Faced with a degenerative knee injury, professional rugby player Grayson Hart feared he was heading for opioid addiction until his search for an alternative led him to CBD.
“You’re probably going to have to retire’’ are the words no professional athlete wants to hear.
Growing up in New Zealand, former Bedford Blues halfback Grayson Hart (pictured above, left) had always dreamed of being on the rugby pitch.
But his career almost came to a premature end when a routine medical examination brought to light a potentially life-changing injury.
Grayson had just been offered a contract in Edinburgh, but a scan revealed a serious degenerative knee condition.
“I had been having a bit of trouble with my knee, it was a bit sore and swollen throughout my last season, but I’d just take painkillers on a match day to help me through,” he says.
“It didn’t seem that bad, I’d never even missed a game.
“I was called into the medical room and told my knee was really bad and that I was probably going to have to retire.”
Grayson sought a second opinion and he was allowed to continue playing rugby, despite several medics warning he may need a knee replacement by the time he was 40.
“Over the next two years I was heavily reliant on painkillers, every day and they were just getting stronger and stronger until I was using opioids,” he continues.
“I could see how people got addicted. I saw firsthand teammates who were addicted to painkillers and I’ve seen addiction in my family and I knew it wasn’t the way to go.”
Desperate not to go down that route, Grayson began searching for an alternative option. He tried everything from special diets and natural supplements to various forms of rehabilitation, but none of them allowed him to cut out the painkillers completely.
Then he read an article about a professional UFC fighter who was taking CBD.
“He was saying this was a completely natural, non-psychoactive compound derived from cannabis and that it really helped with his pain, inflammation and recovery,” says Grayson.
“I thought ‘how can an athlete be taking cannabis products?’”
Grayson discovered CBD had just been removed from the world anti-doping banned substance list and that if he could find a certified brand it would be safe to use. But with the industry still relatively unknown in the UK he reached out to America to try CBD products
“I found some of the products helped me hugely. I noticed like the pain and swelling in my knee improved significantly over a two week period of having CBD in my system,” he says.
“I was able to break the cycle of painkillers for the first time in two years, I was over the moon.”
But he knew he was still taking a risk, and despite his team doctor noticing the improvement in his knee, he advised Grayson against taking CBD.
“I really wanted to get away from the painkillers, so for me it was worth the risk for my overall health and well being, he adds.
“But I knew it wasn’t 100 percent certain, because I couldn’t find any brands that were certified.”
Grayson and his team mate Adam, began reaching out to CBD companies for clarity.
None could offer them any guarantee that their products were safe for athletes, but their efforts led to a chance opportunity with one of America’s leading laboratories, who offered to create the plays a bespoke oil.
“We were just a couple of rugby players who loved CBD and wanted to buy products we could trust, but we thought we’ve got an opportunity here, if we can make this happen,” says Grayson.
“Neither Adam or I had any business knowledge, but we both convinced our wives that it was a good idea to invest all of our hard earned savings into launching this company – and that’s how Pure Sport CBD came about.”
On its launch two years ago, Pure Sport was the only Banned Substance Control Group (BSCG) certified brand (it is now one of four worldwide), tested by the most advanced cannabinoid testing kit in the world, ensuring it is completely safe for drug-tested athletes.
Additionally, it ensures that the strength on the label is guaranteed, the products are screened from contaminants and are completely free from THC.
Their products are now used by hundreds of professional athletes, with endorsements from the likes of former All Blacks Liam Messan, Jerome Kaino, Colin Slade and Victor Vito.
Grayson admits: “I entered the business quite naively and didn’t realise how much of a responsibility it would be, but launching the brand showed me that there were so many people out there who wanted to try CBD but wanted something they could trust.”
Pure Sport now has customers across the globe – from athletes to office workers – with the main benefits reported as improved sleep quality, pain relief, reduced inflammation, muscle recovery, stress and anxiety.
He continues: “From day one we knew that this was an opportunity to prove to a wider audience that these products are 100 percent safe and effective – elite athletes are not going to endorse something that doesn’t work.
“We wanted to break down the stigma around CBD and show that it can be seen a health supplement of its own.”
Grayson – who still takes CBD everyday to manage his knee injury – wouldn’t turn to conventional painkillers again unless absolutely necessary, he says: “I’ve found an alternative that is completely natural, healthy and beneficial for the body, instead of the huge amounts of painkillers I was taking as an athlete, with little guidance on how addictive they were,” he says.
He’s lucky that he got ahead of the game when he did.
“There’s this culture in sport that if you’re experiencing pain you can get through it with painkillers, and you don’t take them you won’t be able to train and play on the team,” he adds.
“I’m really grateful that there’s something out there that is able to break that chain.”
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