A new study, funded by the NFL, is exploring whether cannabis could provide pain relief and faster recovery for injured athletes.

Anecdotally, marijuana has served as a behind-the-scenes supplement for athletes. Now researchers want to test the benefits of post-game weed vapes for pro football players, and the NFL has awarded them with $1 million to do it.

Led by doctors from the University of California, San Diego, the study will focus on professional rugby players, which have similar injuries to American football players, and are logistically easier to study, according to the press release.

Athletes who experience pain after a game will be randomly assigned one of four treatments administered via vaporizer. One involves THC, the psychoactive component of cannabis linked to the "high." Another is CBD, an active ingredient in cannabis linked to pain relief but not intoxicating effects. The third treatment is a combination of THC and CBD, and the forth is a placebo.

Researchers will then follow up with the athletes on how they experience pain in the subsequent 48 hours. They'll also be assessing athletes' sleep, mood, and other changes to their physical and mental state.

The researchers theorize THC or a combination of THC and CBD will lead to better pain relief than CBD alone, which in turn is expected to be better than the placebo.

"Much of the knowledge we used for dosing medical cannabis in our pain clinic came from the studies supported by the Center for Medicinal Cannabis Research, which showed there is a therapeutic window of analgesia with low doses of THC reducing pain," Dr. Mark Wallace, co-leader of the study and a pain management specialist at UC San Diego, said in a press release.

As cannabis has become increasingly legal and available, both elite athletes and everyday exercisers have become more outspoken about its benefits. Evidence suggests getting high can boost the feel-good sensations associated with exercise, helping cultivate a strong positive association with training.

Its use in competition remains controversial. Cannabis has been banned at the Olympics for two decades, due to concerns about safety and performance enhancement some experts say are misguided, leading to high-profile suspensions of athletes like Sha'Carri Richardson.

The NFL relaxed its policy on the drug in April 2021, permitting players to use cannabis during the off season.