• CBD has been observed to have potent anti-inflammatory, neuroprotective, and analgesic properties as it shows the ability to reduce post-exercise pain and discomfort(1).  
  • Studies suggest that CBD oil may offer anxiolytic, anti-inflammatory, antidepressant, and antioxidant benefits(2).
  • Research is very preliminary and derived mainly from preclinical studies. There are inconclusive findings on the physiological processes explaining the role of CBD in sports performance(3)

Benefits of CBD for Sports

CBD shows potent anti-inflammatory, neuroprotective, and analgesic properties in preclinical trials as it relieves pain among athletes. 

CBD has beneficial effects on sports pain as it shows the ability to reduce post-exercise pain and discomfort(4).  

CBD may have various physiological, pharmacological, and psychological impacts that could be beneficial to athletes, such as in cases of primary and secondary injury pain(5).

Helps With Pain

Cannabis has demonstrated help in reducing sports pain, especially musculoskeletal pain from exercise and stiff joints. Despite the lack of scientific data, CBD purportedly functions as a pain reliever for many athletes (6)

Helps Manage Inflammation 

Inflammation affects athlete performance. Cannabinoids, as a new class of anti-inflammatory agents, may have an anti-inflammatory effect by reducing cytokine or cell messengers production(7).

Helps Lessen Anxiety

Management of an athlete’s anxiety is necessary to avoid declining performance. In this case, CBD may be beneficial for its anxiolytic properties. CBD may be helpful for athletes to feel less anxious before, during, and after stressful circumstances(8)

Helps Enhance Sleep

Athletes frequently experience overreaching and overtraining due to excessive training loads and insufficient recovery time between sessions. These conditions are often accompanied by sleep disturbances and disorders, resulting in poor sleep quality. CBD may stimulate the endocannabinoid system, regulating sleep and the sleep-wake cycle(9).

What Is CBD?

CBD, also known as cannabidiol, comes from the Cannabis sativa plant. CBD does not contain tetrahydrocannabinol (THC), the psychoactive component of marijuana.

The usual CBD formulation is oil, though CBD is also available as an extract, a vaporized liquid, and an oil-based capsule.

Studies About CBD and Sports Performance

Every athlete’s recovery could determine their physical, physiological, and cognitive performance. Recovery is essential considering the high frequency and density of competitions. The need for athletes to recover led the coaches, researchers, and athletes to manage strategies for general exercise regimens (10).

Studies suggest that CBD offers beneficial properties such as anxiolytics, anti-inflammatory, antidepressants, and antioxidants. Research indicates that CBD could be utilized as a part of recovery techniques for exhaustion and athletic joint pain caused by physical and mental stress in sports(11).

Preclinical research and clinical trials have shown CBD to help repair traumatic injuries after a fall having potent anti-inflammatory, neuroprotective, and analgesic properties(12)

Usage and Dosage of CBD

How an athlete consumes any CBD product may affect how quickly its effect may be experienced(13)

CBD is often consumed orally as oil or maybe ingested in other forms such as gel capsules, tinctures, sports drinks, and edibles like gummies. In addition, there are products in the form of topical creams and lotions that contain CBD oil. 

Tinctures and drops, meanwhile, can be placed under the tongue to enter the bloodstream quickly. Moreover, high concentration CBD “vape oils” for use in e-cigarette devices can be smoked or vaporized(14).

CBD is available as “full-spectrum” or “isolate”. CBD products classified as full-spectrum have CBD and essential compounds from the original plant and may contain small traces of THC. CBD derived from industrial hemp has THC, which is less than .3%. On the other hand, products that contain CBD isolate should only contain CBD. 

No standard dose of CBD delivers a consistent effect for all individuals. CBD products are not regulated by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration; hence, it is essential to consult medical advice from a healthcare professional.

Side Effects of CBD

The WHO (World Health Organization) indicated that CBD is generally well tolerated with a good safety profile(15). Adverse side effects of CBD may result from drug-drug interactions between CBD use and the individual’s existing medications

Adverse effects of CBD for some individuals may include fatigue, drowsiness, nausea, and irritability. These side effects necessitate the potential users to seek advice from healthcare professionals before using a certain amount of CBD products(16).

Safeness of CBD

It is vital to recognize that studies are very preliminary and derived mainly from preclinical research. The studies are limited in their generalisability to athletes.

The main point is that there are no studies directly examining CBD’s effects on sports performance; there are only existing hypotheses to date(17).

Legality of CBD

CBD is found in all cannabis plants, derived from either hemp or marijuana. However, CBD products are only federally legal if derived from hemp and contain less than 0.3 percent THC(18).

The Farm Bill removed hemp, which includes low-THC derivatives of cannabis, from the definition of marijuana(19).

The World Anti-Doping Agency (WADA) declared on September 29, 2017, that CBD would be removed from its list of banned substances the following year. Thus, CBD products are considered legal in sports as they were removed from the list of prohibited drugs. 

The U.S. Anti-Doping Agency cautions that all other cannabinoids remain prohibited during competitions(20).

  1. Cannabidiol and Sports Performance: a Narrative Review of Relevant Evidence and Recommendations for Future Research https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC7338332/
  2. Potential Role of Cannabidiol on Sports Recovery: A Narrative Review https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC8369499/#B23
  3. ibid
  4. Cannabidiol and Sports Performance: a Narrative Review of Relevant Evidence and Recommendations for Future Research https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC7338332/
  5. ibid
  6. Role of Cannabinoids in Pain Management https://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/pii/B9780323401968000565
  7. Cannabinoids as novel anti-inflammatory drugs https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/20191092/
  8. Cannabidiol in sport: Ergogenic or else? https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/32205233/#
  9. Potential Role of Cannabidiol on Sports Recovery: A Narrative Review https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC8369499/
  10. ibid
  11. ibid
  12. Cannabidiol and Sports Performance: a Narrative Review of Relevant Evidence and Recommendations for Future Research https://sportsmedicine-open.springeropen.com/articles/10.1186/s40798-020-00251-0
  13. ibid
  14. ibid
  15. World Health Organization Reports CBD Oil Is Generally Safe https://www.rtor.org/2019/07/05/who-report-on-cbd-oil/
  16. ibid
  17. ibid
  18. Cannabidiol (CBD)-what we know and what we don’t https://www.health.harvard.edu/blog/cannabidiol-cbd-what-we-know-and-what-we-dont-2018082414476
  19. Hemp Production and the 2018 Farm Bill https://www.fda.gov/news-events/congressional-testimony/hemp-production-and-2018-farm-bill-07252019
  20. What Pharmacists Should Know to Counsel Athletes About CBD for Pain Management https://www.uspharmacist.com/article/what-pharmacists-should-know-to-counsel-athletes-about-cbd-for-pain-management
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