A decade ago, the only time you saw cannabis and professional footballers in the same sentence was in lurid tabloid headlines when some poor misguided player was caught on camera smoking something he shouldn’t. The times, however, are a-changing, and not just in certain US states, where weed is now legal and no more controversial than a beer in a nightclub. 

The age of CBD oil is upon us. This is one of many types of cannabis oil, but it is completely legal in most of the western world as it does not contain THC, which is the psychotropic cannabinoid that gets you high. CBD claims various benefits, and these have obvious applications for professional footballers. Back in 2017, the WADA removed CBD from the controlled substances list, and months later, FIFA confirmed that the cannabinoid is permitted. 

As a result, CBD products are becoming an essential part of any footballer or physio’s toolkit. But what exactly does CBD do, and how does it do it?

How CBD works

Without going too deep into the science, CBD interacts closely with the human body’s endocannabinoid system. This system regulates a variety of brain functions, and by promoting the release of certain neurotransmitters, it has the effect of relieving stress and anxiety, while improving concentration and focus. 

It also manifests in physical ways, however, and this is where footballers can derive the greatest benefit. CBD is a highly effective but completely natural anti-inflammatory. As well as easing bruising and swelling, it provides pain relief, speeding up recovery and making the athlete feel more comfortable. 

It is the combination of these two factors that makes CBD such an attractive proposition. Soothing sore areas of the body and promoting a sense of calm is a match made in heaven. When we feel calm, we sleep more soundly and good sleep is vital for faster recovery. Relieving pain also means we can return to gentle exercise faster and more comfortably. 

Better than OTC solutions?

CBD is winning plenty of fans in football, and indeed the wider sporting world. Rugby pros George Kruis and Dominic Day both say CBD effectively saved their careers, helping them recover from long term injuries when over-the-counter alternatives had proved ineffective. The former Saracens locks are still playing to this day, but have also set up their own CBD business, aimed at helping other athletes recover from injury. 

The available evidence certainly suggests that CBD can bring huge benefits to footballers, both in injury recovery and also to maintain general fitness. However, it has to be borne in mind that most of this evidence is, so far, anecdotal. Formal medical studies are ongoing, and while their preliminary findings seem to bear out the anecdotal evidence, there is still much to be learned.

One thing is certain, though. CBD is more than just a passing fad, and its applications in sport, and more widely, seem destined to get broader as scientists discover more about what it can really do.