Without medical cannabis, Aussie basketball legend Lauren Jackson wouldn’t have been able to make the remarkable comeback that culminated in her World Cup selection.
At 41 years young, Jackson was lured out of international retirement in June ahead of September’s World Cup here in Australia.
In an emotional video released yesterday, Jackson was brought to tears when Opals coach Sandy Brondello confirmed she had been picked in Australia’s World Cup squad for September’s Sydney-based tournament.
And it’s all thanks to medical cannabis.
Lauren Jackson has been picked for Australia’s World Cup squad, nine years after last playing for the Opals
‘Making an official return to the world stage in a sport that I love is just an incredible feeling,’ said Jackson.
‘I only made my return to the court just in April earlier this year and my treatment plan prior to playing again with medicinal cannabis plays a large part in my recovery from chronic pain.’
Incredibly, Jackson made her international debut 25 years ago, with her last appearance prior to her retirement coming in 2013. She last played in a FIBA World Cup in 2010.
Lauren Jackson (left) playing for Australia against the USA during the 2000 Sydney Olympics
Jackson revealed she had a cry when Brondello told her of her selection, and in the video she put her head in her hands, overcome at the emotion while admitting she ‘didn’t know what to say’.
‘There were a lot of emotions when Sandy rang me, I had a bit of a cry to be honest,’ she said.
‘I have been working my body hard, and I didn’t honestly know if it was going to hold up to my intense training regime, but it has and I’m feeling good.’
Earlier in the year, she admitted it would be ‘absolutely stupid’ to think she would make the World Cup squad – saying she really just wanted to be ‘pain-free again’.
Lauren Jackson was all smiles court-side at a WNBA game between her former team Seattle and Minnesota on August 3
Jackson played 220 games in a long career for the Opals, and she is set to add to that number at the World Cup in September
The Aussie legend had no intentions of playing again competitively after having a partial replacement of her right knee and dealing with an ACL tear that was followed by a staph infection.
But a successful comeback playing NBL1 for her home town of Albury clearly reignited the passion within.
On the back of a rigorous fitness regime, possible with the help of medical cannabis, she was in outstanding form; averaging 32.6 points and 11.6 rebounds.
‘I had finished playing basketball with painful ankles and was able to obtain a prescription through my doctor, which saw my ankles feel much better and allow me to gain more movement back to do more of the things I love,’ said Jackson.
‘It’s been just incredible for my recovery.’
Lauren Jackson was the happiest person in Australia when talking about her comeback to the Opals on Wednesday
Unfortunately, cannabis is on the WADA prohibited list though – meaning Jackson was required to stop taking the medication once she started to play again.
She is currently awaiting the outcome of a therapeutic use exemption, which would allow her to again use medicinal cannabis to help ease her chronic pain and improve her recovery.
Jackson joined the Sports Advisory Board at leading sports science company Levin Health earlier this year to help address the broader issue of chronic pain from sport; but also the stigma surrounding medicinal cannabis.
She sits on the board with AFL legends Damien Hardwick and Alastair Clarkson, as well as champion jockey Damien Oliver and NRL Immortal Andrew Johns.
The legendary athletes have all been very open about the huge affect medical marijuana has had on their lives after serious injuries.
Levin Health CEO Mark Brayshaw, father of Demons AFL star Angus, says Jackson’s incredible comeback is a wonderful step for Australia in reducing the stigma surrounding medical marijuana.
‘As medical cannabis becomes more accessible in Australia, we’re seeing an increase in more prescriptions, more results and more education for the community,’ he said.
‘With medicinal cannabis allowing her (Jackson) to make a return to basketball on the World Cup team, her results and insights into her treatment and recovery have provided invaluable first-hand experience and knowledge into conditions and possible natural treatment options.’
Lauren Jackson takes to the court for Australia during the 2013 FIBA Oceania Championship
The company received ethics approval for a world-leading clinical trial earlier this year to investigate the effectiveness of medicinal cannabis in treating people with chronic pain following musculoskeletal injury.
Having such a high-profile advocate for medical cannabis will no doubt help other elite athletes find ways to manage their chronic pain.
The first Australian player ever to be inducted into the Naismith Memorial Basketball Hall of Fame, Jackson, who played 220 games for the Opals, is regarded as one of the world’s best female basketballers of all time.
She is four-time WNBA MVP; and won titles in the US, Australia, Spain and Russia, as well as three Olympic silver medals and one bronze.
Lauren Jackson won two WNBA titles with the Seattle Storm, and was also named as the league’s MVP on four occasions
Tess Madgen, Jackson and Darcee Garbin at a press conference to announce the Opals World Cup squad on Wednesday
She retired from playing in 2016 after knee injuries derailed her career, and in a press conference at the time said basketball was ‘the love of her life’.
The Opals, who are ranked number three in the world, are aiming to add to their past stellar World Cup performances, having won silver in 2018 and bronze in 2014.
Australia’s only World Title came in 2006 – a tournament Jackson captained in.
They’ve drawn Group C, with pool matches against France, Serbia, Japan, Mali and Canada, with the tournament to begin in Sydney on September 22.