Ultimate Fighting Championship athletes will be the next group of players to participate in a multiphase clinical study on CBD’s effects on pain relief in their famously high impact sport. The league has announced that it is partnering with a Canadian cannabis company to examine the effects of non-psychoactive cannabinoids on its players’ health.
The study will be used to develop a line of hemp-derived topical treatments manufactured by Aurora Cannabis. Officials from the league say that care, recovery, injury, pain, and inflammation in the mixed martial artists will be gauged by the investigation.
Currently, 30 UFC athletes have signed up for the trial, which will be headed by a University of Alberta research scientist and Aurora’s VP of global research and medical affairs. They will receive support from a group of UFC Performance Institute sports performance researchers based in Las Vegas.
“Collaborating with Aurora is the best way to educate ourselves and our fighters about the impact of CBD on MMA athletes and our sport,” said Duncan French, UFC’s vice president of performance. “We want to apply science and see where it leads us. Ideally, these studies will give us the clarity we need to determine the effectiveness of hemp-derived CBD on athlete health and injury recovery.”
“Our partnership with UFC is about committing to the science that will educate and advocate,” Aurora CEO Terry Booth said. “We are going to work together to change the way people think, to change the industry, and to launch the first hemp-derived CBD products that are backed by scientific research.”
This is not the first pro sports league that has signed on for testing the link between athletes and the benefits of CBD. Earlier this year, the NHL Alumni Association announced that it was a co-sponsor of a study of CBD’s effects on 100 former hockey players with brain trauma.
In May, the NFL — which has traditionally held a hardline position against athletes and cannabis — made public its plans to conduct studies on cannabis as a pain relief agent. That’s a big deal. As recently as 2018, the league denied free agent Mike James his request to swap opioid painkillers for cannabis after breaking his ankle while playing for the Tampa Bay Buccaneers.
Professional sports have had a largely sketchy relationship with medicinal cannabis and its derivatives, even though many insiders say that marijuana use is prevalent, if not the norm in many leagues. In 2018, a group of former pro basketball players including Kenyon Martin and Cutting Mobley announced that most NBA players consume cannabis — in their estimate, 85 percent. Prominent ex-administrators like onetime NBA commissioner David Stern have come out in favor of athletes being able to treat their aches and pains with marijuana, but most leagues remain reluctant to allow players to use cannabis.
UFC officials said that they hoped the project would have ramifications felt around the rest of the world of professional sports.
“When you think about this, the amount of money that’s going to go into the testing and the research of this deal is going to affect our athletes, then it’s going to spill into the NFL, the NBA, and soccer,” said UFC president Dana White.