Cricket is a very physically intense sport. Cricket players can put a lot of stress on their bodies to be able to offer maximum performance during games. Players undergo stress training to adapt to the physicality of the game, but over time the wear and tear can lead to injuries and pain. As a result, they often need pain management treatments. While some of these treatments are very effective, they can pose risks to players such as adverse health side effects, addiction, and, in extreme cases, death.

The potential risks associated with traditional drugs has led to the search for safer alternatives to help cricket players deal with pain and enhance their sports recovery. Many cricket players, just like other athletes, are curious about the benefits they could obtain from using CBD products.

What is CBD?

CBD, also known as cannabidiol, is one of many cannabinoids found in the cannabis plant. It is mostly extracted from the hemp plant, though traces of the CBD can also be found in the marijuana plant, which is more known for THC. THC is another popular cannabinoid from the cannabis plant and is responsible for the high feeling marijuana users experience. CBD, on the other hand, does not provide any psychoactive effects.

Although CBD can be extracted in isolation from the hemp plant, it is often a very difficult and expensive process, so most CBD products also contain traces of other cannabinoids.

It is, however, important to note that the body has the capacity to produce its own phytocannabinoids in the endocannabinoid system. The main function of the endocannabinoid system is to maintain homeostasis. It does this by binding the phytocannabinoids to CB1 and CB2 receptors and inhibiting the release of certain neurotransmitters whenever necessary. CB1 receptors are more pronounced in the central nervous system, which includes the brain and the spinal cord, while CB2 receptors are more prominent in the immune system.

Due to the physical nature of the game, cricket players put a lot of stress on their body, and the resultant pain and inflammation can be too much for the endocannabinoid system to handle. 

What do cricket players use CBD products for?

Since CBD was removed from the list of banned substances by the World Anti-Doping Agency (WADA), the uptake of CBD products among professional athletes, including cricket players, has been on the rise. They use CBD in hopes that it may improve their workouts and performance in competitive games. Even though research to ascertain the potential benefits of CBD products to athletes is still in the initial stages, these are some of the reasons that players report using CBD:

Pain Relief

Studies are being conducted to investigate how CBD products can help cricket players reduce pain from stiff joints and musculoskeletal pain they get from rigorous exercise and intense games. While many players believe that CBD helps them relieve the pain from physical sessions, there is still not enough hard evidence to back up this claim.

Alternative to Over-the-Counter Drugs

Before the rise of CBD, cricket players’ choices were limited to non-steroidal pain medications such as naproxen sodium and ibuprofen. While these medications do not place athletes at risk with anti-doping agencies, overuse can lead to risks such as renal damage and heart attack. The use of such medications during long training sessions and games increases the risk of suffering renal damage. Prolonged use may even lead to strokes or a heart attack. While not yet approved for general treatments by the FDA, CBD been recognized by the World Health Organization as generally safe, non-toxic and non-addictive.

Alternative to Opioids

While most opioids such as morphine, codeine, and oxycontin are categorized as narcotics and prohibited by WADA, they are mostly regulated in-competition. Even then, their detection is very rare during anti-doping tests. Most players who use these drugs therefore use them off-season as they are very effective for pain management. However, there is a risk of addiction and overdosing on opioids. CBD is an all-natural substance that is not known to have addictive or overdose potential. Research is being conducted to determine if CBD could serve as a suitable replacement for opioids for pain management.

Reducing Inflammation

Inflammation is a major concern for cricket players, especially batsmen. It can hinder a player’s recovery and affect their performance in a game. The phytocannabinoids produced by the endocannabinoid system bind to the CB2 receptors in the immune system to reduce the production of cytokines and as a result, manage inflammation. Using CBD is one potential method of activating the endocannabinoid system externally, which may trigger the CB2 receptors to limit cytokine production and reduce inflammation. However, research on these claims is not yet conclusive.

Promote Gut Health

Cricket players are prone to experiencing gut problems from overheating, dehydration, and inflammation of the intestines. While CBD products won’t help much if the problems are as a result of overheating or dehydration, the effectiveness of CBD in dealing with inflammation of the intestines as a way of treating gut problems is being investigated. One hypothesis under study is that CBD could bind to and activate the CB1 and CB2 receptors found in the colon to reduce inflammation of the intestines.

Improve Sleep Quality

Sleep is very important for cricket players. However, several factors such as fatigue and anxiety before big games can affect their sleep. Some players look to CBD products to promote better sleep. Researchers are investigating the claim that CBD could bind to the same receptors that adenosine binds to, preventing the reuptake of adenosine and slowing down brain activity in order to induce sleep. Research into the possible anti-anxiety effects of CBD is also ongoing.

Is CBD prohibited in cricket?

In 2006, the International Cricket Council (ICC) became a signatory of WADA in an effort to protect player health and preserve the integrity of the sport. Though all other cannabinoids are prohibited by WADA, the use of CBD by professional athletes was permitted by the anti-doping agency in January 2019. CBD for cricket players is not illegal.

However, CBD products might contain prohibited cannabinoids such as THC. It is very difficult to obtain CBD products containing pure CBD without other cannabinoids. Since the cannabinoids can take a long time to clear from your system after consumption, a player can test positive for the banned substances long after use. Drug tests can be performed by an anti-doping agency at any time of the year, whether in-competition or out of competition. 

Concerns regarding the consumption of CBD for cricket players

Depending on the cannabis plant from which the CBD was extracted, CBD products can contain less or more than 0.3% levels of THC. If the CBD was extracted from hemp, the traces of THC should be less than 0.3%. Only marijuana plants have a high concentration of THC. For a player’s drug test to be declared positive, the level of THC in their system must be at least 150 ng/ml. Any amount below that is considered negative when out-of-competition. However, during in-competition times, the presence of any banned cannabinoid will be declared positive even if the amount is very low.

Cricket players try to look for CBD products that are low in THC and other cannabinoids. They should also reduce consumption when drug tests are coming up to allow time for the cannabinoids to clear out of their system. This can be a challenge if drug tests are conducted randomly. Some manufacturers and CBD retailers also unscrupulously indicate lower levels of cannabinoids on product labels than are actually present in the CBD product. Players with lower metabolism may take longer to purge cannabinoids from their system.

Since players are deemed solely responsible for what they consume and how their drug tests turn out, it is important for cricketers to approach the use of CBD products with caution and at their own risk. 

Conclusion

The emergence of CBD products is making a major mark in cricket and in the sports world in general. More and more professional athletes are publicly coming out in support of the use of CBD products. Research is still needed on how the consumption of CBD products could help cricket players improve their performance by reducing pain, inflammation, and anxiety—as well as improving the quality of sleep.

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