3 Reasons Combat Sports Athletes Should Be Using CBD

Many notable Combat Sports Athletes have become adopters of CBD as a potential means of reducing the risk of brain damage, reducing stress and aiding sleep. Who are Combat Sports Athletes? These are men, women, and kids practicing and competing in sports such as Boxing, Wrestling, and Martial Arts such as Brazilian Jiu Jitsu, Muay Thai and Mixed Martial Arts. Most athletes can benefit from CBD products, but Combat Sports Athletes have some unique conditions. For starters, most of these sports do not have an off season. Grappling based sports are quite rough on the hands and striking sports have the risk of knock outs in practice. It is noteworthy that with the advent of MMA, many Americans are participating in Combat Sports.

In the world of MMA, Nate Diaz’s infamous press conference put CBD on the map as a potential recovery agent. In the No Gi Brazilian Jiu Jitsu scene, Gordon Ryan has a full CBD package. Boxing Heavyweight Shannon Briggs made a huge comeback, losing nearly 160 pounds, and dealt with depression. Shannon believes CBD may have played a role in his recovery. CBD is still in its infancy for scientific research, but there are some claims that this supplement may indeed be a powerful agent in supporting healthy athletes.  

CBD for Supporting the Brain

Here’s a brief primer on concussion and Traumatic Brain Injury (TBI). Concussions are a type of TBI, in which after a blow to the head, the brain rattles back and forth causing cell death and inflammation. Most athletes are at risk, however combat sports athletes have another risk: weight cutting and dehydration. One of the functions of water in the body is to help protect organs. Dehydration causes organs to shrink, potentially increasing the risk of the brain rattling. Combat sports athletes should take extra care to protect against TBI and CBD may play a role in protecting and healing the brain, though the findings were unclear.

CBD for Prevention of Brain Injury

CBD may have elements that promote healthy brain function. Because combat sport athletes are subjected to head trauma, it is important that they get ahead of ailments such as neuroinflammation. A noteworthy case study is the two Diaz brothers, who have over 60 professional fights between them. They have only been knocked out three times between them, and both are well documented cannabis users. In the Israeli Military, the Israel Defense Force has begun utilizing CBD and low dose THC as a potential aid in the prevention of Traumatic Brain Injury (TBI) (Source).

CBD for Post Brain Injury

Recovery from head trauma is commonly required to a lesser degree in grappling arts. CBD is a potentially useful compound for reducing the levels of inflammation, post head injury. CBD may have antioxidant properties that might prevent cell death after a serious blow to the head. Combat Sports Athletes can potentially benefit from CBD use post head injury. The research is still ongoing, but as the Israeli Defense Force is showing, there appears to be promising research here for dealing with head injuries.

CBD for Stress Reduction 

What is stress and the biological mechanisms of this reaction? In short, stress is our response to a stimulus. Once we start responding to a stimulus, our Autonomic Nervous System kicks into gear and gives us two options: fight or flight. This is a good instinct when we are in situations like being chased or needing to fight. The problem occurs when high stress is an everyday occurrence. Many diseases are thought to be attributed to chronic stress: digestive issues, decreased immune support, reduced wound healing, even impaired cognition. Make no mistake- stress is needed for growth, but chronic stress appears to be a recipe for health issues. 

Anyone who has been in a combat sports setting can recall times of high stress. This can be from over-training to competition day nerves. No matter where the stress comes from, long durations of stress may be detrimental both physically and mentally. Note: short bursts of stress can be beneficial, whereas long term stress can be damaging. Stress hormones might be down regulated by CBD and this may help with neuroplasticity; our brain’s ability to make connections, which chronic stress may inhibit. With CBD’s potential to reign in stress hormones, this may aid our body’s ability to function at a calmer state. From an athlete’s perspective, being calm under pressure is a huge advantage, potentially helping with learning in practice and game day performance. The potential for CBD coupled with good training, diet, and mental preparation may prove to be a valuable tool for athletes to manage stress and preform under pressure. (Source)

CBD for Sleep and Recovery

What happens to us when we sleep? Sleep is our body and brain repairing itself from the stressors we put on it during the day. It is believed that athletes require a little more rest than most- upwards of nine hours, but there are some such as Lebron James that go as far as to get twelve hours of sleep. Muscle and soft tissue get repaired, as well as the brain. From Muay Thai to Brazilian Jiu Jitsu, there is a lot of learning that takes place in practice. Better sleep helps with alertness, which helps us pay closer attention in practice, and helps consolidate what we have learned in practice. So, for pre and post training, good sleep is a must have.    

Sleep is considered by some to be the ultimate performance enhancer, but in the time of smartphones it appears that many of us are taking a hit when it comes to the hours of quality sleep we are getting. Speaking from personal experience, Youtube does a great job of keeping me awake while showing me the latest and greatest Brazilian Jiu Jitsu videos. CBD may aid in the balancing of the endocannabinoid system, which helps induce homeostasis, which may lead to improved sleep quality. CBD might also reduce pain. Many of us come home from a 7 to 8 pm practice, with a few bumps, bruises, and nagging old injuries. CBD may be a component in the reduction of inflammation which may aid athletes in getting to a calmer state. A calmer state is conducive to higher quality sleep. Sleep plays a huge role in recovery and when not taken seriously, a lack of sleep can be just as bad as a chronic injury. Sleep is a natural performance enhancer and CBD may play a role in getting higher quality sleep. (Source)

In Summary 

CBD research is still in its infancy, but there are some interesting studies pointing to potential benefits, along with high level athlete testimonials for the utilization of CBD supplements. Combat Sports athletes not only need to be healthy; they need to perform at a high level in a dangerous environment. CBD may have some potential to help us not just recover from injuries, but also aid in elevating our athletic ability.

Guest Author : Sean Galla;gher