This far into the game, CBD is practically a household term. Hemp products hold mainstream appeal, and CBD is enjoying a spotlight of acceptance. That garnered acceptance for CBD doesn’t extend across all aspects of life, though, which brings us to our subject. Should professional athletes use CBD?

Certain institutions still watch CBD with doubt. These tend to be certain professions in the business world and things like sports. Sports organizations seem to be on the fence concerning CBD. Some mainstream sports networks already give athletes the green light to use it.

So, should professional athletes use CBD? Is there any benefit to using CBD in the world of competition? Today, we’ll go over CBD and its current place in the world of sports. Then, you can judge its potential in the sports world.

What is CBD?

CBD is a non-psychoactive cannabinoid in cannabis plants. It’s one of over 100+ compounds in hemp.

All humans have a natural endocannabinoid system (ECS) in their bodies. The ECS across the body affects everything from hormone regulation to nerve responses. All these functions work together to maintain homeostasis within the body. That ensures all your systems are working right. 

CBD is one of the cannabinoid compounds that naturally interacts with ECS receptors. The effects of CBD on the ECS include help with everything from inflammation to sleep. 

Can Athletes Use CBD?

Tides of public opinion have been changing for a few years now regarding cannabis-derived compounds. CBD has found itself at the center of multiple studies looking into the medicinal benefits cannabis can provide. 

With the change from a social menace to a household name, cannabis has changed opinions even in professional sports. That doesn’t mean all organizations are willing to give CBD the green light, though.

Where Can Athletes Use CBD?

Even sports that allow CBD usage still have varying and strict guidelines surrounding hemp compounds. The amount of THC in CBD products can vary. Some may cause issues with professional sports organizations. 

In 2018 the WADA (World Anti-Doping Agency) removed CBD from its list of prohibited substances. That doesn’t mean all, or even most, cannabinoids also made the cut. Let’s look at the status of CBD and other hemp compounds across different major league sports.


The NFL holds a long-standing history of ensuring professional players don’t use cannabis. Even with the legalization of hemp from the 2018 Farm Bill, athletes caution against using CBD. Drug tests may reveal trace THC amounts in almost all mainstream CBD products.

If a CBD product exceeds 0.3% THC, football players run the risk of breaking the rules.

Coaches recommend professional NFL players err on the side of caution. Athletes should choose extremely transparent and well-tested companies if they decide to use CBD. 

This doesn’t mean the NFL will never change its outlook on CBD. NFL officials state that further research and study surrounding CBD use will help them clarify their rules around it.

The NFL could approve such a thing in the future as long as the benefits are clearly defined. Likewise, these products must not cause problems for players on the field. 


The NBA, unlike the NFL, doesn’t seem to be as much of a stickler when it comes to cannabinoids. In fact, the NBA removed cannabis from its banned substance list in April 2023. And, moving forward, players can promote and invest in cannabis companies.

CBD falls well within this new protection. Nothing seems bars basketball athletes from using CBD at their own discretion. 


The MLB has also made long strides in removing the social stigma of cannabis. Several former MLB All-Stars are vocal proponents of CBD. Likewise, current players finally have access to CBD in their regimens.

The MLB was actually the first major league to remove cannabis from its banned substance list. In 2019, the league wholly replaced cannabis with opioids as the main targeted banned substance.

The drastic change still helps players’ well-being progress. It also gives athletes more options for treating sports-related issues outside of pharmaceuticals.


The NHL has had a much more relaxed approach to cannabis. They haven’t sent players to recovery treatment, fining, or suspending them for testing positive on cannabis tests. For all intents and purposes, CBD is above board for NHL players.

It’s already widely acknowledged that hockey takes a massive toll on the body. Treating those injuries takes priority, especially when it avoids addictive opioids. 

Many proponents for cannabis and its medical potential already exist within the organization. That includes Stanley Cup champion Darren McCarty and the Edmonton Oilers Captain Connor McDavid.

MMA & Other Fighting Sports

Unsurprisingly, MMA sports, such as the UFC, are extremely rigorous events that often result in injury. Athletes competing in mixed martial arts can cause drastic injuries even if they are well-trained and in great shape.

As of 2018, the UFC Anti-Doping Agency has removed CBD from its list of prohibited substances. Ever since the change, several MMA fighters – both members of the UFC and outsiders – express interest in the hemp compound. 

Famous names such as Nate Diaz, Joe Rogan, Donald Cerrone, Rampage Jackson, and others are vocal proponents of CBD.  

4+ Benefits When Athletes Use CBD

For the sports that don’t shy away from CBD there is a litany of benefits an athlete could utilize. It’s not in terms of performance enhancing, but more in keeping them in their best healthy condition to play. 

So many underlying factors can impact how well an athlete is playing. Everything from mild joint pain to un-restful sleep can put a hamper on someone’s efforts.

Let’s look at the potential benefits an athlete might resonate with when it comes to CBD. These benefits could help athletes stay at the top of their game.


This sneaky issue can creep up on even the most diligent athletes. Inflammation isn’t always visible swelling. 

Organs, muscles, and the spaces between joints can all undergo inflammation without displaying surface symptoms. Mild discomfort or even disrupted sleep might be the sole indicators of hidden issues.

Unfortunately, untreated inflammation can lead to many undesirable long-term issues. These might include: 

  • Autoimmune Diseases (i.e. rheumatoid arthritis.)
  • High Blood Pressure
  • Depression
  • Gastrointestinal Disorders

These examples are only a few known issues associated with inflammation. 

CBD undergoes continuous scrutiny, but its anti-inflammatory properties show promising potential. Research around CBD indicates it can reduce cytokines responsible for inflammation and modulate the immune system response. That helps hinder the excessive proliferation of T cells, preventing your body from going into overdrive with inflammation.

nighttime-softgelcapsBetter Sleep

The anti-inflammatory potential is just the beginning of CBD’s benefits. Athletes can face additional issues that impact them. Among these, one critical yet frequently neglected concern is restful sleep.

Sleep research indicates that continuous sleep disturbances have an accumulating adverse effect. A single night of poor or insufficient sleep can greatly disrupt alertness, energy levels, and performance.

Even obtaining a full 9 hours of sleep doesn’t assure quality. A night of restless sleep is as detrimental as a night with too little rest. So, it’s good that research shows a lot of promise for CBD to help with sleep. It may help you fall asleep easier, rest for longer, and rest deeper to experience better-quality sleep, overall.

Ease Sore Muscles

This point holds immense importance for CBD and sports. Being an athlete already strains the body significantly. Sports-related injuries span from soreness to fractures and more.

Numerous studies suggest CBD’s strong potential to alleviate the soreness linked with physical exertion. It achieves this by regulating pain signals through the endocannabinoid system. CBD’s impact helps with DOMS (delayed onset muscle soreness) and related pain. It can aid recovery after workouts or injuries.

When coupled with its natural anti-inflammatory and muscle-relaxing effects, it’s clear why athletes emphasize adding CBD to their routines. The combination reduces downtime and fosters training consistency.

CBD+ delta 8 gummiesOther Pain Relief

Lastly, CBD may also help with other soreness or aching your body could be experiencing. Research shows a lot of potential for CBD and various types of pain. While more research is necessary, the promise of what CBD might offer is there. 

For many users, that’s enough to get them to try it. And when you incorporate CBD into your daily routine, the results speak for themselves. There’s a reason the hemp compound continues to grow in popularity.

Should Athletes Use CBD for Performance and Recovery?

In conclusion, CBD holds promise as a natural supplement for athletes. However, more research is needed to understand its effects on performance and recovery better. 

Athletes should approach CBD use with caution. Professionals should ensure they know the product’s contents, quality, and potential interactions with their sport’s regulations. It’s always recommended to consult with healthcare professionals before adding any new supplement to one’s routine.

Regardless, there’s a lot to love about CBD. It makes sense that its acceptance continues to grow. We’re excited to see in the coming years how CBD takes off. It’ll be interesting to see which athletes are repping which hemp brands!