Marijuana-consuming athletes are turning the stereotype of the lazy pothead upside down and giving new connotations to “doping” in sports.
When it comes to drugs and sports, the topic is usually performance-enhancing drugs like steroids or strong opiate-based painkillers.
This, however, may be changing. It turns out that athletes are hitting more than just balls these days — many are also hitting the bong to ease pain arising from injuries and, sometimes, to tone down their aggressiveness.
In a recent post for The Denver Post’s new all-marijuana extra, The Cannabist, Lucas Fiser, a freelance writer for The Denver Post and a cannabis consumer, shared his experience using marijuana before an athletic event.
Fiser first tried using marijuana before a championship collegiate club soccer match in 2010. He wrote that while he was normally a very competitive player, with an impressive slew of yellow cards to prove his on-field aggression, he felt very calm during that particular game.
“I played the game with a tranquility that had, for my entire athletic career, been foreign,” he wrote. “Marijuana opened the field up into readable patterns, and instead of bull-rushing midfielders and running over strikers, I was passing the ball off without contact. I was playing clean soccer.”
Fiser and his teammates, who were also high, lost the game despite Fiser’s two goals, but he found “that optimistic brownie high made me understand the beauty in sports.”
“I don’t believe in the stereotypes of pot. The couch-potato clichés,” Fiser blogged. “Marijuana, when paired with sports can emotionally transform the athletic experience in positive ways.”
The popular stereotype of marijuana users is that they’re lazy, overweight couch potatoes with an insatiable appetite for Cheetos and Taco Bell. But according to a study published last year in the American Journal of Medicine, people who regularly used marijuana were actually found to be thinner and healthier than those who did not.
Though surprising to some, the study’s findings echo the findings of similar studies in years past, which have found that marijuana users have higher levels of good cholesterol and a lower rate of diabetes than those who don’t consume marijuana, prompting some to ask whether marijuana enthusiasts are actually more physically active than those who choose to pass instead of puff.
Fiser told MintPress News that although marijuana has made him much more of an even-tempered team player, using it before a game hasn’t exactly made sports any more enjoyable. It also hasn’t hampered his ability to play, either.
“I really enjoy the surge of competitive nature that pumps in my veins every time I play a sport sober,” Fiser told MintPress. “But it holds me back. It makes me overly aggressive. I think the fact of it all is, at least with team sports, is that I am more enjoyable to play with when I am high. I laugh… I play friendly. I share the ball.”
Fiser isn’t the only athlete grabbing a pre-game high, though. He said some of his friends have also consumed the drug before competition, and he knows of some professional athletes who do, as well.
He also noted that he has found that marijuana hits people in different ways.
“I think for a lot of my friends, pot makes them play in a realm of complacency,” he said.
Breaking the ‘stoner’ stigma
Ben Reagan, co-founder of the Washington-state-based Center for Palliative Care, said that in order to convince teenagers to abstain from marijuana, many marketing campaigns created a stigma around a typical user.
“You don’t put the super smart stoner who works at Microsoft” in the media to tell teens that pot is bad, said Reagan, whose center helps patients achieve an active lifestyle with the help of targeted cannabinoid therapies. You put the “hacker stoner living out of his mom’s basement” in front of teens.
Due to marijuana’s illegal status on the federal level, marijuana enthusiasts are fearful to reveal that they use the substance, even in states where it is legal either recreationally or medically, so the public’s misinformed perception of what constitutes a stoner remains intact.
Despite all of the negative connotations about what a marijuana-consumer does, athletic organizations such as the NFL have started a conversation about marijuana use among players. For example, in the lead-up to Super Bowl XLVIII in February, NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell said the NFL would only consider allowing players to use marijuana if it came at the recommendation of a medical professional.
Though Fiser doesn’t foresee any major changes occurring in the athletic arena’s stance on marijuana in the near future, he did say that it comes down to communication and acceptance.
“It’s like coming out as a gay athlete,” he said. “It just takes a community of understanding.”
Until marijuana use becomes acceptable for athletes, Reagan estimates that a large percentage — almost half of all marijuana consumers — use the substance in some way in order to lead a more active lifestyle, and he believes they will continue to do so quietly.
“When we talk about cannabis we are just improving quality of life,” Reagan said. For some people, that means regaining former levels of athleticism and physical activity, and for others, it’s simply about being able to get up and make their kids breakfast.
“For lots of folks, being able to get to sleep has a deep impact on their normal everyday lives,” Reagan said.
For people who are not just looking for the energy to get up in the morning or to take a hike in the woods, Reagan noted that because it makes pain more tolerable on both the emotional and physical levels, marijuana also offers a healing power unlike any other medicine.
Reagan explained to MintPress that compared to opiates, cannabis is a much more natural pain reliever and it doesn’t “dry up our insides or affect our internal organs.”
In other words, unlike drugs like Tylenol, consuming marijuana to cope with a sports injury isn’t going to result in an overdose or liver damage.
In addition to the fact that a person can’t die from consuming the substance, Reagan wrote in an article for Toke of the Town, some athletes prefer to use medical-grade cannabis because it “has been shown to decrease inflammation and control chronic pain usually caused by old injuries, while also helping to regulate the endocrine system and avoid having it become easily depleted through the day by pain or stress.”
“Studies have demonstrated CBD’s effectiveness in relieving pain, convulsions, inflammation, anxiety, and nausea; inhibiting cancer cell growth; and treating schizophrenia, among other things,” he wrote.
Unlike holistic healing techniques, including topical treatments like Icy Hot or Tiger Balm, Reagan said a topical cream infused with marijuana actually helps heal an injury — not just trick the body into not feeling that pain — since marijuana contains a non-psychoactive ingredient called cannabidiol, or CBD.
Since the human body is made up of CBD receptors and it produces CBD naturally, when an individual applies an ointment containing CBD to an injured area, the body is notified to direct its healing efforts to that particular location. Other traditional ointments don’t do that, he noted.
“I have used Tiger Balm on my back when it tweaks out and it does enable me to go on with my day,” he wrote in the Toke of the Town article. “The problem I found was my back hurt even worse the next day and I still needed to spend several days on the couch and kept reapplying more balm. That’s why Icy Hot has several warnings that recommend speaking with a doctor before using!”
As more states consider whether to legalize the medical and recreational uses of marijuana, it’s likely the man who uses a CBD-infused cream on his knee so he can go biking won’t be testifying about marijuana’s healing powers. But as athletes in states such as Colorado and Washington state can attest, marijuana use doesn’t make a person lazy — a lazy person will be a lazy person whether they’re using or they’re not.