Bioethics Blogs

Is it Time for The NFL to Change Its Policy on Medical Marijuana?

by Keisha Ray, Ph.D.

Seantrel Henderson is a 24-year-old player on The National Football League’s (NFL) Buffalo Bills. Henderson is currently suspended from playing in the NFL because for the second time he has violated the league’s substance abuse policy. The NFL bans performance enhancing drugs such as steroids as well as illicit drugs like cocaine. Henderson is facing suspension for his use of marijuana. A third violation of the league’s substance abuse policy would permanently ban Henderson from playing in the NFL. Henderson’s case is slightly different than many of the sensationalized stories about players’ use of drugs to have unfair access to victory or players’ recreational drug use. Henderson uses marijuana to help with the sometimes debilitating effects of Crohn’s disease.

Crohn’s disease is an incurable inflammatory disorder that affects the gastrointestinal tract. It can cause chronic diarrhea, rectal bleeding, abdominal pain, weight loss, sleeplessness, and fatigue. Henderson has had approximately 2.5 feet of his large intestine surgically removed and as a result he had to wear an ileostomy bag for four months. In another surgery Henderson had his remaining intestines reattached. After this surgery Henderson was able to begin the process of getting healthy, which included gaining back the 50 pounds he lost and getting back to playing condition, which he eventually did.

The NFL does understand that some players may need to take some drugs for medical purposes that are banned. Players can take the proper steps to apply for a Therapeutic Usage Exemption (TUE), which would make them exempt from some banned drugs.

The views, opinions and positions expressed by these authors and blogs are theirs and do not necessarily represent that of the Bioethics Research Library and Kennedy Institute of Ethics or Georgetown University.