When former NHL enforcer Larry DePalma retired from professional hockey in 1997, he faced a gruelling off-ice battle with addiction, depression and suicidal thoughts after suffering numerous traumatic brain injuries as a player. He says that using marijuana medicinally not only treated his symptoms but saved his life.
"These concussions ruin people's lives," he told Rick Thompson of The Compassion Chronicles - a marijuana news site serving the American midwest. Before turning to cannabis, DePalma says he put a "gun in my mouth three times...And finally the cannabis came out and saved my life."
DePalma played 148 NHL games for the Minnesota North Stars (now Dallas Stars), San Jose Sharks and Pittsburgh Penguins. During that time, he says that he suffered eight major concussions and "countless normal concussions, if you want to call them normal."
The former player spoke with Thompson during an event for MILegalize - an initiative to make legalizing recreational marijuana in Michigan a ballot question in 2016. The state legalized medical marijuana in 2008, and DePalma has become one of its noteworthy patients. He's now endorsing recreational as well as medical marijuana because cannabis helped him get his life on track when he found that prescription pills were dangerous and ineffective.
"I don't know how many painkillers I used to take...Didn't help my head. Didn't help with what I was thinking to do or not to do....And I just got sick of it. Because when you go off of it, you can die."
Instead, he tried using cannabis to treat his symptoms. "I started using it when I couldn't control my rage and the pain....When I started smoking, it just completely chilled me out. I know when I'm going to get a headache, I'd better start smoking it right away."
But smoking isn't his preferred method of ingestion because he finds today's pot too strong. "Sometimes I eat the edibles - half of one, because I'm a lightweight," he laughed. "The oils...I like the oils. That helps me the most because I don't want to get paranoid....I'm a lightweight."
DePalma joins a growing list of professional athletes advocating that cannabis is a better way to treat injuries and brain conditions than prescription pills like Norco and Xanax, which DePalma says were among the medicines that he found ineffective. Right now, none of the four major sports leagues - NHL, NBA, MLB and NFL - allows players to use cannabis medicinally.