Doctors have a lot to learn from athletes, but there’s a long way to go before the pieces to this puzzle are put in place. To help light the way, Colorado-based Canna Research Groupdeveloped a studyof active adults that should help doctors look beyond the stigma of cannabis use in athletes to see what’s working and what isn’t.
Dr. Joanna Zeiger, the founder of the Canna Research Group and a co-author of Cannabis Use In Active Athletes: Behaviors Related to Subjective Effects, was an elite athleteherself until a terrible accident put the brakes on her momentum. Zeiger raced professionally as a triathlete from 1998 until 2010, finishing fourth in the 2000 Sydney Olympics and winning first in the 2008 Ironman 70.3 World Championships in Clearwater, Florida. When she returned to Clearwater the next year to defend her title, she crashed in the bike portion of the triathlon when riding through an aid station, she reached for a bottle of water from one of the aid station workers, and they didn’t let go in time, pulling Zeiger—feet still clipped into her bike—down. “I sustained really severe damage. I broke my left collarbone and had that surgically repaired and then I sustained really severe and permanent damage to my rib cage I have both structural and nerve damage.”
Zeiger’s husband recommended trying cannabis, but it took a while for her to shake off the anti-cannabis stigma from her past. Cannabis was banned in all forms the years she was competing, and though the rules have changed to allow the use of the cannabinoid CBD, THC still remains taboo. Plus, Zeiger spent eight years studying drug abuse in adolescents and young adults at the Institute for Behavioral Genetics at CU-Boulder.