Another former elite level professional athlete has come out in support of medical marijuana as a therapeutic treatment for pain. Hall of Fame quarterback Joe Montana, who played most of his career in California for the San Francisco 49ers, has joined a growing community of retired athletes speaking out about their cannabis-aided healing regimen.
Montana told Playboy Magazine, “Legalization is picking up steam on a global level and I feel like now is the time to spread information about the curing capabilities of this plant. As with any medicine, increased accessibility comes with the need for education.”
Increased focus on pain relief methodology among the NFL and other professional sports leagues comes after much scrutiny of the way these businesses prioritize profits over healthcare — physical and mental. The NFL, which has been inundated with criticism in recent years for their mishandling of the league’s concussion crisis and the resulting long-term damage it can cause to players, has been notoriously behind in their acceptance of marijuana research.
— Deadspin (@Deadspin) March 21, 2018
The league caved somewhat and offered to help fund a study being conducted by the NFL Players Association, the union that represents current and former players in the league, but their assistance was declined.
Playboy spoke to eight different former NFL player about their thoughts on cannabis, including some who were trailblazers on the medical marijuana front, like Ricky Williams and Eugene Monroe, as well as other players like Montana who hadn’t spoken publicly about their use of the plant before.
In a 2016 interview with USA Today, the four-time Super Bowl champion, who retired in 1994, ran down the laundry list of physical ailments he suffers from on a daily basis. From arthritis in his hands to nerve damage in his eye, Montana feels the effects of football everywhere in his body.
“Unfortunately,” Montana said, “most of us leave this game with things that linger.” Montana was sacked over 350 times in his professional career, brutal hits that leave their mark long after his playing days were over. “My hands have been, oh my gosh, in the middle of the night they hurt like crazy. They kept saying I’ll need a knee replacement when I can’t walk. I can’t really run or do much with it.”
“After my first back surgery, what kind of compounds things, is my sciatic nerve has been damaged,” Montana added. “So the muscles along my sciatic nerve into my left foot have been numb since ’86.”
Players of Montana’s stature speaking out about their use of medical marijuana as an alternative to prescribed painkillers is a huge step in ending the opioid epidemic among athletes. A 2012 study estimated that over 52 percent of former NFL players used opioids while they played professional football, and 71 percent of them reported misusing the drugs. Many of them continue misusing once their playing days are over, as the rate of former NFL players that use opioids is three times greater than the general population.
Cover image courtesy of USA Today