It's a fact: Football players live with pain every day of their lives and it starts earlier and earlier.
In the current issue of ESPN's The Mag, Howard Brown explores why the League should legalize marijuana. He has a point, as do the states that have legalized it already for medicinal purposes. I'm not a user, but can understand the intent.
As the mother of a soon to be college football player, I've seen him go through some of the usual injuries - hamstring pulls, ankle injuries and most recently, a Lisfranc sprain (which is the probably the most serious of the injuries). He lives on aleve during the season, popping them daily like candy.
Not that I am advocating for him to use marijuana, but I do consider myself a more progressive parent. He has access to physical therapy and acupuncture now. Our bodies already make marijuana-like substances that affect pain and inflammation. Current research shows that marijuana can make those natural chemicals work better. It's worth the discussion as to whether marijuana, with a medicinal prescription, can be helpful for pain management and healing.
In football, the old mantra of "No pain, no gain" still rules. But pain is unhealthy, and especially when you could be playing on an injury that might never heal, or will cause bigger problems long-term. As Brown pointed out in the article, 8 of the 20 states that have legalized marijuana are home to NFL teams.
Shouldn't marijuana be seriously considered as a pain medication? Currently, it's used for chronic headaches, nausea from cancer treatment, glaucoma, inflammation, seizures and other disorders.
Today, at my son's football banquet, the coach gave a player an award for "distinguished and unselfish play" for playing half the season on a broken ankle. Their season ended 3 weeks ago and he was still on crutches today.
Likewise, my son had played with a sprained ankle for 6 weeks and finally, after sustaining the Lisfranc tear, couldn't walk or run and didn't play in their final playoff game. A game they ended up losing.
This goes to show that pain is a reality for football players at any age. And it's recognized when you play through pain, even when you shouldn't. I don't know what the long-term is going to look like for that young man who played with the broken ankle, but I know I wasn't willing to end my son's career by forcing him to play when he couldn't walk.
But how many times are kids and players in general forced to play through pain? We've all seen the reports about the line on game day to get your pills or getting a shot to dull the pain, but at what cost? And could marijuana more effectively and more safely dull the pain? And what are the healing properties? These are all things the NFL should explore.
As we've seen with the concussions, what the League does is passed down all the way through youth football.
This post in now way poses an answer, but its an interesting conversation. And as a football mom, watching your kid play in pain and the pain following game is very difficult. I think we need to change the culture of rewarding playing with pain when it could lead to a serious problem long-term or end your career, and instead, look for ways to decrease that pain in the first place.