A mixture of of extracted hemp CBD and coconut oil is transferred to capsules at Colorado hemp company CBDRx. (Kira Horvath, Daily Camera file)

CBD research for NFL players quickly gaining traction

Interest in a campaign for cannabidiol (CBD) research for NFL players continues to grow. The movement that started in Colorado and has gained steam with the backing of offensive tackle Eugene Monroe, former Bronco Jake Plummer and, most recently, Titans linebacker Derrick Morgan, has reached the NFL Players Association.

About a week after speaking with two NFL officials about the studies, Dr. Marcel Bonn-Miller, a professor of psychology at the University of Pennsylvania’s Perelman School of Medicine, said he spoke with Nyaka Niilampti, the union’s director of player wellness.

Like the NFL, the NFLPA also initiated conversations with Bonn-Miller to discuss the parameters of the studies and to learn of the research that has been done on CBD.

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“It’s really with the PA more than it is the league at this point, because they’re the ones from whom we need help,” Bonn-Miller said. “They’re in the process of circling back around to us to continue the conversation about whether they can help us out.”

Bonn-Miller and Dr. Ryan Vandrey, a professor of psychiatry and behavioral sciences at Johns Hopkins University, have teamed to study former players’ use and non-use of CBD via detailed questionnaires, and to follow a group of current players throughout the season to track their injuries, recoveries and use of CBD and other pain relievers. The active players, who will not be administered any substances by the researchers, will be asked to submit their medical records at the end of the season to provide additional data to pair with the questionnaires.

Bonn-Miller and Vandrey are looking for as many players as are willing to participate, relying primarily on the promotion by Monroe and Morgan, and word of mouth in NFL locker rooms. But support from the NFLPA, Bonn-Miller hopes, will spur further interest from active players.

The mass data collection is expected to be completed by early 2017. The quick turnaround, Bonn-Miller said, is a credit to the money raised with the “When the Bright Lights Fade” campaign, an initiative started by Colorado hemp producer CW Botanicals, its partnering nonprofit, Realm of Caring, and a group of former Broncos. The goal of raising $100,000 for the two initial studies was met when Monroe donated $80,000 to the cause.

“If we were to write a grant for this, you’re looking at two-three years from grant writing to published paper on a study like this,” he said. “Three years is probably a conservative estimate — and that is if you can find an agency to fund this type of work in the first place. So we’re doing this in a third of the time, all because of the donations. It’s pretty amazing.”

A timetable for a follow-up conversation with the union has not been set yet, but curiosity from both the league and players’ sides has been encouraging to Bonn-Miller.

“Our conversation with the NFL and Players Association has not been about policy,” he said. “They are reaching out to us to learn more about the research. That’s honestly the mostly I could ask for at this point — a productive dialogue.”

This story was first published on DenverPost.com