On this Thanksgiving Day, Reggie Williams will move freely and with only minor pain. A man who has endured 24 operations on his right knee, who has spent the last two decades in chronic agony, now passes his days in true thanks, for a treatment he says is his salvation.
Williams is a regular user of medical cannabis, and doesn’t mind letting the world know about it. He says he isn’t looking to start a crusade, but Williams is a natural crusader. He wants the NFL and its players union to consider his story when next they sit around a conference table.
“I’m enjoying some significant benefit in the quality of my life because of medical cannabis topicals,’’ he says. “There is reduced pain and inflammation that I experience chronically in my joints.’’ In the three months since Williams began using medical cannabis, “the needle of my pain threshold has moved down significantly.’’
You remember Reggie Williams. He’s the living symbol of what it means to give your life and body to a sport. He played 14 years in the NFL, all for the Bengals. He played in two Super Bowls. He was an NFL Man of the Year. His post-career successes revealed a man of many talents and interests: Cincinnati city councilman, founder of the sports complex at DisneyWorld, devotee of the arts.
And a man trapped in a body that was marginally useful and always full of pain.
More than two years ago, we did a story on that Reggie. We took notes and shot video. Not long ago, Williams watched that video. He had a hard time looking at the man in the movie. “I was almost frothing at the mouth’’ from the pain, he says.
We filmed him at Disney, emerging from a golf cart to talk to a team of baseball players. “I couldn’t believe the pain I was feeling and expressing,’’ he says. “Look at that walk when I get out of the golf cart. Trying to fight the pain every step because I’m in front of the players. It hurt a lot more than the camera showed.’’
Now, he says, “I can jump out of a car, put my shoes on and start walking without any of the limbering and stretching I had to do every time I got in and out of a car or a table or any close space.’’
Freedom comes with varying definitions, some obvious, some not. Reggie Williams has never been quite free. Not since his early post-playing days, when the operations commenced, the infections set in and the misery in his leg became thorough. He lived a lesser freedom.
He started the medical cannabis out of desperation. He’s progressed amazingly well in recent years, especially for a man whom multiple doctors advised to have his right leg amputated. Williams was religious about the exercises he needed to keep his leg functional. His dream was to run onto the field during a pregame introduction at Paul Brown Stadium.
Then he had a stroke on New Year’s Eve 2015. He survived it with his mental acuity intact. Physically, he needed a crutch for support. The damage the crutch worked on his shoulder caused him to contact a college classmate who is the administrator of a medical cannabis facility in the San Francisco Bay Area.
(We should note here that Williams admits to using marijuana since he was 17. “I smoked in college at Dartmouth, I smoked in the NFL, I smoked as a city councilman, I smoked working for Disney,’’ he says. The difference being, the cannabis he smoked then contained THC, the psycho-active ingredient that produces a high. Medical cannabis contains very little THC.)
“She sent me totally unsolicited some products to try. One was a time-release patch. It was significantly impactful,’’ says Williams. The classmate referred him to Xternal, a manufacturer of medical cannabis. The company’s website boasts, “Our proprietary blend of cannabinoids is especially formulated to be a powerful penetrating anti-inflammatory and pain reducer.’’
Williams also was referred to Dr. Debra Kimless, a certified anesthesiologist with a subspecialty in pain medication. She’s also a passionate advocate for the use of medical cannabis to treat chronic pain and inflammation. Xternal and Dr. Kimless found their poster-man in Williams.
This is where it gets murky, and where advocates like Dr. Kimless and Williams himself do the educating and the preaching. The “nascent industry’’ as Dr. Kimless calls it, of medical cannabis remains shrouded in a bit of secrecy.
“The challenge is that our politicians are creating rules that limit what doctors and patients can do. In some states it’s legal, in some states it’s not,’’ says Dr. Kimless. “If Reggie lived in California, he could have a real doctor-patient relationship, just like any patient.’’
He doesn’t live in California. He lives in a state that has passed legislation legalizing medical cannabis, but doesn’t yet have a means of regulating it. That could be why Dr. Kimless hasn’t met Williams and purposely doesn’t know where he lives. She has advised him on proper dosage and application of the topical cannabis. Williams says some of what he’s using “has been customized to meet my needs.
“It goes directly to areas with obvious swelling, places that haven’t completely healed eight years after my most recent surgery. Fifty percent to my right knee, 40 percent to my right hip and 10 percent to my left knee.’’
“Reggie has a chronic inflammatory problem. Pain leads to inflammation and vice versa. It’s a vicious cycle,’’ Dr. Kimless explains. “Medical cannabis reduces inflammation.’’
Williams isn’t a pioneer. Nine-year NFL veteran Kyle Turley last year founded Gridiron Cannabis Coalition, comprised of retired players, shortly after being diagnosed with the brain malady CTE.
“The GCC is determined to resolve this impasse to allow layers and the public option of an organic treatment for injury and illness through cannabis,” Turley said last spring.
The NFL forbids its players from using marijuana, even as studies have shown it can be useful for pain, and for mood swings elicited by blows to the head. Players turn to pain pills instead, not always with perfect results.
Reggie Williams wants that to change.
“It’s an opportunity to educate everybody,’’ Williams says. “To those who say (cannabis) can’t (help) a competitive football player, I’d say I may be an exception to that profile. My candor is directly related to the benefits I’ve derived.
“I have a tremendous amount of regret about the pain I endured, probably unnecessarily. The analogy is that oasis out there in the distance. Is it a mirage or a place you find sincere rejuvenation and hope?
“The NFL and the (players association) are putting renewed focus on it. I just want to raise my hand. If they’re putting together any policy-developing organization that will accept advice I want to say I have a lifetime of experience.’’
A man is defined by the stands he takes, especially if he’s a man who has worked 25 years just to stand on two good legs. Reggie Williams thinks he can run onto the field at Paul Brown Stadium next fall. It’d be a miracle, for sure. Aided in large measure, he believes, by his use of medical cannabis.
Reggie sent me a short video last week. It was of a length of sidewalk, maybe half a city block, and of a man, walking stiffly but swiftly, even bouncing a little on the balls of his feet.
It was Reggie Williams, everlasting.
News Moderator: Katelyn Baker 420 MAGAZINE ®
Full Article: Doc – Medical Cannabis An Ally In Reggie Williams’ Fight Against Pain
Author: Paul Daugherty
Photo Credit: Dick Swaim