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Marijuana usage in the NFL to be reconsidered

Imagine your Sunday afternoons as you sit down on the couch in front of the television in your living room and flip on Sunday Night Football on NBC. Your typical Sunday has seemingly become a part of your weekly routine and something to look forward to during the week. However, the image of your favorite sporting league could soon be tainted if it were to allow the use of marijuana.

The proposed eradications of strictly placed guidelines regarding marijuana use set in place after the National Football League’s (NFL) collective bargaining agreement by certain members of the NFL’s Player Association jeopardizes the legitimacy of the league and threatens to cast a shadow of uncertainty on a league already facing decreasing viewership.

28 states allow the use of medical marijuana, and after the recent election results, the number of states that allow the recreational use of the drug more than tripled, increasing from two to seven states. Several NFL teams now play in areas where the recreational use of marijuana has been legalized. The 49ers, the Raiders, the Chargers and the Rams play in recently weed-legalized California, along with the Patriots in Massachusetts. These teams join the likes of the Broncos and the Seahawks, who already play in Colorado and Washington, both states who have legalized marijuana for recreational use.

The National Football League Players Association (NFLPA) are currently advocating for the largely detrimental use of marijuana as a painkiller to be allowed for NFL players. The current status which was set forth after the collective bargaining agreement prohibits marijuana. If players are tested positive or fail to adhere to the tests they can be suspended without pay.

Stating that marijuana should be legal as a painkiller is an absurd excuse for allowing it, as there would be no way of determining whether the drug was used for medical or recreational use. Apart from the impossibility of enforcing the rule, marijuana is a dangerous substance that would inhibit the ability of the players to compete, which is what they are being paid millions of dollars to do. It is scientifically proven that marijuana impairs hand-eye coordination and a fast reaction time. Marijuana also reduces motor coordination, tracking ability and perceptual accuracy, diminishes concentration, and hinders time perception.

Hand-eye coordination may be the single most important skill for any football player. New York Giants wide receiver Odell Beckham Jr., may be most remembered for his impossible one-handed catch by the sideline for a touchdown against the Dallas Cowboys in 2014. However, it is likely that if he had been getting high smoking a few joints with his buddies before the game for “medical purposes,” his hand-eye coordination would have been so poor that the football would have likely hit the frame of his facemask and bounced out of bounds for an incomplete pass.

Other side effects of the use of marijuana include the reduction of maximal exercise capacity, resulting in increased fatigability. If NFL players were to be allowed to use marijuana as a painkiller teams would likely be forced to schedule fewer practices. The NFL might as well go ahead and reduce the length of the game to two 12 minute halves as players would be so winded that they wouldn’t even be able to explode quickly off the line of scrimmage, let alone catch a quick slant for a first down.  Skill impairment may last up to 24 to 36 hours after usage, making it just as bad to smoke a few days before the game compared to directly before.

Allowing NFL players to use marijuana as a painkiller would be a huge step backwards for an already scrutinized professional sports league. Conventional opioid painkillers provide minimal risks if used under the correct circumstances. Therefore, marijuana should have no place in American football.

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