How Cannabis Can Harm Youth Physical Fitness and Sports Performance

How Cannabis Can Harm Youth Physical Fitness and Sports Performance

WebMD posted an article on “How Pot Affects Your Mind and Body” (2021) which describes the potential negative effects of cannabis on mental health, cognitive functioning, addiction, brain impairment, lung damage, weight gain, heart problems, alcohol interactions, and underweight newborns.  

On the plus side, the article noted that cannabis may help to alleviate pain, muscle stiffness, sleep problems, anxiety, nausea and seizures.  

So, when it comes to cannabis use prevention, what should we tell youth about the effects of marijuana on their physical fitness and sports performance? 

The potential negative outcomes of cannabis use listed above suggests that using marijuana can have a detrimental impact on youth physical fitness, development and sports performance, particularly given the possible harmful effects on lung, heart and brain development and functioning, as well as the potential for addiction and even weight gain.  

Yet the potential for cannabis to alleviate pain, sleep problems and anxiety hint at how marijuana might be viewed as beneficial to some adult sports participants.  

Recently there have been a growing number of stories about professional athletes using cannabis before, during and after athletic competition. 

American sprinter Shi’ Carri Richardson, for example, was disqualified from participating in the 2020 Tokyo Olympics for testing positive for using marijuana. 

Yet, other professional athletes from the NFL, NBA, NHL and MLB have come out recently supporting CBD use and in some cases THC-based cannabis for sports recovery, post-game recreation and use even during competition. 

Many of the most vocal athletes supporting cannabis use have financial interests in CBD or other cannabis product companies. 

Unfortunately, these “sports-heroes” are often viewed as role models by young athletes who are more susceptible to the harmful effects of cannabis use not only on their athletic performance and physical fitness, but to their brain development and likelihood for addiction, e.g.: 

Sadly, we need to ask our young athletes and physically active youth to be better role models for their peers than some professional athletes are for them. 

Teachers, coaches and parents should provide young athletes and non-athletes with programs promoting regular physical activity and sports as a critical aspect for creating and maintaining a healthy body and mind, while also communicating that using cannabis is counterproductive to living a healthy and productive lifestyle. 

The jury is still out on our full understanding of the negative and potential positive effects of various cannabis products on physical fitness and sports performance for adults. 

However, we already know with significant certainty that youth should avoid using marijuana until later in life to prevent its harmful effects on the developing brain, body and potential for addiction. 

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