Kyle Turley used to get through the day by taking painkillers, muscle relaxers, sleep aids and anti-inflammatory medications.
The outcome for a former All-Pro lineman who said he suffered from more than 100 concussions in football looked grim. Turley has early onset Alzheimer’s disease and symptoms of the degenerative brain disease chronic traumatic encephalopathy (CTE) that can only be diagnosed in the deceased.
Turley, now 41, also suffered from vertigo, depression, rage, migraine headaches and light sensitivity after an eight-year career with New Orleans, St. Louis and Kansas City.
He considered suicide numerous times, including in 2009 when his wife stopped him from jumping out of a third-story window at their home. Turley blamed suicidal and homicidal feelings on psychiatric medications he took. Opioid pain medicine also contributed to his declining health, he said.
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Two years ago, the 6-foot-5, 300-pound bear of a man turned away from the medicine cabinet and began using marijuana. Since then he has become one of the biggest advocates of cannabis for treatment of football injuries and personifies a growing feeling among players that this is the path to better health.
“When you find you’re contemplating suicide you have to make a decision, one way or another,” said Turley, who lives in Riverside. “Otherwise I would have put a bullet in my head a long time ago.”
To this day, Turley needs artificial knee replacements, a hip replacement and back fusion surgery. “I’ve got bone on bone in every joint,” he said. “It’s as bad as it gets.”
Turley, who started the cannabis company Neuro Armour, takes cannabidiol (CBD) oils for some of his body problems. He also uses THC, marijuana’s psychoactive ingredient that gives people a buzz, to deal with psychological scars.
The sativa-dominant strain of cannabis he uses “is better than any psych medication that I’ve ever been given, period,” Turley said. “It deals with my pain, it deals with my stress, and it deals with my CTE.”
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Turley, an assistant high school coach at his alma mater in Moreno Valley, takes cannabis daily but said he doesn’t get high. His wife also treats her skin cancer with a cannabis-based oil.
Turley, a former San Diego State star, was part of the class-action concussion lawsuit that resulted in a $1 billion settlement with the NFL this year. He also was a plaintiff in a suit in U.S. District Court in San Francisco that highlights the abuse of painkillers in the NFL. More than 1,800 former players alleged team physicians and trainers administered massive levels of addictive painkillers to keep them on the field while risking their long-term health. The Broncos, Chargers and Packers are the remaining defendants in a case that could lead to a jury trial.
Turley said he had a two-decade struggle with depression and rage because of an opioid addiction.
Yet, he would play football again without hesitation if Turley could do it with the use of cannabis.
“I guarantee you I wouldn’t have problems I have now,” he said. “I guarantee you Junior Seau and my brothers would be alive now. I wouldn’t take all those drugs I never needed to take that they put in my face and said it would make you better.”