Can smoking weed affect my performance on the field?

If you’re sporting-inclined, you may know how hard it is to turn up to Saturday cricket with a hangover, standing in the sun all day, dehydrated, nauseous and craving that fundraiser sausage sanga. But what about weed? Does having a toke affect your sporting performance at all? And does it make you more likely to win that half marathon or more likely to not even make it to the training session?

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If you’re sporting-inclined, you may know how hard it is to turn up to Saturday cricket with a hangover, standing in the sun all day, dehydrated, nauseous and craving that fundraiser sausage sanga. Most people realise alcohol has a detrimental effect on physical movement, especially activities that require fine motor skills, concentration, planning and coordination – that’s pretty much all sports. But what about weed? Does having a toke affect your sporting performance at all? And does it make you more likely to win that half marathon or more likely to not even make it to the training session?

How can cannabis help sporting performance?

Let’s look at the team in favour of cannabis use.

Athletes who smoke weed either before or after sporting activity purport that cannabis helps with pain management such as muscle aches. They may use weed to help them relax, or to feel less anxious or nervous about their upcoming performance. Others report using weed to help them de-stress before or after a game or to alter their mood. A likely scenario is that these athletes are familiar with cannabis and familiar with exactly the right dose and type to get their desired effect, as novice users are more likely to have unpredictable or negative reactions to cannabis such as panic or nausea. That’s not to say that they get it right all the time though, with cannabis potency changing from plant to plant.

Much of their justification for use is anecdotal, and athletes are not likely to come forward asking to be a poster girl for weed due to its negative health connotations and illegality.

The thing is, there are many other alternatives one can use to deal with muscle pain (ice baths, anti-inflammatories, massage) or anxiety and stress (meditation, relaxation, distraction) and these alternatives won’t hinder performance, negatively affect your health, or end up in a possible career-ending positive drug test result.

How can cannabis hinder sporting performance?

In the other camp, cannabis has been proven to negatively affect sporting performance. It can slow reaction time, as well as cause problems with motor coordination, hand-eye coordination, and perception.

Surfers and snow boarders sometimes say it gives them narrow focus on the wave/run at hand.

Cannabis can affect appetite and food cravings (will anyone on Air Tasker deliver me a bucket of fried chicken for $10? I can’t really drive at the moment) and potentially interfere with body mass and nutrition. We also know smoking weed is harmful to the respiratory system and increases the risk of respiratory tract infection, bronchitis and lung cancer. 

This would result in greater difficulty for athletes to intake sufficient oxygen for peak performance. Play a sport where you need to react quickly and make fast decisions? Better keep off the grass this week.

Are top level athletes allowed to smoke weed then, considering it is probably won’t make them any faster?

The International Olympic Committee banned the use of cannabis in all sports (including medically prescribed cannabis in countries where it is legal to do so). If a urine test detects a level of cannabinoids greater than a person may be exposed to by passive smoking, an athlete is likely to be banned from competitive sport for two years (as well as fined and splashed across newspapers!).

Do many Australian athletes use cannabis?

Aussie athletes appear to be in-the-know about the detrimental effects cannabis can have on their sport. In one study of 974 athletes, only 3.7% reported using weed in the previous year (which may include the off season of their sport) which is much less than the approximate 10% of the general Australian population.

Like alcohol, cannabis is not likely to help your sporting performance, and there are many other ways to obtain its perceived benefits. However you play it: if you’re using weed, better keep off the grass!

Read more about how cannabis affects sporting performance here;

https://ncpic.org.au/professionals/publications/bulletins/cannabis-and-sport/

https://ncpic.org.au/professionals/publications/factsheets/cannabis-and-sport/

 

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