Why Can’t Weed Be Friends?
With the landscape of marijuana culture in North America changing rapidly and drastically with legalization here or looming, many questions as to how cannabis use is perceived are coming to the surface. Traditionally athletes have been viewed as health conscious individuals, singularity focused on being primed for competition. Most professional sports leagues in North America list marijuana as a banned substance (NFL, NBA, MLB, Olympics, and most strictly the NCAA), with varying tests and acceptable levels. As a point of interest, the NHL does not list cannabis as a banned substance subjecting its players to minimal testing and non punitive punishments for infractions. With legalization here or coming is it possible that the views of these leagues will soften or change when the substance in question is no longer illegal? Will modern studies prove potential usefulness or debunk perceived downfalls of mixing pot and sport?
Could Marijuana Boost Athletic Performance?
In short, maybe. More and more people are (at least owning up to) using pot before or after exercise. Asking around the local gym more than a few people we willing to admit to smoking or vaping marijuana either before or after a work out. Spotting reasons from helping unwind before bed after an evening pump, to using marijuana for its pain managing properties after intense training more people are using weed as a post work out. Whether it be a communal joint after a rec game at the pitch our outside the rink the lines between pot and sport are being blurred.
Athletes taking part in longer, more gruelling activities such as distance running are becoming more likely to use marijuana prior to their activities to improve focus through a state of mental relaxation. A lightened mind can be less likely to count reps, or miles, and focus on the activity at hand. Even people engaging in team sport could have argument as to the benefit of the use of cannabis prior to a match or game. Marijuana can free the mind of inhibition without fading physical control often resulting in more fluid ability to react creatively without taking the extra split second to think. Extreme athletes such as mountain bikers and snowboarders have kept it no secret that for many of them toking up is a great way to get in the zone. The freeing feeling of being lifted helps them to enjoy their sports to the fullest.
Downfalls of Pot and Sport.
As with all things there are a few glaring yings to the proverbial yang of the potential benefits to cannabis on athletic performance. We don’t know everything there is to know about the effects of cannabis but it is important to take into consideration some of the things we do.
Being high on marijuana increases the natural heart rate. Coupled with the acceleration of strenuous activity a heightened number of beats per minute can cause an athlete to reach their threshold faster. Continuous use can cause lower reaction time, and being high has been linked with decreased alertness. The potential for Anxiety as opposed to the loose, easy feeling coupled with upgraded performance is also something to consider before smoking up prior to sports.
The decline in IQ associated with long time marijuana use likely isn’t going to assist in reaching any personal bests. Finally, we’re all familiar with the fact that smoking can damage your lungs. Although smoking pot has lower risks of lung disease compared to tobacco, marijuana smoke does contain a number of carcinogens and has been associated with an increased likelihood of chronic bronchitis.
It will be interesting to see how potential legalization affects the perception of marijuana and sports. Eventually it may even be removed from banned substance lists. Strict marijuana laws make conducting studies difficult. Whether or not pot and sport grow closer is yet to be seen. Until then professional competitors had best stay away, while amateurs should keep an open mind and do what suits them best.