In 2016 DOPE had the chance to speak with American football offensive lineman Kyle Turley about his struggle with chronic traumatic encephalopathy (CTE) among other ailments to his mind and body caused by his career in the National Football League (NFL). Turley’s story is not unique as evidenced by the numerous former NFL players who have come forward to tell their stories of bodily injury and life-long trauma as a result of time spent on the field.
Kyle Turley was selected seventh overall in the 1998 National Football League draft, played for the Saints, the Rams, the Kansas City Chiefs, earned All-Pro honors in 2000 and a Pro Bowl invite in 2001. Post professional football Turley was diagnosed with early-onset dementia and Alzheimer’s, struggled with emotional issues, severe light sensitivity, paranoia, and anxiety—while still in pain. This didn’t happen overnight of course. Turley, like many other NFL players, had been over prescribed pharmacuticals for his entire NFL career masking the depth of pain and neurological damage that his mind and body were enduring. “I was prescribed a myriad of painkillers, muscle relaxers and anti-inflammatories but due to neurological issues that continued to arise with vertigo, severe migraine headache issues and seizures, I was hospitalized multiple times. I was prescribed medications to deal with all of those things and that led to psych medications like Wellbutrin and Depakote and Zoloft and things like that.” Turley explained.
Over prescribing medications to keep players on the field has landed the league in court multiple times but none more potentially detrimental for the league as the recent lawsuit citing “improper and deceptive prescription drug-distribution practices” by 1,800 former NFL players. The suit details how teams ignored federal drug laws and pumped players full of detrimental amounts of highly addictive opiate painkillers. The same prescription drugs that killed over 50,000 people in 2015 alone.
It wasn’t always prescription meds that Turley turned to during his career. When Turley was 23, while playing with the Saints a player on his team suggested cannabis. “I was having a lot of issues and a teammate saw me struggling with those and going to the trainers and the doctors and them giving me prescriptions to try and ease my stress.” Turley told us, “It was from a true medicinal standpoint at that time. I didn’t even drink alcohol. I was committed to this dream of being one of the world’s greatest football players. I didn’t want to disrupt that. From that moment on I used cannabis to relieve the stress of my days, it allowed me to sleep better than I ever had and peaked my appetite which I needed to play football. It allowed me to have a focused intent on everything that I was doing. Unfortunately, that got disrupted when I started having increased neurological issues that were happening to me because of this football disease, CTE.”
Turley explained how the neurological issues started to flare up, inducing seizures, depression and suicidal thoughts, dementia and early onset Alzheimer’s and he was given psych medication which turned him into someone else. “I think they accelerated the issues.” Turley asserted. Post career he took what he had already experienced with cannabis’ healing properties and moved to California where he could legally apply for medicinal help. “When I was diagnosed with early onset Alzheimer’s and dementia, that’s when I finally sat down and said I believed a lot of the prescription meds I were on were contributing to my ailment. And if I’m wrong, I have a bigger problem than I’m recognizing here, but I have to give this a shot.” Turley told DOPE. “When I came to California I had the opportunity to try different strains and so I kept trying and trying and trying them all.” Eventually he found the right regimen for him in Jack Herer, a Sativa-dominant hybrid cannabis strain that Turley describes as “unbelievably powerful and better than any psych medication I was ever given. It gave me my life back.”
According to Turley cannabis not only helped with the neurological issues he had been dealing with but it helped him manage his pain. Pain that he says would cripple others. “When you deal with a lot of pain and bone on bone joint issues and knee surgeries, dealing with pain is difficult and there’s no pain killer. There is only pain management. At the end of the day I manage pain so much better on cannabis, strictly cannabis. I didn’t have pain relief taking all those pills. I just got really high. Vicodin didn’t necessarily kill pain, it just makes you high. When you’re high you don’t care as much. I would rather be high on things that really help me. Finding your strain(s) is the reason why I speak about that. It helps you. You are your best you.” But pain management isn’t the only thing that cannabis has helped Turley power through. Depression is something Turley also struggled with. For that, he turns to his go-to indica strain, San Fernando Valley. “I am a husband, I am a parent, I am a coach.” He explains proudly, “indicas really allow you to expand your mind and get back to your motivation and excitement. Life is reinvigorated.”
Once Turley had found the medicinal regimen for him he knew he needed to share his story with the world, especially those in and involved with the NFL so that they too could benefit from the medicinal value of cannabis. CTE, the degenerative disease believed to stem from repetitive brain injuries effects 96 percent of football players brains tested and 76 percent of all players. CTE diagnoses aren’t a few isolated incidents. This is a huge problem that the NFL needs to address. “A lot of people have the perception that I hate football. I have been probably the biggest advocate for football. I’m looking for solutions to be able to pass this down to my son and how we can help make it better.” Turley told VICE in an interview.
Turley will once again be attending the pre-Super Bowl events and delivering a message to the NFL. Last year he went to Houston addressing the need for the NFL to be more intent on delivering the message of more protection for players and that cannabis is a healthier, safer alternative to the pharmaceuticals being handed out in the NFL today. “I tried it last year but my message this year is coming back with an answer, not just waving a flag.” Turley asserts. He is referring to his new line of CBD products. “They [NFL] have given me the platform to speak about this if I show up. It’s something that’s on the minds of millions of Americans right now— especially with the opiate conversation that we are having now.” And Turley is confident that he and his partnership with Shango, a premium cannabis brand, will result in a solution.
Through Turley’s journey of sharing his story he met Brandon Rexro, founder of Shango. They realized they had more than a love for extreme sports in common and Neuro XPF was born. “As I was going around telling my truth I met a lot of people, saw a lot of things and had the opportunity to get involved and meet Brandon Rexro who founded Shango. They have built an unbelievable cannabis company. I am the big idea guy. It has been a really awesome experience and a great partnership that has come out of that with Shango. They are a company that is going to help take us to that next level.”
Neuro XPF is a THC free hemp-derived cannabis supplement. The products are high in CBD which has been shown in studies to have neuroprotective properties. CBD addresses a myriad of maladies facing our military and NFL veterans, as well as anyone suffering from chronic pain. “I also have a lot of proven testimonials from clients now after starting this company that I can firmly stand on. Experiences that we have witnessed through just CBD. Going back with my product now I am in a position where I can say, ‘Here it is.’” Turley explains enthusiastically. “This is an opportunity for all of your players to experience this without testing rules changing in the NFL. If it’s done the right way this has its own opportunity to blow people’s minds in its ability especially in Neuro-cognitive issues.”
Turley and his partners have their minds set on sharing this new product with the world and normalizing it at the highest levels. “I have full intent on being in GNC and vitamin shops…I try to surround myself with the people who know what they are doing so that I can bring this to the people. We will be coming out with a water, protein powders and a full sports supplement recovery line.” But Turley stresses that these are not performance enhancers in any way. “Pre and post exercise or performance in anything is beneficial. Not in a performance enhancing way, more in a help you to perform at your best level. It takes away stress, anxiety and allows you to focus on what it is you have worked so hard to achieve.” Turley asserts. “Who knows where this can go. It’s been endless so far and I am excited about the future.”
As are we. Solution-based thinking took Turley from bouts of rage from his ailments and the pharmaceuticals that were causing more health and neurological issues to being able to coach his son’s baseball league and start a company that could change the future of countless athletes. With the help of Shango, home of a range of award-winning cannabis products, we are excited to see where the future of Neuro XPF takes them.