Medicinal Cannabis Helping Athletes With Chronic Pain

Living with chronic pain is a reality for many top athletes, in snow sports as much as others. It’s amazing what they can put up with and still keep competing – like Russ Henshaw who spent 2 Olympics in pain. He described his first training session for the Sochi Olympics like this, “It was excruciating. After my first day of training I honestly thought I was going to have to pull out, I didn’t think I’d be able to compete. So just for me to be able to drop in and do my run was a success.”

Russ Henshaw turning it on at Perisher; he spent a career often in pain © Perisher Resorts

Given that it’s great to see progress being made on the treatment front. Levin Health supplied this report – they are field leaders in the topic, especially with their medicinal cannabis research.

Aussie sporting stars have joined forces to break down the stigma around medicinal cannabis as Therapeutic Use Exemptions in sport for chronic pain continue to rise.

Current members of sports science company Levin Health’s Sports Advisory Board including one of Australia’s greatest Rugby League players Andrew Johns, Olympic basketball champion Lauren Jackson, as well as Non-Executive Director and Olympic Hockey star Jenn Morris have voiced support on Therapeutic Use Exemptions in sport following their own respective battles with chronic pain. Therapeutic Use Exemptions, otherwise known as a TUE, grant athletes permission to take a medication that is ordinarily prohibited for the treatment of a medical condition, including chronic pain. Athletes granted an exemption will be able to take the restricted medication while still being able to compete in their sporting field.

Before her unprecedented come back to the basketball court at this year’s FIBA World Cup, Lauren Jackson applied for her own Therapeutic Use Exemption in order to continue her treatment plan using medicinal cannabis, making it possible for her to make an official return to the basketball season. Ms. Jackson is currently playing with the Southside Flyers, with the first games having commenced earlier this month.

“Therapeutic Use Exemptions are incredibly significant for those who want to continue doing what they love while on a doctor approved treatment plan that works for them and their needs. Ongoing severe pain from sport related injuries is still very prominent and I’ve been no stranger to chronic pain, which originally saw me retire from basketball years ago. I’ve applied for my own TUE so I can continue to make my return to the sport I enjoy, while also remaining pain free,” said Ms Jackson.

Rugby League legend Andrew Johns has been vocal on his support for the medicinal cannabis industry, joining Levin Health’s Sports Advisory Board this year to help break down the stigma surrounding natural medicine.

Andrew Johns is on board on the Board © Levin Health

Johns is one of only four players to have won the Golden Boot Award more than once and one of only two to have won the Dally M Medal for best player in the NRL three times, wrapped up his playing career in 2007 due to a bulging disc in his neck that threatened serious spinal injury and, as a result, he has been left with ongoing chronic pain.

Amid increasing medicinal cannabis prescriptions rates across Australia, the star said that Therapeutic Use Exemptions could see players make a return to sport pain free and could even drive down rates of more harmful medications.

“I’ve had ongoing chronic pain following injuries that occurred during my years as an active player and have sought treatment with my doctor for alternative medicines,” said Mr Johns.

“I’ve since been able to fulfill my passions and return to the water with surfing with little discomfort and I really want to de-stigmatise the notion that is still so prevalent around medicinal cannabis. I support exemptions for treatments including medicinal cannabis in sport, which could allow for more athletes to continue their treatment plans and might even offer an alternative to opioids, which can come with unpleasant side effects.

“I’m thrilled to still be an active member on Levin Health’s Sports Advisory Board, alongside a credible list of other sporting names, in bid to help educate others and find ways for those living with chronic pain to lead a pain free lifestyle.”

Former Olympian and Non-Executive Director Jenn Morris has also voiced support on Therapeutic Use Exemptions for chronic pain.

“Regardless of whether it’s amateur or professional, many sports can be brutal on the body leading to lasting effects. Chronic pain and challenges associated with the condition can produce ongoing side-effects for an increasing number of athletes and many might not be able to find a suitable treatment plan,” said Ms Morris. “I know research efforts are continuing to look into ways to help those suffering with chronic pain and Therapeutic Use Exemptions are allowing athletes to continue to participate while receiving vital treatments for their pain.”

With growing research and clinical applications regarding the use of CBD to treat chronic pain, Managing Director of Levin Health, Mark Brayshaw said Australia is taking its next step in embracing Medicinal Cannabis for sports treatments for numerous athletes.

“The more research that is developed and published means we have more knowledge of how medicinal cannabis may be able to help those suffering with chronic pain, which is proving to be an ongoing issue in sports with more players coming forth with their own respective pain battles,” said Mr Brayshaw. “The process of Therapeutic Use Exemptions have been put in place to recognise medicinal cannabis as a viable treatment option for those prescribed and it allows for those players to continue playing in the sport they love whilst remaining pain free. It’s also helping to break down the stigma surrounding medicinal cannabis and help it become more accepted in society as an option to treat chronic pain in the wider community.”

Chronic pain is now the leading indication of increasing medicinal cannabis prescriptions according to the TGA dashboard figures, with over 100,000 prescriptions for the condition in 2022 alone, with patients ranging across older and younger generations across all genders.

Levin Health has received ethics approval for a world-leading clinical trial earlier this year to investigate the effectiveness of medicinal cannabis in treating people with chronic pain following musculoskeletal injury. The company will also complete a world-leading clinical trial investigating the efficacy of its patented medicinal cannabis formula, clinically validating its use in the treatment of pain.

That can only benefit the wider community too. And not before time – the community attitude has been well ahead of governments in this field for a long time.