CBD and Health CBD Benefits

CBD for Athletes: Can CBD Have an Impact on Athletic Performance?

Since 2018, CBD has evolved into a substance that is not only taken by medical patients with a prescription for cannabis-derived products. 

With the federal legalization of CBD since the passing of the 2018 Farm Bill, the cannabinoid has become much more than a treatment for specific conditions that allow it. With the ever-growing knowledge around the cannabinoid and the plant it is extracted from (hemp), CBD has taken possession of its own market niche within the athlete community.

And it’s not without reason:

CBD has been linked to multiple beneficial effects for athletes like pain relief, muscle relaxation, and better sleep, which has allowed it to begin turning heads among sports enthusiasts and professionals alike [1].

But the relationship between CBD and exercise still remains a sensitive and widely unexplored topic. While some professional athletes keep launching their own CBD product lines and swearing by the effectiveness of the substance, there is also a portion of experts that would advise athletes to steer clear of a substance that is currently only distributed legally as a supplement.


It’s a fact that there are plenty of sports practitioners that combine cannabidiol and exercise, taking CBD before a workout or after, and if that’s the case, then it’s probably something we want to take a deeper look into.


Is CBD Legal for Athletes?

CBD and Drug Testing

Is CBD Good for Athletes?

The Potential Benefits of CBD for Athletes

Is CBD Legal for Athletes?

As briefly mentioned above, CBD was made federally legal within U.S. borders, and although it is only sold legally as a supplement and not a prescription medication, other entities like the World Anti-Doping Agency (WADA) have removed CBD from their list of prohibited substances.

But there is a fine line between CBD and other cannabinoids when it comes to their legality in sporting events.

Bear in mind that CBD products and CBD-heavy extracts often contain other cannabinoids as well. This includes THC, the main psychoactive ingredient found in the cannabis plant. 

While most CBD is extracted from hemp sources (all federally legal CBD products in the U.S. are made with hemp-sourced CBD), hemp-derived CBD extract may also contain THC. Which is still considered an illegal substance by many sporting organizations.

So, while CBD is federally legal and THC can be used by athletes in some sports and states, there is still a very high probability a sporting organization will sanction the use of CBD extracts that contain other cannabinoids. As stated by WADA for sporting competitions.

CBD and Drug Testing

Drug testing is a tricky subject when it comes to athletic events. While CBD can be detected in some drug tests, it is also true that most athletic events do not test for CBD. But this is not the same for all sports, unfortunately.

In other cases:

The drug tests taken from athletes spot CBD but don’t screen for it. Meaning in some organizations the use of CBD is allowed before and after the event regardless of whether or not it turns up in the test results.

CBD and Drug Testing

The best solution here would be for the athletes to request the official prohibited substance list and information from the event they are participating in or the organization they’re a part of. Only then can an athlete truly be sure of whether or not they should be taking CBD before a competition.

On the other hand:

While some drug tests don’t screen for CBD, they do screen for THC and other cannabis-derived components. In which case it behooves the athlete to bear in mind that CBD extracts may also have trace amounts of these components in them, even if the CBD is extracted from the hemp plant.

While the hemp plant contains lower amounts of THC than regular marijuana, legal CBD products are allowed to have up to 0.3% of THC content. Which may still surpass the threshold of the amount of THC permitted for a specific sporting event, in which case the athlete will likely fail the test.


It’s impossible to determine the legal status of CBD and cannabinoids for all sporting events, so we strongly recommend consulting with the event authorities before doing so.

Is CBD Good for Athletes?

As mentioned above, CBD has been linked to a variety of potential benefits and physical effects. These include a few that seem to be linked to athletic performance, either directly or indirectly.

The Potential Benefits of CBD for Athletes

1. Muscle Function, Soreness, and Injury

Prolonged exercise may cause inflammation that contributes to muscle soreness and delayed muscle recovery. According to several studies, CBD has the potential to modulate inflammatory processes and as reported in one of them, “In preclinical models of acute inflammation, CBD has been reported to attenuate immune cell accumulation (e.g. neutrophils, lymphocytes macrophages)”, therefore stimulating the production of anti-inflammatory proteins called cytokines and by inhibiting the production of their pro-inflammatory counterparts [2].

Potential Benefits of CBD for Athletes


The subject requires a lot more information and clinical studies to be rendered conclusive. The potential benefits of CBD on musculoskeletal soreness and injury remain exactly that; potential.

2. Neuroprotection Against Concussions

There is only one animal study that explores the potential effects of CBD on concussions and sub-concussions, a common injury among high school and collegiate athletes in the USA. That same study found that CBD may attenuate the behavioral abnormalities associated with concussive injuries [3]

3. Pain Relief

Nociceptive pain is a common symptom among active athletes that are constantly sustaining injuries or simply breaking down their muscle fibers through exercise. 

According to a 2020 review of several preclinical and clinical studies regarding the effects of CBD on nociceptive pain, “most preclinical studies appear to have observed a significant analgesic effect of CBD” [2]. In other words, CBD seems to soothe nociceptive pain in athletes.


The same review also states that the analgesic effect of CBD is dependent on factors like dose and type of pain. Which makes it even more important for experts to continue studying the potential effects of CBD in pain and for doctors to become licensed in its prescription.

4. Other Potential Benefits of CBD for Athletes

On top of muscle function, neuroprotection, and pain relief, CBD has also been linked to beneficial effects for athletes like relief from exercise-induced gastrointestinal distress, bone health, cardiovascular functions, thermoregulation, dietary control, treatment of sickness and infection, sports performance anxiety, and healthier sleep patterns [2].

Wrapping Up

CBD is a federally legal substance that can be sold as a supplement in the U.S. as long as it is extracted from hemp plants and contains no more than 0.3% THC. In an athletic environment, the legality of CBD depends on the regulating party or sporting organization setting the rules for the event. 

In terms of drug testing, CBD is no longer part of the list of prohibited substances under WADA rules but THC is. Because some CBD extracts can still have some trace amounts of THC, we strongly recommend consulting with the organization setting the rules or avoiding cannabis-derived products before a competition altogether.

As the world continues to evolve and the knowledge we have regarding CBD and other cannabinoids continues to grow we will likely continue to ruin into studies that shed light on some of the potential benefits of CBD on athletic performance. But for the time being, none of the aforementioned potential benefits and effects can be considered conclusive.

Hemmfy articles and blogs are meant to entertain and educate. However, we are not medical professionals and do not intend to give medical advice through them.

The knowledge around CBD and other cannabis-derived products is growing and constantly changing, as does their legal status. Hence, we recommend checking with your local authorities and a licensed physician prior to consumption.


[1] Larsen, C., & Shahinas, J. (2020a). Dosage, Efficacy and Safety of Cannabidiol Administration in Adults: A Systematic Review of Human Trials. Journal of Clinical Medicine Research, 12(3), 129–141. https://doi.org/10.14740/jocmr4090

[2] McCartney, D., Benson, M. J., Desbrow, B., Irwin, C., Suraev, A., & McGregor, I. S. (2020). Cannabidiol and Sports Performance: a Narrative Review of Relevant Evidence and Recommendations for Future Research. Sports Medicine - Open, 6(1). https://doi.org/10.1186/s40798-020-00251-0

[3] Belardo, C., Iannotta, M., Boccella, S., Rubino, R. C., Ricciardi, F., Infantino, R., Pieretti, G., Stella, L., Paino, S., Marabese, I., Maisto, R., Luongo, L., Maione, S., & Guida, F. (2019). Oral Cannabidiol Prevents Allodynia and Neurological Dysfunctions in a Mouse Model of Mild Traumatic Brain Injury. Frontiers in Pharmacology, 10. https://doi.org/10.3389/fphar.2019.00352

Simon Cartagena

Simon Cartagena is a full-time cannabis copywriter. This has led him to write for companies like Hemmfy.com where he acts as Senior Content Writer and other world-renowned cannabis publications. Simon has created Content Marketing strategies and articles that have helped company revenues increase by up to 1,000%. Simon’s goal is to help people understand cannabis in an industry where misinformation seems to be predominant.