Concussion in sport: an unsolvable problem?

May 26, 2019

To compete at the highest level there is usually a degree of sacrifice and there are obviously some sports that are more dangerous than others. CBD for concussion recovery is an area that is being looked at. Research and clinical trials look promising.

Disciplines within combat sports, competitive gymnastics and most contact ball sports carry an element of risk. Not only can the athletes carry the risk of ending their careers at any moment, but also inflict their lives with pain management issues using cannabis following retiring from sport.

One such worry that is present in all these sports is concussion. For example, it is apparent when listening to a panel of old boxers talk at current fights that their speech is slurred, and this has been shown to be caused by repetitive blows to the head. When these blows to the head occur over a long time period, it will generally result in a condition called chronic traumatic encephalopathy, or CTE, which is a degenerative brain condition.

Boxing gloves in hand

Research has shown that CTE won’t develop following one blow to the head, but rather from years of frequent blows to the head. When a study in the US on NFL stars was conducted, it was found that although they wear helmets to protect their heads, 99% of the brains studied had some degree of CTE.

Why is preventing CTE important?

It is known that some people who have regular blows to the head are more likely to develop CTE than others. However, there isn’t a 100% effective way of diagnosing a person with CTE who is still alive. Doctors know what to look for in the brain of a deceased person, but at this point, it is clearly much too late. CTE occurs following the degradation of brain tissue. Masses of proteins form throughout the brain, which latches onto brain cells, slowly destroying them.

endocannabinoid system

The symptoms because of this are: 

  • CBD may help Severe headaches and pain
  • Confusion and an inability to think
  • Memory Loss
  • A decline in cognitive ability
  • Sleep issues
  • Behavioural issues and mood swings – Depression and/or aggressive behaviour

The symptoms are different from person to person and they are usually a result of the
person's brain chemistry in addition to where in the brain the CTE has developed.

How can we prevent CTE in the future?

Currently, CTE can only be diagnosed upon looking at brain tissue, which we cannot do whilst the patient is alive and well. This means that any suffering from CTE can only be identified based upon their symptoms alone. You can, therefore, understand that it isn’t in anybody’s best interest to ever be diagnosed with CTE.

Neuroscience and CBD

The current treatment for CTE is to mask the pain symptoms with anti-inflammatories or opioids but you will find a lot of people with CTE also turn to alcohol. Sadly, opioids and alcohol are well-known to be addictive and result in long-term issues of their own.

However, retired and current stars alike are beginning to ditch the opioids for a safer pain-killer and anti-inflammatory – CBD. Fortunately for these athletes, CBD has been shown to help with relieving such pain symptoms without having any known side-effects such as addiction or overdose.

CBD is believed to help with CTE because:

  • CBD is a Neuroprotectant – Research into using CBD to prevent neurodegenerative disease is in its infancy, but initial, completed studies are favourable towards it. It has been shown to preserve brain cells.
  • CBD is an Anti-inflammatory & Pain Reliever – CBD is commonly prescribed in Canada and the US for conditions which symptoms can be reduced by managing inflammation. Studies conducted on CBD have shown it is as effective in reducing inflammation and subsequent pain as much as most over-the-counter and prescription NSAIDs (non-steroidal anti-inflammatories drugs) such as ibuprofen or naproxen.
  • CBD Helps to Control Mood Swings – CBD has been shown to be effective in regulating general brain functions, which result in more stable moods. It does this by reducing anxiety and regulating sleep which has shown in turn to be a factor in reducing depression and anger within subjects.

Research CBD

It appears from research conducted that CBD can be used as a preventative measure for symptoms of CTE. However, it doesn’t appear to have the ability to prevent CTE from happening altogether. It appears its potential lies in making CTE symptoms more bearable.

Concussion – A 2015 film starring Will Smith

CTE has become a focus within the American media recently in relation to suffering from American Football stars within the NFL. Most of the media effort stems from awareness groups looking to educate people on the current state of using opioids to treat pain issues and how this is causing many sports stars to become addicted. Resulting in them having to manage addition as well as their pain symptoms.

CTE also became apparent in the 2015 film called Concussion. It is a true story that follows Will Smith as Dr Bennet Omalu, a forensic neuropathologist, who made the first discovery of CTE. He fought for the truth to be known about CTE and how it can affect sports stars. As Dr Omalu was making CTE known about, it put him up against some of the most powerful institutions and companies within the USA. It resulted in retired sports stars suing the NFL.

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