High-level athletes are beginning to showcase the benefits of CBD as part of their medical regimen.
Athletes and pro sports organizations are increasingly turning to cannabidiol (CBD) pain relief options as a means of recovery.
Some of the world’s largest arenas could soon become proving grounds for the benefits of CBD. The non-psychoactive cannabinoid is becoming increasingly popular due to its potential to provide low-risk relief from pain and inflammation. However, skepticism remains about its benefits. Fortunately for CBD stakeholders and advocates, those who stand to benefit from these treatments are also some of the most influential people in the world. High-level athletes push their bodies to the absolute limits, making them uniquely suited to benefit from the remedial effects of CBD. As athletes turn to CBD’s benefits, there is an opportunity for CBD sports drinks and supplements to gain recognition as a new sub-category in medical cannabis.
CBD pain relief
CBD affects the body in a very different way than its psychoactive cousin tetrahydrocannabinol (THC). Whereas THC interacts directly with cannabinoid receptors in the brain and brainstem to produce the characteristic high feeling, CBD interacts with receptors found throughout the body to encourage the increased production of endocannabinoids. Endocannabinoids are naturally produced compounds released by the body to regulate, among other functions, the body’s response to pain and inflammation. This function explains why consumers of CBD report relief from ailments like muscle soreness and chronic pain.
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The athletic and fitness space has the potential to become a natural fit for CBD. Whether someone is on the grueling workout regimen of a professional athlete or simply staying in shape with regular trips to the gym, workouts can involve some degree of pain. In addition to normal workout pain and soreness, injury is a common part of living an active lifestyle, be it from broken bones, torn muscles or sprained joints. Even after these injuries are fully healed, lingering pain and inflammation can be a hindrance when trying to get back into a regular workout routine. For everyday pain, CBD provides a valuable alternative for athletes who are wary of the side effects of nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs or the potential for addiction involved with opioid-based painkillers.
CBD producers have begun developing products specifically for high-intensity workouts and athletics. In September 2019, for example, Canadian hemp producer Sire Bioscience (CSE:SIRE,OTC Pink:BLLXF,FWB:BR1B) entered into an agreement with sports nutrition supplement company Fusion Nutrition to develop a CBD-based sports nutrition supplement. As part of the agreement, the two companies will conduct scientific study and analysis of the CBD and sports nutrition industries to develop “best-in-class deliverable methods.”
“Within the sports nutrition space, a more obvious synergy has never presented itself,” said Fusion President Ryan Herniman. “With our combined experience in the world of CPGs, we’ll not only be able to develop world-class offerings but we’ll be able to help a lot of people and that motivates us tremendously. It’s an exciting new time in sports nutrition and we’re thrilled to be working with Sire on this initiative.”
After encouraging early results, Sire Bioscience signed a letter of intent to acquire all outstanding shares of Fusion Nutrition. The company’s extensive network of over 800 points of distribution has the potential to drive growth for Sire as it works to launch unique products within the CBD and sports nutrition space. Sire is expected to pay between C$400,000 and C$700,000 for the full transaction.
More recently, major Canadian cannabis producer Canopy Growth (NYSE:CGC,TSX:WEED) acquired a 72 percent stake in sports drink company BioSteel Sports Nutrition. BioSteel is already a leading brand among professional athletes, including 28 National Hockey League (NHL) teams, 15 National Basketball Association teams and 18 Major League Baseball teams. Canopy’s acquisition of the company paves the way for the development of a CBD-infused sports drink developed specifically for use by professional athletes.
Encompassing goods like protein powders, protein bars, creatine supplements and functional beverages, the global sports nutrition market is projected to reach more than US$44 billion by 2021, according to data by Allied Market Research. The hemp-derived CBD industry, meanwhile, could be worth as much as US$22 billion by 2022, according to data by the Brightfield Group. With significant investment expected in the space, both cannabis producers and sports nutrition companies are well-positioned to serve the intersection of the two markets.
CBD pain relief embraced by athletes
The world of elite sports is just beginning to warm to CBD. In 2018, the World Anti-Doping Agency removed CBD from its list of prohibited substances, allowing Olympic athletes to tap into the benefits of CBD without fear of failing a drug test. In the NHL, the widespread use of cannabinoids for pain relief and relaxation is something of an open secret. Former NHLer Mike Cammalleri started using CBD towards the end of his playing career as injury-related pain began to take its toll and has since become a vocal advocate.
“You’d be stupid not to at least look into it,” Edmonton Oilers captain Connor McDavid told The Associated Press in 2018. “When your body’s sore like it is sometimes, you don’t want to be taking pain stuff and taking Advil all the time. There are obviously better ways to do it … You’re seeing a lot of smart guys look into it. You’re seeing a lot of really smart doctors look into it. If all the boxes are checked there and it’s safe and everything like that, then I think you would maybe hear them out.”
The NHL could be where CBD finally finds mainstream acceptance in the world of professional sports. Although the league has made clear that it does not advocate for cannabis consumption in any form, cannabis is not a prohibited substance in the NHL. This is in stark contrast to other major professional leagues such as the National Football League and Major League Baseball. CBD is legal in all but three NHL cities, the most of any major North American league. As more players continue to benefit from CBD, other leagues could soon take notice. Should CBD become common and accepted in the world of professional sports, the potential benefits are likely to become understood by the general active public as well.
CBD has demonstrated benefits for athletic pain and soreness relief. Its use by professional athletes is perhaps one of the best testimonials it could receive. As CBD becomes more accepted in the big leagues, it’s likely to become even more popular among the general active public as well. The widespread adoption of CBD as a remedial health product could lead to a major opportunity for CBD companies looking to serve the active demographic.
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