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Terrell Davis first tried CBD after a workout in 2017, and it liberated him from the painkiller habits he adopted during his NFL career. Now his goal is to help make it a regular part of NFL player recovery as the founder of his own CBD beverage, DEFY.
Davis, who won two Super Bowls with the Denver Broncos from 1995-2001, was skeptical of CBD and other cannabis-based products at first. But that changed when he realized what it offered him as a former athlete dealing with pain from his playing days.
“When I left the game, physically, I was struggling, constant pain, inflammation. I was taking quite a few pain pills, I was taking daily anti-inflammatories, so I was just kind of looking for something better, a better alternative,” Davis told Insider. “It worked on me almost immediately. In days, if not almost immediately, I started to notice the effects of it. I was really impressed with what I was seeing.”
After trying it for himself, Davis realized what it could do for his other peers in the NFL and professional sports as a whole, which motivated him to start his own brand.
“I know there’s a lot of players out there, a lot of people who are suffering from the same thing I was suffering from, and now I have a chance to tell them about it,” Davis said. “But the problem was there was no brand that I could show them and say, ‘hey man, this is what you should use.’ So that’s when the idea formed in my hand that was gold standard, did everything the right way, backed by science, and really was something that we could see in NFL lockers.”
Davis hopes DEFY and similar products can phase out prescription painkillers in the NFL
The NFL announced it would invest $1 million in funding for research into pain management and cannabinoids on June 8, marking a major shift in the league’s approach to cannabis.
Previously, the league would punish players harshly if they tested positive for marijuana or similar substances like CBD. The use of the products was also a major cultural taboo among NFL players, including Davis.
Still, there are legal hurdles in place in certain states that prevent the national distribution of certain CBD products, including DEFY. CBD is only completely legalized in 15 states, and the US Food & Drug Administration (FDA) has advised against consuming CBD as a food or drink.
But now, as the NFL explores the therapeutic benefits cannabis and related substances have to offer, Davis wants to be at the forefront of providing high-quality options for players.
“We’re closely monitoring that, and we’re probably going to submit our application as well for that,” Davis said. “Our job is to try to be as impactful on the National Football League, or pro sports, and then society as a whole. To take away those stereotypes, to take away that stigma of CBD.”
Davis believes that an alternative to the league’s current widely-used prescription painkillers is necessary. In addition, Davis has experience with drugs like Vicodin and Toradol, which could lead to addiction and organ damage.
Toradol, in particular, comes with a high risk of internal bleeding and kidney problems — including kidney failure — when used for an extended period, which is what many NFL players do.
In 2017, more than 1,500 former players filed a class-action lawsuit accusing the league and its teams of repeatedly administering painkillers like Toradol before and during games without disclosing long-term risks and side effects. Moreover, Toradol was allegedly not even the only painkiller being pushed on players.
“What was good for us 20 years ago, we thought was good, and now we know that that stuff wasn’t. You use what you use based on what you have available, and based on what works,” Davis said. “When they get the stamp for [CBD], then we hope that DEFY is at the top of the list to be in those locker rooms and be products that players can take and feel confident and say that it works, and they don’t have to worry about any addiction or any damage to the bodies or organs.”