The National Football League wrote a letter to it’s players association outlining steps to work with them to study the potential use of cannabis to help in the treatment of pain for NFL players. Currently, marijuana is completely banned from the NFL but this letter is the first sign of a possible cooperation between the NFL and allowing for the plants use for pain management.

“We look forward to working with the Players Association on all issues involving the health and safety of our players,” said Joe Lockhart, the NFL’s executive vice president of communications.

According to The Washington Post, DeMaurice Smith, the NFLPA’s executive director said in January that the union was preparing a proposal to the league that would result in a “less punitive” approach to recreational marijuana use by players.

“I do think that issues of addressing it more in a treatment and less punitive measure is appropriate,” Smith said to the Washington Post in January. “I think it’s important to look at whether there are addiction issues. And I think it’s important to not simply assume recreation is the reason it’s being used.”

The NFLPA is the players’ union and they have a specific pain management committee tasked with finding tools for players, including marijuana.

Over the past few years there’s been a backlash by former football players against the use of opioids for pain management. Athletes like Kyle Turley, Jim McMahon and Ricky Williams have joined the fight to lobby for the right for players to use it through the nonprofit group called Doctors for Cannabis Regulation (DFCR). DFCR believes that cannabis is a safer form of pain relief than the currently pervasive use of opioids and it can help prevent brain damage, as well as treat the condition.

“There is some early data that cannabis does play a role in neuroprotection. This is the kind of science we’ve put in front of the NFL, hoping they would reconsider their antiquated policies,” Dr. Sisley told The Chronicle. “The bottom line is that cannabinoids are clearly neuroprotective. We have preclinical data at the receptor level that cannabinoids and cannabis are not only involved with brain repair but neurogenesis, the development of new neural tissue. It’s one of the most exciting discoveries of modern neuroscience.”

Dr. Suzanne Sisley, is a member of DFCR’s board and president of the Scottsdale Research Institute. She’s studying the safety and efficacy of marijuana with clinical studies.