NFL, NFLPA offer $1M in grants for pain management research, including cannabis and CBD

The NFL and NFL Players Association announced Tuesday that they will issue grants totaling up to $1 million for research into alternative pain management, including cannabis and CBD, through their joint pain management committee.

In the meantime, however, marijuana use will remain restricted by the league's substance abuse policy. Applications became available Tuesday, and the league and union will award the grants in December.

Dr. Kevin Hill, co-chairman of the committee and director of the Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Center Division of Addiction Psychiatry, said in a call with reporters that "the level of interest" in using marijuana in pain management "far exceeds the level of evidence" for using it. Current research shows "some" beneficial evidence, Hill said, but the NFL and NFLPA consider those studies to be flawed.

"We want to really find out," Hill said, "are these treatments safe and do they work? This research is aimed at trying to move toward getting more definitive answers to those questions."

NFL chief medical officer Dr. Allen Sills also said it is important to understand the science behind whether medical use of marijuana could affect performance.

The NFL has issued similar requests for proposals for research into new helmet designs, among other areas of health and safety.