Introduction – CBD and an Athlete’s Health
Racquet sports, such as tennis, paddle ball, squash, and pickleball all require similar skill and specific movements of the body. As these sports are becoming more popular, people are searching for ways to enhance their performance in order to be the best they possibly can be during competition. Sure, with more practice and training it is possible to significantly improve one’s game. When someone says, “practice makes perfect,” they are not lying. But competing in the variety of racquet sports, specifically tennis, paddle ball, squash, and pickleball, places a great amount of stress on the body; especially if an individual is contending in the sport often and training regularly.
This added stress to the body can have a negative impact to an individual in many ways if they are not properly taking care of their body. It is vital for athletes competing in these sports to sustain their health so they can maintain their competitive edge. Cannabidiol, also known as CBD, can be an essential component of maintaining an athlete’s health. It offers a diverse range of benefits that could possibly be game changing for athletes competing in racquet sports. In this article, the positive effects that CBD can offer to a racquet sports athlete will be discussed.
What is CBD
To fully understand the benefits of CBD, one needs to know what it is. CBD is one of more than 120 naturally occurring cannabinoids found in Cannabis sativa. It is a major cannabinoid in the marijuana plant, as it is the second most prevalent to the active ingredient, tetrahydrocannabinol (THC). Specifically, this product is derived directly from the hemp plant, which is a cousin of the marijuana plant. Unlike THC, this compound does not have any psychoactive activity and does not cause a “high” by itself.1,2 According to the World Health Organization, CBD does not exhibit effects that indicate dependence potential or abuse.
This compound acts upon endogenous cannabinoid receptors of the body. These receptors are utilized by the body through the endocannabinoid system that includes a group of lipid proteins, enzymes, and receptors that play a role in many physiological processes. Besides involving itself in the endocannabinoid system, CBD demonstrates active engagement with many other bodily systems throughout the body. This gives CBD the potential to have a positive effect in many physiological functions critical to the performance of an athlete. These benefits will be further discussed below.1,2,3
Pain and Inflammation Reliever
Many athletes competing in racquet sports experience aches and pains associated with the activity. Specifically, in tennis, paddle ball, squash, and pickleball the discomfort is usually located in the knee, elbow, wrist, and shoulder areas due to the similar, specific movements involved. Studies have shown that CBD has the potential to alleviate pain in active individuals. Whether it is musculoskeletal pain from training and competition or aches from stiff joints, CBD gives the player the opportunity to relieve discomfort to maximize performance.4 It displays its action by interacting with serotonin 5-HT1A receptor, TRPV1 receptor, and the mu and sigma opioid receptor within the body.5 Along with pain, inflammation can be a common modality in racquet sporting athletes. Inflammation is commonly located in the knee, elbow, wrist, and shoulder areas, similar to pain location. Small amounts of inflammation can be beneficial for competitors because it helps to promote positive training adaptations. However, excessive inflammation can delay recovery time and diminish performance.
CBD displays its anti-inflammatory properties by reducing cytokine production and interacting with CB2 receptors, TRPV1 receptors, and enhancing adenosine concentrations within the body. Inflammation in the small and large intestine can also hamper an individual’s performance due to significant discomfort and reduced endurance. Even though the inflammation in the gut may not be a direct-related cause from sporting, it can alter a person’s performance and CBD has the ability to alleviate this issue. 5,6 The positive effects that CBD can place on pain and inflammation allows an individual to perform at their highest level possible.
Alternative to NSAID’s
NSAID’s, such as ibuprofen (Advil) or naproxen (Aleve), are commonly used for pain and inflammation in competitors. Although effective, these types of medications can place significant and dangerous side effects to an individual. The possible side effects of NSAID’s include high blood pressure, renal damage, and gastrointestinal bleed. CBD has been linked with the ability to help manage both pain and inflammation, while not putting the individual at risk for unwanted adverse effects. In fact, CBD is well tolerated with most people experiencing none or very mild side effects.7
Improve Quality of Sleep
Accomplishing adequate sleep of great quality is one of the most effective methods a participating athlete can achieve greater training gains and enhance overall performance. This allows the body to function to the best of its ability while reducing early fatigue and increasing endurance. This is extremely important for people playing lengthy tennis, paddle ball, or pickleball matches or participating in intense games of squash. Consuming CBD has been shown to help individuals fall asleep as well as stay asleep throughout the night. This leads to a more restful nights sleep, which in turn leads to improved performance. This is due to CBD’s action on CB1 receptors, 5-HT1A receptors, TRPV1 receptors, peroxisome proliferator-activated receptor-γ, the orphan G-protein-coupled receptor 55, the equilibrative nucleoside transporter, the adenosine transporter, additional TRP channels, and glycine receptors.8,9
CBD is involved in many physiological systems throughout the body, making it an extremely interesting compound in the sporting world. Specifically, it can help athletes manage pain and inflammation, as well as offer an alternative to the commonly used NSAID. It can also help improve a competitor’s sleep quality, which is imperative to overall performance and health of an individual. All of the mentioned benefits in this article that CBD may have on the body are essential if someone is looking to elevate their game and performance in racquet sports.
- Devinsky O, Cilio MR, Cross H, et al. Cannabidiol: pharmacology and potential therapeutic role in epilepsy and other neuropsychiatric disorders. Epilepsia. 2014;55(6):791‐802. doi:10.1111/epi.12631
- Kogan NM, Mechoulam R. Cannabinoids in health and disease. Dialogues Clin Neurosci. 2007;9(4):413‐430
- Pauli CS, Conroy M, Vanden Heuvel BD, Park SH. Cannabidiol Drugs Clinical Trial Outcomes and Adverse Effects. Front Pharmacol. 2020;11:63. Published 2020 Feb25. doi:10.3389/fphar.2020.00063
- Manzanares J, Julian M, Carrascosa A. Role of the cannabinoid system in pain control and therapeutic implications for the management of acute and chronic pain episodes. Curr Neuropharmacol. 2006;4(3):239-257. doi:10.2174/157015906778019527
- White CM. A Review of Human Studies Assessing Cannabidiol’s (CBD) Therapeutic Actions and Potential. J Clin Pharmacol. 2019;59(7):923-934. doi:10.1002/jcph.1387
- Nagarkatti P, Pandey R, Rieder SA, Hegde VL, Nagarkatti M. Cannabinoids as novel anti-inflammatory drugs. Future Med Chem. 2009;1(7):1333-1349. doi:10.4155/fmc.09.93
- Iffland K, Grotenhermen F. An Update on Safety and Side Effects of Cannabidiol: A Review of Clinical Data and Relevant Animal Studies. Cannabis Cannabinoid Res. 2017;2(1):139-154. Published 2017 Jun 1. doi:10.1089/can.2016.0034
- Blessing EM, Steenkamp MM, Manzanares J, Marmar CR. Cannabidiol as a Potential Treatment for Anxiety Disorders. Neurotherapeutics. 2015;12(4):825-836. doi:10.1007/s13311-015-0387-1
- Murillo-Rodriguez, Eric, et al. “Anandamide Enhances Extracellular Levels of Adenosine and Induces Sleep: An In Vivo Microdialysis Study.” Sleep, vol. 26, no. 8, 2003, pp. 943–947., doi:10.1093/sleep/26.8.943.