Why MMA Fighters Look to CBD for Recovery
Need more evidence on the effectiveness of CBD for healing and reducing pain and inflammation? Simply look to anecdotal evidence – most notably, from professional athletes like Mixed Martial Arts (MMA) fighters Bas Rutten and Nate Diaz.
It’s one of the most physically taxing sports on the planet. Between the intense training and bloody bouts, MMA is also one of the most physically damaging to the body. If you’re unfamiliar with MMA, here’s a rundown:
- The sport of MMA is brutal: It’s designed to have minimal rules “to determine the most effective martial art for unarmed combat situations.”
- Opponents have three ways to win: by knockout, submission, or decision.
- Each non-championship fight has three five-minute rounds, with a one-minute rest between each round.
- Fighters train and use a variety of disciplines, including boxing, freestyle wrestling, Brazilian Jiu Jitsu, Jeet Kune Do, Muay Thai, Kyokushin Karate, Sansho, and Tae Kwon Do.
What Do MMA Fighters Say About CBD?
Bas Rutten is a former MMA world champion who now champions CBD as an anti-inflammatory and healthier alternative to opioids for pain management. At one point in his career, Bas became addicted to opioids for severe, chronic pain. In relating his personal experience with opioids versus CBD, he writes:
“As for my own experience with CBD, it saved me a lot of trouble after I realized that I had a painkiller problem that started after my last fight in 2006. About five weeks before the fight, all my injuries came back with a vengeance. It starts with one pill, then it becomes two, four, seven, ten, and slowly but surely, you are upping the count, and before you know it, you’re taking insane amounts of painkillers.
So, my doctor told me that there is a lot of Tylenol in Vicodin, even some in Norco, and that would be bad for my liver since I take so many. My doctor told me, ‘it’s better you go to oxycontin.’ I did, and boy that stuff is horrible. Sure you feel good, but it doesn’t help with the pain after a while, and you just take it because you are hooked.
Thankfully, I came to that realization pretty quickly and took care of it. It wasn’t as easy as I am communicating to you right now, but that story is for another time. What I want to say is that if there would have been CBD at that time, I might have not become addicted to painkillers. I really hope that all fighters and other athletes will use CBD instead of painkillers.”
Nate Diaz is an MMA fighter and current Ultimate Fighting Championship (UFC) contender who has openly vaped CBD on at a press conference after a match. To the press, he explained that CBD “helps with the healing process and inflammation, stuff like that. So you want to get these for before and after the fights, training. It’ll make your life a better place.”
At the time of the press conference, Nate risked fines and/or a suspension because CBD was technically a banned substance. However, the advocacy efforts borne by Nate and other professional athletes largely pressured the World Anti-Doping Agency to finally remove CBD from the banned substances list. As of January 2018, athletes will finally be able to openly use CBD without risking their careers.
CBD Versus Traditional Painkillers
So what’s the hype about CBD? Unlike traditional painkillers like NSAIDs, acetaminophen, and opioids, CBD has very limited negative side effects. Rather, it’s an anti-oxidant, it’s neuroprotective, and has very low toxicity levels amongst other positive benefits. While some sources report CBD may result in dry mouth, light-headedness, and/or drowsiness, these inconveniences are trivial compared to the side effects that traditional painkillers cause. For instance, acetaminophen, NSAIDs, and opioids have a range of effects that include a higher risk for stomach ulcers and gastro-intestinal bleeding, liver damage, addiction, and lowered life expectancy.
Even though the exact mechanisms for how CBD can have such wide-ranging positive effects on the body is largely unknown, anecdotal evidence from real users indicate CBD’s real benefits. While scientific proof is meaningful, it’s the stories and advocacy of real athletes, doctors, and their patients that paved the way for CBD to no longer be a banned substance in the world of professional sports.