NFL commissioner Roger Goodell said Thursday that the league would be open to allowing players to use medical marijuana if experts could show that it helps treat concussions.
"I'm not a medical expert," Goodell said at a news conference announcing 16 winners of $300,000 grants to advance scientific research into the study and treatment of traumatic brain injury. "We will obviously follow signs. We will follow medicine, and if they determine this could be a proper usage in any context, we will consider that. Our medical experts are not saying that right now."
The drug is banned by the league as part of its collective-bargaining agreement with the players. Marijuana recently was legalized in Colorado and Washington. The two teams that will play in the Feb. 2 Super Bowl at MetLife Stadium -- the Broncos and Seahawks -- are from those states.
"I don't know what's going to develop as far as the next opportunity for medicine to evolve and to help either deal with pain or help deal with injuries," Goodell said. "But we will continue to support the evolution of medicine."
A report on HBO's "Real Sports With Bryant Gumbel" on Tuesday estimated that as many as 60 percent of the league's players regularly use marijuana, including some who say they use it for pain management.
Goodell and General Electric Co. chairman Jeffrey Immelt appeared Thursday morning at the league's New York headquarters to announce the grants of their joint initiative. The grants were awarded to individuals and/or organizations to advance their work to speed diagnosis and improve treatment for mild traumatic brain injury.
The grants are part of a $20- million initiative called the "Head Health Challenge," designed to improve the health and safety of athletes, military members and society at large.
"These studies hold the promise of advancing brain science in important ways," Goodell said. "The health and safety of our players is our top priority, and this challenge extends that commitment to the general population as well. We hope the innovative approaches proposed by these winners will have a lasting impact on the treatment of head injuries."
Among the winning ideas: a blood test designed to quickly identify and measure traumatic brain injury; a brain imaging technique to identify connections broken in the brain after a traumatic brain injury, and an electroencephalography -- a device used to record electrical activity of the brain -- that could be used at NFL games.