Marijuana, The NFL, & Mark Brunell

Living in Washington State, I hear a lot about our current drug laws and how marijuana is legal for personal use and will soon sold in state licensed locations. During the Super Bowl media events NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell was asked if the NFL would change its drug policy in light of it being legal in Washington and Colorado, as well as avaliable in some states via perscription. With concussions being the largest concern in terms of injury with long term effects on its players, Goodell suggested that they would consider medical marijuana, though research would be need to make such a change. Pretty much being opened minded for the health and safety of the players. Then former University of Washington and Jacksonville Jaguars quarterback Mark Brunell does a segment on ESPN stating,

"I believe it’s harmful. I believe it has a negative effect on not only NFL players but anybody that does it."

Now Mark Brunell is not a doctor, he is an NFL quarterback and he should have a good idea of what NFL players have to go through just to stay competitive and deal with the pain of playing. Weekly we hear about players getting cortisone shots on Friday before a game so they can play. Recently players have replaced cortisone shots with Ketorolac, a non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drug which doctors have no data on long term risks at this point. Cortisone has been limited due to tissue damage, bone degeneration and ultimately bone death in cases, especially at the levels that NFL players would be getting them, which is weekly as per many players.

This shows the sheer ignorance that Mark Brunell displayed in his comments. First he says it is harmful. Everything can be harmful. The options NFL players have could led to far more serious health concerns. Take for instance former Strong Safety for the Seattle Seahawks Kenny Easley, who retired at the age of 28 after seven seasons due to idiopathic nephritic syndrome, a severe kidney disease. Easley was taking 20 to 30 tablets of advil a day during the NFL season to manage the pain. The NFL grinds players up, gives them drugs to be on the field, and leaves them with serious health issues after their career is over.

Mark Brunell was making a political and morality judgement, not a medical one. Even if you are skeptical of the possible positive benefits of medicial marijuana, you shouldn't judge one the doctor for perscribing it, the player for looking at his options of what could hurt him long term, and the league for being open minded about it.

What makes Mark Brunell look even worse is that he views marijuana as harmful to anyone who does it. Everything is harmful. Alcohol is harmful. Cars are harmful. Water is harmful. He is making a morality judgement on anyone making a choice, and that is a very narrow and uninformed view. For someone who is college educated, he should look at why marijuana was classified as a schedule 1 narcotic, the same category as herion, LSD, and Quaaludes.

With laws changing and years evidence the medical use of marijuana is growing in the treatment of cancer patients, patients with sevre epilepsy, glaucoma, Tourette syndrome, among others including brain injuries and chronic pain. The two most common issues effecting players today in the NFL. While it will take years for the NFL to change its drug policy, having an open mind to allow players to medicate with something that may help them and limit long term effects on their health seems to be a good direction. I hope Mark Brunell does a little more research because making such a statement in the future.