Concussions and CBD, Can it help?


The use of cannabidiol (CBD) among the general population has been growing as the policies towards legislation on the usage of cannabis have become increasingly loose. It has become apparent that the usage of CBD can have neurological implications that may improve quality of life, especially in individuals who may have experienced trauma, whether it is physiological or psychological.

CBD has recently exploded onto the market place, despite the federal government regulations still in place on the usage of cannabis. Recently, athletes have been some of the biggest consumers and advocates for the use of CBD and although the research and literature on usage is relatively new, athletes have sworn by the results of the product.


A recent study published in the journal of the American medical association (JAMA) in November of 2015 spoke on the impacts that concussions have on the hippocampus.  The hippocampus is a region of the brain that is responsible for memory, specifically long-term, emotions, spatial navigation and regulation of the autonomic nervous system. The study looked to determine through magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) if concussions caused shrinkage of the total mass of the hippocampus (Singh et al., 2015).

The results published in JAMA indicated that football players with and without a history of concussion showed smaller hippocampal volumes relative to the healthy control. Interestingly, there was an inverse relationship with hippocampal volume and years spent playing football, along with mean reductions in reaction times (Singh et al., 2015). This would indicate that the more years spent playing contact sports, the more likely you are to have cognitive issues associated with hippocampal shrinkage, although more research is needed to confirm this finding (Singh et al., 2015).

 An additional study published in translational psychiatry journal wanted to assess the cognitive harm that would take place do to long-term exposure to THC, specifically in the hippocampus and whether or not CBD usage could offer protection and or reversal of shrinkage within this region of the brain (Yucel et al., 2015).


It is believed that this study was among one of the first MRI investigation of prolonged THC and CBD exposure or abstinence on the integrity of the hippocampus. The authors confirmed that hippocampal mass is reduced in long-term THC users, and found that this breakdown can improve following prolonged abstinence. The authors explained that both hippocampal volume and neurochemistry are reduced to the greatest extent in users exposed to THC without CBD. However, current users of cannabis containing CBD, as well as former users, show no structural or neurochemical hippocampal differences compared with healthy controls. These findings would suggest that CBD could be neuro-protective, perhaps through its role in synaptic plasticity and/or neurogenesis (Yucel et al., 2015).


It seems that CBD may provide preventative care or potentially restore hippocampal integrity after injury. These findings inform the current debate regarding the legalization and therapeutic application of cannabis. CBD may also have implications in populations such as athletes that experience similar cognitive impairments in the hippocampal region as a result of multiple sub-concussive and full concussive impacts over time (Yucel et al., 2015). Although the research has yet to explore whether or not CBD can be a treatment option for acute concussions, this opens up an interesting avenue for further research in human trials given the safety and efficacy of the CBD.


  1. Singh R, Meier TB, Kuplicki R, et al. Relationship of collegiate football experience and concussion with hippocampal volume and cognitive outcomes. JAMA – J Am Med Assoc2014;311(18):1883–8.
  2. Yücel M, Lorenzetti V, Suo C, et al. Hippocampal harms, protection and recovery following regular cannabis use. Transl Psychiatry2016;6(November 2015):e710.