Marijuana for Pain in Spotlight Following Steve Kerr’s Admission


The discussion on whether or not athletes should be allowed to use marijuana for pain has been sparked again this week. The Warriors head coach Steve Kerr, appeared on The Warriors Insider Podcast last Friday and discussed his own attempts to use marijuana for pain as well as the dangerous effects of prescription drugs. Now the topic is hot for debate again, as athletes continue to express similar sentiments. As it stands, marijuana is banned from the NBA and athletes and coaches alike are expected to withhold from using the plant for both medicinal and recreational purposes. For the kind of debilitating pain often suffered by athletes, prescription drugs are recommended.

Kerr’s Dabbling in Marijuana for Pain

While Kerr smoked marijuana twice, he inevitably took another course of action for pain management.

Kerr had to take a leave of absence during last year’s season after suffering from a spinal fluid leak during surgery he was undergoing for a ruptured disk. He was still in a great amount of pain when he returned to the sidelines and expressed that he was willing to try any kind of treatment that would offer him some relief from the debilitating agony. He admitted to smoking weed 2 times over the 18 month period he’d been dealing with the pain. He found that smoking marijuana wasn’t an effective treatment for dealing with his pain, but he found that it was a much safer and healthier option than Vicodin and OxyContin, which are highly addictive and potentially lethal opioids that are prescribed freely within the NBA.

“I think it’s only a matter of time before the NBA, the NFL and Major League Baseball realize that. And I would hope, especially for these NFL guys, who are basically involved in a car wreck every Sunday – and maybe 4 days later, the following Thursday, which is another insane thing the NFL does – but I would hope that league will come to its senses and institute a different sort of program where they can help these guys get healthier rather than getting hooked on these painkillers.”

Patient Preference for Pot

Research shows patients showing a preference for marijuana over prescription opioids.

According to the data accumulated by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention in 2014, over 14,000 people around the country died from overdoses that involved prescription opioids. There has never been a single reported case of a person dying from marijuana. Dr. Daniel Clauw, a pain specialist at the University of Michigan, published a study of 250 people who used both marijuana and opioids for chronic pain. He observed that the opioid use went down, while the marijuana use went up. “Two-thirds decrease in their opioid dose,” he said, adding, “they also noted that they just felt a lot better overall with respect to side-effect profile when their pain was being controlled largely with cannabinoids.”

Professional Sports vs. Public Opinion

The use of marijuana for pain by athletes is destined to be a topic that continues into the new year. As the stigma around marijuana continues to drop, it becomes harder to justify the denial of its medicinal uses for those who work hard in the field of sports. This November’s ballot saw 4 states, including California, legalize the plant for recreational purposes and 4 more legalize medical marijuana. 1/5 of the country now has a legal marijuana market while well over half has legalized medical cannabis services. It seems that it is only a matter of time before sports organizations such as the NBA, NFL and Major League Baseball catch up.


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