With much of the NFL world camped out in the San Francisco Bay Area in the lead up to today’s Super Bowl 50, researchers released sobering news: late Oakland Raiders quarterback Ken Stabler had a degenerative brain disease associated with repeated blows to the head.
Last Wednesday, another late, great QB, Earl Morrall, was likewise revealed to have had chronic traumatic encephalopathy (CTE), a degenerative brain disease associated with memory loss, impaired judgment and progressive dementia.
Dozens of former players have been diagnosed, some who died in old age, like Frank Gifford, and a few who took their lives, like Junior Seau.
There is no known treatment for CTE for the major reason that there’s no test that can point it out in the living. Only post-mortem brain scans can detect the presence of the disease.
But to one former player who’s sure his nine-year career gave him the disease, there’s an obvious treatment that isn’t allowed in the NFL, even though it would be easy to score just blocks from northern California’s Levi’s Stadium on Super Bowl Sunday for anyone with a doctor’s note.
That treatment is medical marijuana.
“If cannabis is implemented and (the NFL) can lead the science on this, they can resolve this brain injury situation in a big way,” Kyle Turley said.
Turley is at the forefront of a vocal movement which is arguing that medical marijuana’s pain-suppressing and possible neuro-protective benefits make it potentially potent treatment for the effects that chronic concussive blows to the head have on football players.
As co-founder of the Gridiron Cannabis Coalition, Turley is the movement’s most outspoken member, but it also includes other retired players and hip-hop legend and marijuana entrepreneur Snoop Dogg.
While only a small body of research suggests marijuana can heal head trauma, Turley wonders why the league isn’t doing more to study the drug as a possible medicine.
To other advocates, hosting the Super Bowl in the Bay Area, where almost half of California’s medical cannabis licenses have been issued, appears as almost hypocritical.
“The NFL’s policy against medical marijuana is stupid and counterproductive,” said Dale Gieringer, director of the California chapter of NORML, in an email calling the NFL out of touch with the laws of the state. “There’s no doubt NFL players would be better off with medical access to marijuana.”