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Marijuana and Athletes: Does it help or hurt athletic performance?

ByAlexis Peltzer-Harding

Published on Mon Sep 13 2021

|

2 min read

Marijuana and Athletes: Does it help or hurt athletic performance?

Athletes are held to a golden standard. Up until their college debut, they are thought to avoid things that would impair their athletic ability so as to remain in top shape. However, how bad are some of these substances? The more studies were done on marijuana the more we are learning about how the drug can harm and help athletes.

Up until recent years, the idea of using marijuana seemed solely recreational and taboo. With the legalization of it came more interest around the drug and what effects it truly has on people.

The most common medical use of marijuana recently is for inflammation. Every athlete has had their own battles with sports injuries, but inflamed muscles and joints are mostly universal. The CBD agent in marijuana helps to calm that relentless aching. There are even versions of the drug that athletes can adopt without the "high" of smoking cannabis.

An even simpler use is just for soreness and pain. This is a less chronic need for the drug, however, it can help for a quicker feeling of recovery so an athlete is back up and ready to play just as hard in the following games. This also provides a more natural alternative for those that do not want to risk addiction to prescription painkillers.

Marijuana has also been proven as a calming agent that helps with stress and sleep. Many times before a big game day athletes will have trouble sleeping. They sit up late, strategizing in their mind or telling themselves that they can't mess up. This is harmful to the psyche of an aspiring professional athlete and the less sleep they get, the worse their performance will be.

While it's great to just believe that marijuana is all helpful, that's not the case. Marijuana, like anything in life, has its downsides.

The obvious downside to smoking cannabis is that smoking it will affect your lungs. A major deterrent is that it makes it harder to have the same level of endurance while smoking marijuana. While there is not enough evidence to link marijuana to cancer, it does cause some structural damage to the lungs the more that it is smoked.

Your lungs are an extremely important part of staying active and healthy as an athlete so smoking anything can cause integral damage that may not seem worth it long-term.

On a less intensive ideal, it can also impair the way that you play during a game. For the same reason driving while high is not recommended (nor legal), neither is participating in a sporting event. It can impair basic motor skills and, depending on age, have long-lasting effects on the development of coordination.

This con can mostly be avoided if the use of cannabis is done well in advance or post-competition or practice. Many people also report having a "foggy mindset" for as long as the entire next day after smoking so it is recommended that you should not have extended use prior to athletic performance.

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