From Professional Athlete to Industry Advocate
My journey to carve out CBD’s place in pro sports
MARVIN DEGON IV
Director of VEDA Sport
Sport: Ice Hockey
Symptoms:Pain, Anxiety, Depression
Hometown: Naples, FL
If you’re like me, you didn’t realize you needed CBD. If you’re like me, you wish you had found CBD sooner. Maybe you wish you had been allowed to discover CBD sooner.
If you knew me growing up, you never would have guessed I’d land in the cannabis industry. I was shy, quiet, and always followed the rules. I was driven, and there was one goal I was determined to achieve—I was going to become a professional hockey player.
To say I loved the game is an understatement. I was the first one on the ice and the last one off. I was diligent and purposeful and steered away from even the slightest distraction. From the halls of Cushing Academy, where the “stoners” snuck off to the woods, to UMass Amherst, where the smell of weed wafted through the halls of the Brett House, I was always aware of marijuana. It was a drug and a deterrent from my goal. Or at least that is what I was taught to believe.
On the ice, I played with so much intensity, I’d go numb. I was small for a hockey player, which meant my durability and toughness was always in question. I had to play big. In pro sports, every game was a proving ground for all of us. How skilled were we? How tactical? How committed? And, for me in particular, how tough? Could I take it? Could I give it?
My answers? Tougher than most. Hit me again. Come and see. I played nearly 600 games in my professional career. I missed 9 to injury. That’s the hockey you see.
Here’s the hockey I came to know. The numbness I played with never lasted after the horn. I would give my body an absolute beating, and after the celebration of a win or the heartbreak of defeat, I would remove my “armor” and feel the ultimate pain. It was physical and mental, but worst of all it was habitual.
In professional sports, you’re only useful as long as you’re healthy. If you want to play, you better be able to play. So, it makes sense we did whatever we had to in order to skate every game, every practice, every day. Throughout my professional career, I tried some of the world’s finest opioids: sleepers, pain meds (uppers), muscle relaxants (downers), injections, you name it.
But uppers and downers only last so long. After a while, you wonder how you can possibly sustain it. You can’t.
My career spanned 10 years and 6 countries, and 550+ games. At 32 years old, I retired from professional hockey with a body that felt older than 60. This is when you stop wondering if your body can sustain itself with opioids and start looking for ways to recover. For many, this search is desperate. For some, it has cost them their lives.
My search brought me back to a familiar substance, cannabis. As I started looking into cannabis—I like to call it R&D—I found that some strains and products worked well for me and others did not. I stumbled upon CBD, and it worked. For the first time since hanging it up, I focused on life, not pain. But it was more than pain relief, it changed everything. I had more energy. It was easier to rest, it was easier to think, and it was easier to recover. Life got better.
Now, years after personally realizing the benefits of CBD, I have had the opportunity to turn my experience into a platform to help others, like myself, who suffer in silence. I joined VEDA, the leading brand in Endocannabinoid Nutrition to develop VEDA Sport, a line of CBD Isolate products created to address the real needs of athletes and active individuals.
In 2018, VEDA became the first cannabis company to sponsor a national professional sports league—the NWHL. This partnership couldn’t be more aligned. VEDA and the NWHL are both pushing boundaries and propelling an industry towards growth, impact, and balance. The opportunity has been a game-changer.
Like most innovations in the cannabis industry, its availability far proceeds its acceptance. The same industry that barred my opportunity to discover CBD 22 years ago still stands in its own way today. The world of sports is our new frontier. The athletes need it, and the athletes provide an influential voice to promote it. The nutrition, wellness, and balance within CBD is at stake, for athletes and their audience.
If the past has taught us anything, it’s that the bigger the industry, the slower the uptake. Our job now is to awaken a sleeping giant. The sports industry is expected to reach $73.5 billion in 2019 (Forbes). VEDA Sport and the NWHL are first to the party, but we certainly won’t be the last. There are differences to be made, and lives to be changed.
As the popularity of CBD and the science supporting ECN expands, the world of sports will continue catch on. I will continue to educate on cannabis and CBD’s place as a natural solution to sustainable pain relief for professional athletes. Through proper education, acceptance is coming. Soon athletes, teams, and leagues will promote these products to inspire the athlete in all of us.