Kyle Turley spent eight years as an offensive tackle in the NFL, which means he spent eight years standing in the way of oncoming traffic. The gig led to two diagnosed concussions and, Turley says, a estimated 100 that went undiagnosed during his tenure on the turf.
Now that he's retired, Turley is feeling the full force of those had injuries. And after years of trying to treat the symptoms with pharmaceuticals, he's discovered the one drug that works better than anything else: marijuana. On Thursday, Turley appeared on ESPN's "Highly Questionable" and described the difference smoking has made in his life.
Former NFL All-Pro Kyle Turley on how cannabis has helped him and how it could help others.
Posted by Highly Questionable on Thursday, November 5, 2015
Turley argues that the powerful drugs prescribed to deal with his head injuries only made his condition worse, nearly killed him and caused him to kill those he loves. "I couldn’t be around a knife in my kitchen without having an urge to stab someone, including my wife and kids," he says.
So just over eight months ago, he gave up painkillers entirely. "I only use cannabis," he says in the interview. "My life is getting exponentially better. I'm getting myself back. My mind is starting to come back in many ways."
Turley is calling on the NFL to use its money and clout to study how marijuana can be better used to treat the injuries that are a fundamental part of football. "If there is something that shows that there is something to help our disease, which is inherent in this sport...it behooves everybody that loves football to demand that we research and develop this."
For his part, Roger Goodell has indicated an openness toward allowing players to use medical marijuana, which is currently banned under the league's substance abuse policy. Last January he said, "We will follow medicine and if [the league's doctors] determine this could be a proper usage in any context, we will consider that."
Of course, no one is really expecting the league to act quickly on this. In recent years the NFL has shown a pretty strong distaste for marijuana, punishing players who smoke weed more harshly than players who beat women. And his suggestion that doctors haven't yet shown how marijuana can help with head injuries is either dishonest or woefully uninformed: For starters, here's a Harvard psychiatrist who's found that marijuana doesn't just treat post-concussion symptoms, but actually helps heal a concussed brain.
It's important to note here that for all of the good medical marijuana can do, it can't do a thing to stop brain injuries in the first place. Improving the lives of former football players is a noble goal, but it should be secondary to making the game safer. But until someone has a viable plan to do that, save banning the football altogether, treatment is where the NFL should focus. And as Turley can attest, marijuana is one hell of a treatment.
Photos by Mark Konezny / Getty Images