After one of the most decorated WNBA careers of all time, Hall-of-Famer Lauren Jackson couldn’t train without a concoction of pain-killers to fight her chronic ailments.
The greatest Australian basketballer ever is a two-time champion and three-time WNBA MVP, plus a four-time Olympic medallist with the Opals, but those years were taking a toll on her body.
An ACL tear and subsequent staph infection in 2016 drew the curtains on Jackon’s illustrious career, but retirement didn’t halt the “fog” that was slowly consuming her life.
“Once I retired I made a concerted effort to get rid of the prescription medications that I’d been taking and get them out of my system,” Jackson told The Inner Sanctum.
“I felt like – particularly at the end of my career – I was walking around in a bit of a fog, not making good decisions and just feeling like a shell of who I was as a person.
“It got to the point in ‘real’ life that if I was going to be successful and productive – and do all the things I wanted to do – I had to ensure that I was as healthy as I could be and free from a lot of those pain medications.”
Ripping herself away from the pain-killers that extended her professional career came at the cost of the lifestyle she had lived for two decades.
“Once I retired I wanted to be healthy and fit,” she said.
“I had two little boys and I decided when I had them that I wanted to start training and be a good role model for them. I wanted to get out there with them and play them one-on-one and do those things with them.
“I was going to training, I was going for a run and I was going to the gym and it would take me two weeks to recover.
“My body, my joints, my knees really struggled after a session and I just never got to a point where I was consistently going to the gym and getting back out on the basketball court.”
Without another pain-relieving option, Jackson’s concerted effort to ease herself off her pain-killers meant she had to sacrifice an active life with her young family.
That was until a short conversation with former teammate Sue Bird changed her life.
“I decided I didn’t want to be taking the other stuff anymore,” Jackson said.
“I can’t, I’ve got two little kids. I need to be as healthy and as switched on as I can be for them.
“Sue was promoting something on social media and I just sort of said to her ‘What is it?’.
“We had a really brief chat about it and I went to my GP.”
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Jackson was prescribed CBD oil to deal with her chronic pain, with studies finding the medicinal cannabis product holds anti-inflammatory properties and relieves pain receptors for patients experiencing chronic pain.
It offered immediate relief for Jackson’s body, and completely changed her lifestyle.
“I started taking medicinal cannabis in the form of CBD oil and It’s just changed my life,” Jackson told The Inner Sanctum.
“I’ve been in the gym every single day, I’ve made a real effort because I want to get back out on the court.
“I want to play at some level because I feel like my career ended so abruptly with the injury, that there’s always been a part of me that asked ‘what if? What if I could’ve gone that little bit longer?’.
“I actually went back to Sue and I just said ‘Thank you so much. What it’s done for my body, it’s changed my life and it’s given me the opportunity to go and train again’.
“She’s still an athlete – an incredible athlete – so just seeing that first person using it was so important for me.”
Now partnered with leading Melbourne sports science company Levin Health, Jackson’s experiences with long-term pain-killer use is well and truly in the rearview mirror.
The fog has lifted, and her day-to-do active lifestyle with her young family is how she envisioned life after basketball.
Jackson has made it her business to advocate for the use of medicinal cannabis in treating chronic pain. Progress and acceptance of the drug in Australia is still trailing that of the United States, but she thinks it’s a stigma that is slowly starting to fade.
“There’s definitely a stigma around it – stigma associated with it,” Jackson admitted.
“But I think the more we talk about it, the more people are starting to talk to their GPs and have those conversations about what it is and how it can benefit them.
“In all honesty it’s really helped me, and I have no problem in discussing how good it is, because it doesn’t impair me or affect me in any other way.
“It helps me in my recovery and the anti-inflammatory properties of CBD oil has just been incredible in getting me active again. I just want people to hear my story so they can make their own informed decisions as well.
“I’ve had so many different injuries and things, so chronic pain-wise it’s definitely worth people having a conversation with their GP. For it to be more accessible for people is so important.
“The work and research that Levin Health does is vital, and it’s so important to remove the stigma so people can benefit.”
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