opiate-based pain medications as well as anti-inflammatory drugs, many of which present pernicious side effects.

Finally, the NFL should take a leadership role in addressing racial disparities in marijuana law enforcement as well as other injustices caused by ineffective prohibitionist policies. Many players enjoy the use of marijuana apart from its medical benefits, just as tens of millions of other Americans do. A majority of Americans now favor regulating and taxing marijuana, more or less like alcohol, and four states have approved such policies, with more likely to do so in coming years. According to the ACLU, African Americans are far more likely than other Americans to be arrested for marijuana possession even though they are no more likely to use or possess marijuana. This basic injustice should be of particular concern to the NFL given that more than two-thirds of all current players are African American.

As former NFL players, we recognize our role as leaders and role models. We firmly believe that reforming marijuana policies can, indeed must, go hand in hand with discouraging young people from using marijuana and other drugs. There is no place any longer, either in the NFL or the nation at large, for the injustices and hypocrisies of prohibitionist marijuana policies. It’s time for the NFL to be a leader and create a rational and science-based marijuana policy.

Marvin Washington is a retired 11-year NFL veteran, a Super Bowl XXXIII champion and retired players CTE/Concussion advocate. His is current a spokesman and advisory board member for Kanna Life Science, a phyto-medical company. Brendon Ayanbadejo is a Super Bowl XLVII and equal rights champion and he retired from the NFL after 13 years. Ayanbadejo is currently working for Fox Sports as an analyst/writer and sits on the executive board of Athlete Ally. Scott Fujita is a retired 11-year NFL veteran and Super Bowl XLIV champion. He currently works as a TV/film consultant, NFL broadcaster and sports writer. Scott is also a big supporter of human rights and other causes.

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Mayo and King-Devick Test Have Licensing Agreement for Sideline Concussion Test

The Mayo Clinic has agreed to a licensing agreement with King-Devick Test Inc., which has developed “a proven indicator of ocular motor, visual and cognitive function for concussion detection and evaluation on the sidelines of sporting events to help with the decision to sideline athletes to prevent injury,” according to a press release.

Under the terms of the agreement, the King-Devick Concussion Screening Test will be formally recognized as the King-Devick Test In Association With Mayo Clinic. The King-Devick Test is described as a quick, accurate and objective concussion screening tool that can be administered on the sidelines by parents, coaches, athletic trainers, school nurses and medical professionals.

“Studies have indicated that the King-Devick test is an effective tool for the real-time evaluation of concussion because it looks at rapid eye movement and attention – both are affected by concussions,” says David Dodick, M.D., Mayo Clinic neurologist and director of Mayo Clinic’s concussion program. “Most importantly, the test is affordable and can easily be used by any youth sports league, and administered by non-medical personnel. And youth athletes are at a higher risk for concussion and a longer recovery time than adults.”

“It’s a privilege to be associated with the premier health care brand in the world,” says Steve Devick, Founder and CEO of King-Devick Test. “This agreement will help us accomplish our goal of having a tool on the sidelines to help determine ‘remove from play’ for athletes to prevent further injury and be referred to qualified professionals for follow up care.”

The test requires an athlete to read single-digit numbers displayed on cards or tablet computer. After suspected head trauma, the athlete is given the test, which takes about two minutes, and the results are compared to a baseline test administered previously. If the time needed to complete the test takes longer than the baseline test time, or if the subject shows any other symptoms of a concussion, the athlete should be removed from play until evaluated by a medical professional. A new baseline is required annually.Peer reviewed published research has shown that The King-Devick Test requires eye movements, speech, language, and concentration, all of which can be impaired as a result of concussion. Recently more than 20 studies showing the effectiveness of the test as a quick, objective and accurate “remove from play” sideline test have been presented or published in elite scientific journals. Numerous other recent studies have been published regarding King-Devick Test as it relates to MS, Parkinson’s disease, ALS, hypoxia, extreme sleep deprivation and reading fluency. Under the agreement, Mayo Clinic will provide ongoing medical consultation in future development of the test.

Peer reviewed published research has shown that The King-Devick Test requires eye movements, speech, language, and concentration, all of which can be impaired as a result of a concussion. Recently more than 20 studies showing the effectiveness of the test as a quick, objective and accurate “remove from play” sideline test have been presented or published in elite scientific journals. Numerous other recent studies have been published regarding King-Devick Test as it relates to MS, Parkinson’s disease, ALS, hypoxia, extreme sleep deprivation and reading fluency. Under the agreement, Mayo Clinic will provide ongoing medical consultation in future development of the test.

The King-Devick Test has also been proven to detect un-witnessed, un-reported and “silent” concussions in athletes.

“Although concussion awareness has been a trending hot media topic at the professional and collegiate sport levels, more information must be disseminated to the high school and youth levels, Dr. Dodick added. “Concussion guidelines are rapidly changing. Just a few years ago, athletes were expected to ‘shake it off’ and continue to play after suffering a concussion or a ‘ding.’ Today, we now know that it is unsafe for any athlete to return-to-play the same day they have suffered a concussion, and it is recommended that every athlete not return-to-play until they have been cleared by an appropriate professional.”

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Former High School Football Player Sues over Return to Play Decision

(Editor’s Note: What follows is a brief excerpt from an article that appeared in the January Concussion Litigation Reporter. To read the full story and get the complaint, please subscribe.)

A former high school football player, who allegedly suffered at least two concussions while playing high school football, has sued the school district and two of the school’s coaches in state court, claiming they pressured him to continue practicing and playing despite still suffering the effects of a concussion.

The plaintiff is seeking punitive damages, interest accrued on expenses since the alleged injuries, attorney fees and court costs from the defendants.

He claimed that he suffered the first concussion in practice in 2012. Afterward, the team’s athletic trainer examined him and allegedly found that he displayed signs of concussion and a neck injury. However, the coaches told him to resume practice a few days later, according to the complaint. Less than a month after the original injury, he suffered another head injury in a football game, while participating on a kickoff return team.

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