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Can CBD help athletes on the road to recovery?



CBD is no longer prohibited by the World Anti-Doping Agency

Cannabis Health delves into the latest research in the field of CBD and sports recovery.

Unlike it’s cannabinoid ‘sister’ THC, cannabidiol CBD is no longer prohibited by the World Anti-Doping Agency and appears to be safe and well-tolerated in humans. While this is great news on a wider scale, for athletes and sports people, this is a welcome change due to the apparent benefits the treatment brings.

Preliminary preclinical evidence suggests that CBD may produce physiological, biochemical, and psychological effects with the potential to benefit athletes including protection against gastrointestinal damage associated with inflammation, promoting healing of traumatic skeletal injuries, improved sleep, and an impact on food intake, metabolic function, cardiovascular function, and infection, although these claims do require further research.

We’ve already looked at whether CBD could be your new running mate as sales of running equipment soared by 250 per cent in the UK during the first COVID-19 lockdown, and a growing number of athletes turned to using CBD to benefit their running and recovery.

This revealed that CBD is coupled with a range of physical solutions, such as foam rolling, icing and stretching, to treat tendonitis injuries, as well as being used as supplements and locations to loosen muscles during endurance events.

As exercise, particularly when strenuous or unfamiliar, can cause inflammation and therefore prolonged soreness and delayed functional recovery, CBD’s anti-inflammatory properties stand the solution in good stead to aid recovery without turning to traditional drugs.

According to one study, while CBD could potentially aid in muscle recovery, other anti-inflammatory agents, such as ibuprofen (a non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drug [NSAID]) have been reported to attenuate exercise-induced skeletal muscle adaptation. The precise mechanism/s underpinning these effects have not been fully clarified, although it may be that the prevention of inflammation inhibits angiogenesis and skeletal muscle hypertrophy. Human trials also suggest that ibuprofen may not influence exercise induced muscle damage, inflammation, or soreness, so if CBD exerts its effects via similar mechanisms, it could possibly attenuate the benefits of training without influencing muscle function or soreness. Future studies investigating this are clearly warranted to clarify such issues and elucidate the potential benefits of CBD.

Many current and former professional athletes, including Lamar Odom and Charley Hoffman, across a range of sports are now endorsing the use of CBD as a non-psychoactive treatment for pain.

A 2017 study did find that there were a number of side effects to the use of CBD which include diarrhoea and changes in weight and appetite, all of which could be detrimental to the performance of sports people, however with its natural roots and impact on muscular recovery, these could be argued as minor in relation to the benefits gained.

As mentioned earlier, CBD was removed from the World Anti-Doping Agency’s list of prohibited substances, however most major leagues and organisations do still prohibit the use of THC. While taking CBD shouldn’t cause you to test positive for THC, it has happened depending on the type of test used and if you take CBD from an unreliable source.

The impact of CBD on athletes is still as yet unknown with studies ongoing however initial research certainly shows there are positives to be gained, and studies are worth exploring.


Cannabis Health is a journalist-led news site. Any views expressed by interviewees or commentators do not reflect our own. All content on this site is intended for educational purposes, please seek professional medical advice if you are concerned about any of the issues raised.

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