Marijuana and Soccer – Does Weed Enhance Athletic Performance?
Soccer (or ‘football’ as it’s known elsewhere) is the world’s most popular sport. Marijuana is the world’s most popular drug. You may think that this is the only thing they have in common. After all, in the high-powered world of soccer (particularly in Europe), players are far more likely to develop problems with either alcohol or performance enhancers. And marijuana neither causes health problems nor enhances performance. Or does it?
Marijuana And Athletic Performance
With marijuana currently a hot topic on a number of levels, many will let out a groan to hear that it’s beginning to raise debate in the sports world as well. Nonetheless, research has shown that, in fact, cannabis CAN help athletic performance – particularly in the case of team strategy sports like soccer. Sure, it doesn’t exactly pump up your muscles or let you run for hours without feeling any pain – but its psychological effects can be just as powerful. Anyone who has ever played a team sport will know that your mindset is just as important as your muscles – and it’s here that marijuana can give a player an edge. Marijuana can enable players to attain a calmer, more focused, less stressed frame of mind while training and playing. This enables them to make better tactical decisions, to train in more effective ways, to learn more about their and their team’s strengths and weaknesses, and to play with less fear. Indeed, this latter element has caused considerable interest in the area of sports science within recent years.
Fear And Inhibition
When something bad happens to us, we develop a fear of it. This fear is a perfectly natural response, designed to stop the bad thing from happening again. It can also be very hard to break. This means that a player who broke his or her leg during a tackle may – however much they consciously don’t want to – be rather more inhibited with future tackles. Needless to say, this can have a fairly major impact upon their sporting performance. Cannabinoids, however, can eliminate those learned fear-inhibition responses, enabling the player to give their all without pesky instinctual stresses getting in the way and spoiling everything. However, that’s not all. Some speculate that the right amount of marijuana could help a player to get more all-important oxygen to their muscles.
The World Doping Associated currently bans marijuana on several grounds. One is that it is illegal in many countries. Secondly, it’s acknowledged to be ‘mind-altering’, which many within the DA take a very dim view of. Another reason given, however, is that cannabis can act as a ‘Bronchodilator’. Put simply, this means that marijuana can reduce resistance within the airways, effectively opening them up and allowing athletes to get a good lungful. It goes without saying that this could potentially increase stamina and cardiovascular performance. Some even believe that this enhanced oxygen flow during play could speed up muscle recovery times. However, if you’re about to light up a sneaky joint before your big game, you might want to think again.
Marijuana can increase aggression – but most who use it will tell you that it generally has more of a ‘mellowing’ effect. ‘Mellow’ is not a word with which sports coaches are generally very happy. Sure, a player should be calm and focused – but ‘mellow’ indicates a lack of competitive drive. The Portuguese police used this to their advantage when notoriously fight-happy English football fans arrived on Portuguese soil to watch an England match. After being told that the police would be cracking down hard on alcohol-related issues, but turning a blind eye to marijuana, the England fans left the stadium in a docile fug of weed and spent the rest of the night astonishingly peaceably. On the field, however, this mellowness is not so desirable. To be successful, a soccer player needs to have drive, motivation, and a competitive streak which will enable them to play their hardest against the opposing team. They also need to be sharp, and alert to the relative positions of their team-mates. All the calm and focused thinking in the world is no good on the actual field if it’s not happening fast. It’s also worth noting that decreased inhibitions could lead to recklessly poor decisions – or to a cavalier attitude which comes at the detriment of the team as a whole. Not to mention the fact that marijuana is banned by the sporting authorities. So think twice before you gobble down a hash brownie in the changing rooms!