SMITHS FALLS, Ontario — NHL Alumni Association (NHLAA), NEEKA Health Canada and Canopy Growth have announced a transformative clinical research partnership that will investigate the efficacy of cannabinoids as an integral part of a novel treatment for post-concussion neurological diseases in former NHL players.
A substantial number of these high performing, former professional athletes have developed impairments as a result of past concussions, ranging from depression, post-traumatic stress disorders (PTSD) and progressive dementia from chronic traumatic encephalopathy (CTE). In some cases, this leads to debilitating limitations in their ability to cope with their environment, a term NEEKA Health Canada has defined as functional disintegration. This study will undertake the rigorous science needed to establish the medicinal value of cannabis when combined with other proven treatments amongst this highly-afflicted group of elite athletes and potentially improve their ability to interact with family, friends and their communities.
Researchers estimate that between 1.6 and 3.8 million athletes suffer from a sports-related concussion each year. Ten to 15% of these athletes will go on to develop chronic post-concussion symptoms that can affect their ability to function. The results of this original study may also lead to new cannabinoid-based therapies that help athletes in other professional sports, along with adults who suffer from the aftermath of brain injuries from accidents and other activities.
“NHL alumni gave everything they had during their careers, but the physical consequences after they hang up their skates can be devastating for both players and their loved ones for the rest of their lives,” said Glenn Healy, executive director of the NHLAA. “This study offers alumni the promise of help and hope, and we are excited to participate in what could become a true game-changer in allowing these professional athletes to finish strong.”
Approximately 100 former players will be enrolled in this randomized double-blind study. The research will be led by NEEKA Health Canada’s Dr. Amin Kassam, a world-renowned neurosurgeon who completed his undergraduate training at the University of Toronto and has led four neurosurgery programs over two decades. Joining Dr. Kassam is Dr. Richard Rovin, a neurosurgeon who completed post-graduate training through the Global Clinical Scholars Research Training Program at Harvard University Medical School. Their combined expertise in neuroscience, molecular cell signaling, brain mapping, and clinical trial design may lead to novel cannabis therapies that have the potential to improve the lives of patients suffering from post-concussion healthcare issues.
“We have seen the debilitating effects of chronic repeated head injuries on the lives of patients and their families,” said Dr. Amin Kassam, Founder and CEO of NEEKA Health Canada. “Our team is excited to partner with Canopy Growth, a global leader in cannabis science and the NHL Alumni Association, a committed organization to its players, to demonstrate the immense and unexplored opportunity in cannabis-based remedies, particularly when synergized by novel treatment paradigms such as digital mental health and behavioral therapy.”
“This complex and multidimensional study will give us an unprecedented understanding of the interaction between cannabidiol (CBD) and the brains and behaviours of former NHL players living with post-concussion symptoms,” said Dr. Mark Ware, chief medical officer, Canopy Growth. “We thank the members of the NHLAA whose willingness to join this unique research partnership speaks to the need for alternative medical treatments to treat the long-term and often devastating effects of concussions.”
The study is expected to begin in summer 2019 and will take one year to complete. The results of this unprecedented trial could also catalyze new research initiatives further investigating the potential of CBD as a treatment to help people recover from their brain injuries.