By James Matthews
It’s been over a week since Rob Gronkowski scampered into the end zone to score the first touchdown of Super Bowl LV. For some, he’s a household name. For others, the hefty tight-end is newly on their radar as Tom Brady’s bestie, on and off the field.
Most likely don’t know that just over a year ago, fans didn’t think he’d be returning to the game – and even fewer are aware cannabidiol played a big role in his return to the National Football League.
Gronkowski, better known as Gronk, ascended the ranks of pop culture superstardom alongside a robust NFL career. His nickname is a fitting pseudonym due to the sound of a NFL career marked by crushing tackles and devastating injuries to his body and brain.
This time last year, Gronkowski had retired from football citing those injuries. He seemed destined for a lengthy, post-football life.
But Gronkowski did the opposite.
He came out of retirement and reunited with his longtime running mate, legendary quarterback Tom Brady. Used sparingly throughout the regular season and playoff run, Gronkowski exploded in the Super Bowl. He built upon that first touchdown with another less than nine minutes later. Gronkowski’s Tampa Bay Buccaneers would go on to win 31-9.
So, how does a guy go from being pushed out of his profession by pain to feeling the euphoria of celebrating with the Super Bowl trophy on a party boat in Tampa Bay?
This angle of Tom Brady throwing the Lombardi Trophy to Gronk's boat 😳
(via _misstwelve/Instagram) pic.twitter.com/0WtkbXtrKh
— ESPN (@espn) February 10, 2021
Gronkowski has a noteworthy elixir: Cannabidoil, or CBD.
Shortly after retiring in 2019, Gronkowski partnered with cannabis company Abacus Health Products, Inc., makers of CDMEDIC.
“During my career, I pushed myself while recovering from nine surgeries and countless injuries. I was in near constant pain and needed to make a change,” Gronkowski said in a news release at the time.
“These products have helped me safely manage pain better than anything else I’ve tried. Building on my own experience with CBDMEDIC for pain, I’m inspired to work with the company to introduce new CBD products to the market.’”
Gronkowski doubled down on these statements at a press conference marking the new partnership. Teary eyed, he expressed the impact the injuries had on his mental health.
At six foot five and about 250 pounds, Gronkowski was destined for football stardom. His stature mixed with style of play meant he both delivered and took heavy blows regularly. The classic troupe of unstoppable force versus immovable object played out any given Sunday from 2010 to 2019.
Gronk was a catalyst in the Patriots and Brady extending their dynasty that had begun a decade prior. There is nothing quite like succeeding in one of America’s biggest sports spectacles to make advertising and media executives swoon.
Nike, Coca-Cola and T-Mobile were just some of the brands that came calling. Cameo appearances on Entourage and Family Guy blasted Gronkowksi into the same living rooms where his football prowess was featured. He traded his helmet for a costume on The Masked Singer.
But it was the last Patriots Super Bowl victory in 2019 that forced Gronk to step away for what he and others thought was permanent.
During Super Bowl LIII, Gronkowski suffered a devastating leg injury early on – somehow staying in the game leading to the Patriots win. It was his third but seemingly last Super Bowl.
It was soon discovered there was something larger impacting Gronkowski than a ravaged quad muscle. Once the adrenaline and champagne left his system, they were replaced by a pain that only afforded Gronkowski five minutes of sleep that evening.
Though the news conference was seven months removed from the Super Bowl, it was clear the impact the injury still had on his mental health.
When he gave CBD an endorsement, it wasn’t necessarily surprising. But one claim in particular by the larger-than-life sports personality raised eyebrows.
In a CBS News special, Gronk shared the toll that football had taken on his brain. He ballparked his concussion totals at a staggering 20. He claimed that CBD had cured his brain injury, known widely as CTE.
CTE, or Chronic Traumatic Encephalopathy, is a type of brain injury that has been linked to concussions in football players, cowboys and other high-impact and contact sports. Studies, lawsuits and a Will Smith movie have thrust CTE into the spotlight.
Gronkowski’s claim drew the ire of Chris Nowinski, a WWE superstar-turned-neuroscientist who refuted the curability of CTE, but the football star clapped back.
It is fixable. I fixed mine. There are plenty of methods in this world that allow the brain to recover from severe damage. That is also why I would allow my kid to play football. https://t.co/9aI1olAdqP
— Rob Gronkowski (@RobGronkowski) September 13, 2019
Nowinski is not solely a neuroscientist. He also is the CEO and Co-Founder of the Concussion Legacy Foundation, an organization dedicated to “solving the concussion crisis by advancing the study, treatment, and prevention of the effects of brain trauma in athletes and other at-risk groups.
One of the Concussion Legacy Foundation’s major focuses is generating awareness of CTE symptoms which include anxiety, depression, headaches and memory problems of varying extremities. These symptoms mean CTE is treatable rather than curable.
It appears as though Gronkowski’s use of CBD decreased his pain and aided his recovery rather than cure his brain injury. But one thing that can’t be refuted is the apparent link between CBD use and Grochowski returning to his life-long passion – and earning another Super Bowl ring along the way.