Marvin Washington: Former NFL Player Tackling CTE with Cannabis
MMJ Advocate: Marvin Washington, Dallas, TX
We’ve all seen the news stories that are starting to grace the headlines more and more often. Former NFL players are having violent outbursts, being reported for incidents of domestic violence, and some have even taken their own lives in front of their families. What do they all have in common? Concussions from playing football. But that is not the end of the story. We aren’t leading you to yet another dead end with unsolvable questions. Instead, we are going to hand you over to someone who is taking this story in a different direction. Something can be done. No more NFL players have to lose their lives due to head injuries from the games we watch on the cable networks every Sunday. These violent mannerisms can be prevented and treated, and Marvin Washington, an 11 year NFL veteran (Source: Wikipedia; New York Jets, San Francisco 49ers, Denver Broncos. Career Highlights: Super Bowl Champion XXXIII) is at the head of the movement to make football a safer game.
What is the story behind your involvement with the medicinal marijuana community?
What put it on the radar for me and what motivated me to get involved was when I began having conversations with other athletes who I’d been on the field with back when I was in the NFL. These men, who’d played the same games I had played in, were now suffering from symptoms deriving from concussions they’d inflicted in their football careers. Concussions are unfortunately a common occurrence in this sport. It was something that the NFL ignored for over 50 years, and only recently began to recognize as a problem.
Although I personally feel healthy now and am not showing symptoms myself, I don’t know if that is going to be true in 5 or 10 more years. That is why I decided to be part of the NFL Concussion Lawsuit. Research is showing that there are very dangerous long-term effects of concussions. It is a bruising of the brain. Many athletes are, years later, showing early symptoms of Chronic Traumatic Encephalopathy (CTE), early-onset dementia, and Alzheimer’s disease.
That is why I decided to be part of the NFL Concussion Lawsuit.
This does not only affect football players, or even athletes in general; it affects the entire general public as well. And if there is something out there that can protect us from the damaging effects of concussions, then I am here to be an advocate for that, which is why I support the use of cannabidiol (CBD) as a respected treatment method.
And I think many more will come to recognize this as a problem that needs to be addressed. Hollywood has picked it up and is creating a movie called Game Brain (Source: Sports Illustrated, Will Smith to play role in movie about former Steelers center Mike Webster) that tells the story of how Dr. Bennet Omalu discovered CTE and the man who he found it in. Will Smith is actually playing the role as the main character in the film so you know this will be a big movie hit. I definitely think this will shed light on the issue to the general public and make it so that it can no longer exist as a hushed medical problem.
What is Chronic Traumatic Encephalopathy (CTE)?
By definition, CTE is a progressive degenerative disease of the brain found in those with a history of repetitive brain trauma, like concussions.
What do you believe caused Chronic Traumatic Encephalopathy to NFL players?
It derives from a close-hit injury; a concussion. Football is not just a contact sport, it’s a collision sport and concussions are rampant on the field. It’s the number one sport in America and a $12 billion dollar industry, and yet nothing is being done about treating these head injuries. The NFL is just now starting to recognize that concussions have a long-term effect on the health and well-being of its current and former players. There has been all types of studies that show that this is a fact.
It’s the number one sport in America and a $12 billion dollar industry, and yet nothing is being done about treating these head injuries.
One of the more prominent studies is by Dr. Bennet Omalu who first surfaced CTE when he examined the post-mortem for Mike Webster, former NFL player for Pittsburgh Steelers and Kansas City Chiefs. He was 50 years old when he passed away, but he had the brain of an 80 year old. Dr. Omalu has since continued his research by studying other former players’ brains such as Junior Seau (Source: Wikipedia; San Diego Chargers, Miami Dolphins, New England Patriots. Passed at 43 years old), Dave Duerson (Source: Wikipedia; New York Giants, Chicago Bears, Phoenix Cardinal. Passed at 51 years old), Paul Oliver (Source: Wikipedia; San Diego Chargers. Passed at 29), and Jovan Belcher (Source: Wikipedia; Kansas City Chiefs. Passed at 25 years old) and all of them show the same markers for early Alzheimer’s disease and CTE. They all have the same thing in common.
What is your motivation behind wanting to be the advocate for treating Chronic Traumatic Encephalopathy?
My motivation is more for my son who currently plays college football at LSU. I want to make sure that if there is something out there that can alleviate this problem or rather, minimize the damaging effects of it, then why not use it? This is for past, current, and future players of the NFL. For former players, it’s for quality of life. The damage has already been done, but we can still treat the symptoms. For current players, it can be curative. If they take a hit to the head, they can immediately take a CBD pill or CBD spray to lessen the brain swelling. And for future players who are coming into the NFL from high school and college, it’s preventative. Athletes can take cannabidiol (CBD) as a daily supplement since research is showing that it acts as a neuro-protectant. The NFL has done its research on protecting and preventing body injuries, but they have not touched on the need of protecting internal damage on the brain. For me, it’s just to make sure that football is a safer game.
What medications did they prescribe to help patients with Chronic Traumatic Encephalopathy?
Absolutely nothing. They just advise you to rest. It’s inside your head, it’s not something you can simply wrap ice around like a blown out knee. They do give you medication for the nausea that accompanies the concussion, but that’s it. This is why I am an advocate for research on the subject of using cannabidiol (CBD) as treatment because it’s the only thing out there that has shown it can help.
In the scientific community, and more specifically in the medicinal marijuana community, there are products being developed from the cannabis plant that are showing very encouraging signs that CBD acts as a neuro-protectant for the brain. So, as we evolve from testing rats and mice to testing human subjects, I hope to see CBD as a respected way to prevent and treat damage to the brain during sports and I hope to see everyday medical practices using it to treat others who have suffered from a close-hit incident, like victims of car crashes. It helps everyone.
What alternative medicine have you found that could relieve Chronic Traumatic Encephalopathy?
I found cannibidiol products as a neuro-protectant for the brain. If players could be given a spray in the mouth or a pill, it would act as an immediate treatment measure for players on the field. So even if you do get a concussion, the effects will not be as severe. But that is not why I am an advocate. I’m with them because I want to make a difference by offering a product that I truly believe in to save lives who are eminent to concussion related activities or jobs.
I want to make a difference by offering a product that I truly believe in to save lives who are eminent to concussion related activities or jobs.
Here is another scenario: what if a soldier is hit by a roadside bomb and they could give him something to minimize the effects of his head injury right then and there? That is where the science is heading. What we have to work on is the negative connotation and stigma associated with marijuana. The plant has 85 different compounds and cannabidiol is one of those compounds. It has no psychoactive effects. You can be a 12 year-old girl playing volleyball or a 28 year-old professional football player and you can take the same medication.
How do you think NFL will feel about alternative medicine being offered to their players?
This would not only be for retiring players, but current players and future players. Once we have proof of concept, we want the NFL to not only recognize this as a preventable issue, but lead the way in researching it. They are the biggest sports association in America and their players are the ones that are the most susceptible to concussions. Guys get concussions every game, so we want the NFL to support the scientific research to prevent the damaging effects that ensue.
The science has to be proven and we are a little ways from proving it. But when they do prove it, the NFL won’t have any other choice but to lead the scientific research to protect their players. This is something that makes for the health and well-being of their players. For them this should be [pardon the pun] a no brainer.
Who else in the NFL has had positive results with alternative medicine?
Well, I think that there are plenty of players who are medicating themselves currently with medicinal marijuana because they don’t want to take the pharmaceuticals. The number of participating patients could be as high as 50%. They are medicating themselves for pain management, emotional management, and mood management. There are two sides to the matter; there is the THC side and there is the CBD side. I am focused on the CBD side of it, since it has no psychoactive effects and is shown to help protect the brain.
What is your emotional attachment with CBD?
Seeing a former NFL player like Junior Seau get to a point in his life where he became so frustrated with his mental state, that he decided to take his own life so his brain could be studied… is not right! We don’t need any more players committing suicide, abusing their families, or feeling like there is nothing out there that can help them. Now is the time that people need to change their views on medicinal marijuana. If there is something in the cannabis plant that can help, then we should support the research needed to prove it. That’s where my passion and emotional attachment comes from.
We don’t need any more players committing suicide, abusing their families, or feeling like there is nothing out there that can help them.
If we were to have another interview in 5 years, where do you think medicinal marijuana will be?
In 5 years, I think that 80% of the states will have medicinal marijuana laws on their books. The tide is already changing; progress is bound to happen. I think there will be a lot of CBD medicinal products coming to the market and overall, I believe the whole country will come to decriminalize marijuana and respect it for its beneficial medical qualities.