How basketball legend Lauren Jackson won the prescription pain reliever battle with medicinal cannabis


Lauren Jackson was just six when she played her first competitive basketball game for a local Under-10 team in her hometown of Albury, New South Wales.

Unbeknownst to those watching, this basketball prodigy was destined for greatness.

The first Australian player to be inducted into the Naismith Memorial Basketball Hall of Fame, Jackson is considered one of the world’s best basketball players of all time.

“I feel like a whole different person, which I am, but looking back I was so lucky to have played basketball at this level and competed at such a high level for so long. “

Two-time WNBA champion with the Seattle Storm (2004 and 2010), three-time MVP (2003, 2007, 2010), seven-time WNBA All-Star and the number one pick in the 2001 Draft, Jackson also won four Olympic medals (three d ‘silver and one bronze) and guided the Opals to a coveted World Cup victory in 2006.

But a degenerative knee injury cut her phenomenal career short, forcing her to retire in early 2016, depriving Jackson of what would have been a fifth Olympic Games in Rio.

Jackson announced his retirement in 2016, with a career-cut knee injury.(ABC News: Ian Cutmore)

No fairytale ending

“It didn’t end the way I wanted it to [to],” she said.

“There were some pretty big ups and downs as well. “

Jackson has undergone countless surgeries during his career and has often resorted to pain relievers.

Chronic and debilitating pain around her knee, hip and lower back continued to plague her after her retirement.


After seeing his GP, Jackson explored alternative pain treatments and was prescribed medical cannabis.

“It was amazing,” she said.

Jackson is part of a new sports advisory board, led by Melbourne-based sports medicine company Levin group, which develops pharmaceutical-grade medicinal cannabis for the treatment of chronic pain and concussions.

She hopes her personal experiences will help reduce the stigma associated with medicinal cannabis.

“It’s something that I personally believe in because of the way my body has handled it,” she said.

Lauren Jackson announces her retirement from basketball.
Wanting to be the “best version of herself,” Jackson gave up all pain relievers and began using medicinal cannabis for her chronic pain.(ABC News: Ian Cutmore)

New kid in the neighborhood

Macquarie University neurologist Dr Rowena Mobbs says there is growing evidence for cannabinoid therapies and the use of medicinal cannabis for chronic pain.

“But when it comes to the management of head injuries and concussions in general, he’s really the new kid on the block,” she said.

Dr. Mobbs regularly works with concussion patients, including athletes with multiple concussions and repeated head injuries.

“We see that [medicinal cannabis] debate epilepsy and pain management and understand that people would like to try all the options, ”she said.

Medicinal cannabis was first raised as a potential treatment option in the 1930s, and there is evidence that cannabis was first used for medical purposes as early as AD 400.

“We haven’t seen the detailed cannabinoid trials yet, but the theory is certainly there that many areas of the brain contain type 1 cannabinoid receptors.”

Another area under study is whether it may have potential benefits, as an adjunct or third-line therapy.

This is where alternative therapies are considered, after a patient develops resistance to the initial and secondary treatment options.

“We see patients over a year after their concussion, really in post-concussion syndrome, where they have tried post-traumatic migraine therapies without success,” said Dr Mobbs.

Dr Rowena Mobbs of Macquarie University studies concussion injuries
Dr. Rowena Mobbs of Macquarie University is an expert in concussions.(ABC News: Michael Nudl)

“So these people may wish to turn to cannabinoid therapy and medical cannabis. “

Like any form of medication, there can be side effects involving short term memory and concentration.

More serious psychological side effects can include paranoia and restlessness, but these are rare at low doses.

For those who wish to explore medical cannabis for chronic pain or concussion-related injuries, Dr. Mobbs recommends speaking with your local GP and carefully considering all options.

It’s a sentiment shared by Jackson, who finally enjoys life after basketball.

Australian Opeals player Lauren Jackson holds her Olympic bronze medal and a bouquet of flowers at the London 2012 Games.
Jackson is now starting to enjoy life beyond basketball with his two sons.(Reuters: Mike Segar)

Although it may not be long before you see another basketball prodigy.

“My little guy is playing hula hoop which is pretty cool and I’m like the mom in the corner cheering him on.

“I have to stop and say ‘Lauren is settling in, he’s four years old.”

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