With approach of each football season, we hear more about great student athletes—and more about concussions. Rightly so, as researchers studying deceased athletes who had played football in high school, college, or professional ranks have found evidence of brain damage (chronic traumatic encephalopathy, or CTE) in a shocking 79 percent.

That’s terrible, but wait. It gets worse.

Football’s most incredible statistic

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The risk surges to an astronomical 96 percent among NFL athletes. This statistic is made even more horrifying by being related to a GAME, played for entertainment and to sell stuff. It means college players who make it to the pro level also make it a virtual certainty that they will fall victim to a brain disease. CTE can cause severe depression, dementia, and suicide. It results from repeated impacts to the head—of the kind seen on nearly every play, in every full-contact football game across the land. Since all NFL players come from the college ranks, the time is NOW to “tackle the problem head-on”.

But how? Traditional therapies involving pharmaceutical drugs like NSAIDs and opioid painkillers clearly are not working. Further, they put young patients at risk of chronic digestive, kidney, and liver ailments later on. Opioids make minds foggy and bodies sluggish. Urgently needed is another approach that can significantly reduce the inflammation at the heart of CTE, without the danger of addiction, death, or other serious side effects.

An ounce of prevention?

By now, millions of Americans have awakened to the reality that cannabis offers a vast variety of medical benefits, including potent pain-relieving and anti-inflammatory properties. Many also know it’s relatively safe and non-toxic, especially in comparison to alcohol and prescription drugs, which can be ruthlessly addictive or lethal. More surprising, though, and encouraging for college football players and their families, is the new discovery that the common herb may actually PREVENT CTE from developing.

For die-hard prohibitionists, DEA bureaucrats, and Big Pharma, the notion of cannabis preventing rather than causing damage will produce extreme cognitive dissonance in their own brains. Nevertheless, the fact remains that the medicinal herb is apparently effective enough at reducing brain inflammation to preclude the onset or advancement of dementia in not only CTE, but also Alzheimer’s. The federal government has even patented cannabidiol (CBD), the NONpsychoactive “miracle molecule” in cannabis, asserting that it serves as an antioxidant and nerve protectant.

A little perspective

Students are wisely warned against using drugs that dull the senses, detracting from academic and athletic pursuits. Overdoing cannabis is inadvisable. But opioid painkillers severely depress the central nervous system, and frequent beer binges are a universal, time-honored college ritual—hardly enhancements to mental and physical agility. Compounding the cannaphobic hypocrisy is that drug tests are notoriously ineffective: They can detect non-psychoactive fat-soluble METABOLITES of cannabis for weeks after consumption; yet fail to find dangerous water-soluble drugs like cocaine, methamphetamine, ecstasy, and LSD, just days after a mind-melting binge. The most hazardous of all, alcohol, clears in 24 hours.

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Ohio State football player Kosta Karageorge reported feeling confused and dizzy after repeated blows to the head. We shrugged. Then he killed himself. His tragic suicide has helped bring the CTE issue to the forefront of the legalization movement. A concerned public is wondering why college athletes shouldn’t receive cannabis therapy for head trauma and other football-related medical issues—especially since the NFL has more than doubled the permissible amount of blood THC in light of the latest science, enabling players to consume medical cannabis in “legal” states. It’s now up to us, as a compassionate populace for whom football is the national pastime, to make protecting players from CTE legal in ALL states.

We’re way behind. It’s fourth and long, with the clock ticking down. We have to go for it.

Garyn Angel is the founder and CEO of MagicalButter.com, maker of the Botanical Extractor, the first countertop appliance to infuse cannabis into food, eliminating smoking.