NEW YORK — Over the course of his six-year career as an NFL running back, Christian Okoye took and dished out his share of hits. Nicknamed the Nigerian Nightmare, the all-pro back started taking opioids to deal with the pain when he had trouble sleeping.
“After my career I continued taking them because of course when I wake up in the morning I needed help to get going,” Okoye said.
But after speaking with a teammate, he learned about cannabidiol as a treatment option.
“A few months ago, when I was introduced to CBD oil, I stopped taking those drugs because CBD Oil helped me to manage this pain,” Okoye said.
CBD can be extracted from hemp or marijuana and has been shown to be a neuroprotectant in several studies.
It can reduce or eliminate epileptic seizures and treat neurological diseases like Parkinson’s and Alzheimer’s. Unlike THC, the other well-known chemical compound found in weed, CBD is not psychoactive.
“It doesn’t make you high, it just treats your body,” Okoye said. “So that’s what makes it great.”
Now several companies are conducting studies to find out if the drug can help protect athletes like NFL players from the constant contact they put their heads through during a career.
“What we’re looking for is neuroprotection in the classic sense of mild-traumatic brain injury before, during and after to see if we can develop something as a medicine that can be used in the mild-traumatic brain injury and/or CTE,” Dean Petkanas of Kannalife said.
Unlike THC, CBD is legal in many states if it’s grown in approved locations by government guidelines. However, it’s still on the list of banned substances in the NFL.
“It should be made available to current NFL players” Okoye said. “I know many retired NFL players that take it and all of them swear by it.”
In other words, the Nigerian Nightmare says CBD is a dream come true.