BY Adam Lewis 05:40PM 01/27/2014

Carroll supports NFL look at pot to help players

The NFL is looking into whether medicinal marijuana can help players deal with head injuries and muscle pain. Seahawks coach Pete Carroll said Monday he’s open to the idea.

Seahawks coach Pete Carroll said he wants the league to do whatever it can to protect players from brain injuries. / Drew Sellers, Sportspress Northwest

Last week, NFL commissioner Roger Goodell said the league would consider allowing players to use marijuana as a way to treat concussions and brain injuries.

After the Seahawks completed practice on what coach Pete Carroll labels “Tell the Truth Monday,” the Seattle coach was asked if letting players use pot for medicinal purposes might be a good idea.

“I would say that we have to explore and find ways to make our game a better game and take care of our players in whatever way possible,” Carroll said.

The NFL’s collective bargaining agreement forbids players from using marijuana, recreationally¬† or medicinally. During the regular season, the Seahawks felt the brunt of the rule when CB Walter Thurmond was suspended four games and CB Brandon Browner indefinitely, both reportedly for testing positive for marijuana.

In 2013, Washington and Colorado became the first states to legalize the recreational use of the drug, though it’s been available for medicinal purposes in California for nearly 20 years. In 1996, California voters passed Proposition 215 with a 56 percent majority vote.

In 1998, Washington, Alaska and Oregon legalized medical marijuana. By 2014, 20 states, and the District of Columbia, allowed doctor-prescribed pot to treat pain. The NFL hasn’t followed the pattern, but that could change.

“I’m not a medical expert,” Goodell said last week while announcing the winners to “Head Health Challenge,” a program the league created last year that will devote $20 million to funding research for traumatic brain injuries.

The NFL partnered with General Electric for the Head Health Challenge. Together they gave 16 payments of $300,000 to private companies and research universities specializing in head-injury research.

For perspective: Under U.S. tax code, the NFL is a non-profit trade organization, which means it is tax-exempt.

The $9 billion the league earned last year from television contracts, tickets sales and merchandise is taxed, however.

In 2011, the last year Goodell’s salary was made public after the league filed its tax returns, he earned nearly $30 million.

“We will obviously follow signs,” Goodell said last week. “We will follow medicine and if they determine that this could be a proper usage than in any context, we will consider that. Our medical experts are not saying that right now.”

Others are. Last week, the HBO Series “Real Sports with Bryant Gumbel” aired an investigative story that claimed 50 to 60 percent of NFL players were using marijuana to help limit muscle pain and head trauma. In the segment, they interviewed an Israeli doctor who found that mice exhibiting signs of head trauma showed reduced concussion symptoms when exposed to marijuana.

Monday Carroll was open-minded.

“Regardless of what other stigmas may be involved,” he said, “we have to do this because the world of medicine is doing this.”


  • oldfan

    If HBO’s numbers are right, that 60% of the league is using marijuana for medical reason, it certainly casts the Browner and Thurmond situation in a different light.
    At the very least the NFL should look at better, more effective pain meds than the one that caused Michael Robinson such disastrous problems.

  • jafabian

    Nearly all states in the US would have to allow marijuana to be used for both medical and recreation for the NFL to consider chaning their current policy IMO. They have a strong anti-drug/illegal subtances policy for a reason and would need more motivation than just “it’s legal in Washington and Colorado” for them to overturn it.