cannabis and athletic performance

The relationship between cannabis and sports is a topic of increasing interest, especially as cannabis legalisation gains momentum globally. This complex issue sits at the intersection of legal regulations, athletic performance, and health considerations. 

The Legal Landscape

The legalisation of cannabis has prompted a reevaluation of its status in sports. Major sports leagues and organisations like the World Anti-Doping Agency (WADA) have revised their policies in recent years. Notably, WADA removed CBD, a non-psychoactive component of cannabis, from its prohibited list in 2018, although THC remains banned. These changes reflect a growing recognition of the potential therapeutic benefits of certain cannabinoids, particularly for recovery and pain management.

Cannabis and Athletic Performance

The effects of cannabis on athletic performance are a subject of debate. Studies examining its impact on factors like endurance, strength, and reaction time have produced mixed results. For instance, a study in the “Clinical Journal of Sport Medicine” (Kennedy MC, 2017) found no significant impact of cannabis on athletic performance, though it highlighted potential alterations in psychomotor skills and judgment. Athletes using cannabis might experience changes in coordination and spatial perception, which could affect performance in certain sports.

Pain Management and Recovery

One of the most cited benefits of cannabis in sports is its role in pain management and recovery. Cannabinoids like CBD have shown promise in reducing inflammation and pain. A study in the “European Journal of Pain” (Genaro K, et al., 2017) demonstrated CBD's efficacy in animal models, suggesting potential applications for human athletes. This aspect is particularly relevant in contact sports, where chronic pain and injury recovery are significant concerns.

Mental Health and Stress Relief

Athletes often face immense mental pressure and stress. Cannabis, particularly CBD, has been studied for its potential in managing anxiety and stress. A review in “Neurotherapeutics” (Blessing EM, et al., 2015) explored CBD as a treatment for various anxiety disorders. For athletes, this could mean better stress management, improved sleep quality, and enhanced overall well-being.

Cannabis Use Among Athletes

The prevalence of cannabis use among athletes varies across sports and levels of competition. A survey published in “PLOS ONE” (Zeiger JS, et al., 2020) revealed that many athletes use cannabis for relaxation, pain relief, and sleep aid. This underscores a growing trend of athletes turning to cannabis as an alternative to traditional painkillers and anxiety medications.

Risks and Considerations

While the potential benefits are significant, the risks and considerations of cannabis use in sports cannot be overlooked. Potential negative effects include impaired coordination, altered perception, and the risk of dependency. A study in the “Journal of Neuroscience” (Gilman JM, et al., 2014) highlighted the impact of cannabis on brain function and structure, raising concerns about long-term use.

Future of Cannabis in Sports

The future of cannabis in sports hinges on further research and evolving societal attitudes. As more information becomes available, and as legalization spreads, sports organizations may continue to adjust their policies. The key will be finding a balance that acknowledges both the potential benefits and risks of cannabis use among athletes.


Cannabis and sports share a complex relationship that intersects with legal, health, and performance issues. While there are potential benefits, particularly in pain management and mental health, the risks and legal implications cannot be ignored. As research progresses, it will provide a clearer picture of how cannabis fits into the world of sports.


  • Kennedy MC. (2017). Clinical Journal of Sport Medicine.
  • Genaro K, et al. (2017). European Journal of Pain.
  • Blessing EM, et al. (2015). Neurotherapeutics.
  • Zeiger JS, et al. (2020). PLOS ONE.
  • Gilman JM, et al. (2014). Journal of Neuroscience.