Without medical cannabis, Australian basketball legend Lauren Jackson would not have been able to make the remarkable comeback that culminated in her World Cup roster.
At the age of 41, Jackson was lured out of international retirement in June, ahead of the World Cup here in Australia in September.
In an emotional video released yesterday, Jackson was moved to tears when Opals coach Sandy Brondello confirmed she had been named to Australia’s World Cup squad for the Sydney tournament in September.
And it’s all thanks to medical cannabis.
Lauren Jackson has been selected for Australia’s World Cup squad, nine years after he last played for the Opals
“Making an official return to the world stage in a sport I love is just an incredible feeling,” Jackson said.
“I only returned to court in April, earlier this year, and my treatment plan before returning to medical cannabis is playing a big part in my recovery from chronic pain.”
Incredibly, Jackson made her international debut 25 years ago, with her last appearance prior to her retirement in 2013. She last played in a FIBA World Cup in 2010.
Lauren Jackson (left) plays for Australia against the US at the 2000 Sydney Olympics
Jackson revealed she cried when Brondello told her about her selection, and in the video, she put her head in her hands, overcome with emotion as she admitted she “didn’t know what to say.”
“There were a lot of emotions when Sandy called me, I cried a bit to be honest,” she said.
“I’ve been working hard on my body and I honestly didn’t know if it could handle my high-intensity exercise regime, but it is and I feel good.”
Earlier this 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 at a WNBA game between her former team Seattle and Minnesota on August 3
Jackson has played 220 games in a long career for the Opals, and she will increase that number at the World Cup in September.
The Australian legend had no plans to return to competitive play after a partial right knee replacement and an ACL tear followed by a staph infection.
But a successful comeback playing NBL1 for her hometown of Albury clearly rekindled the inner passion.
On the back of a strict fitness regime, possibly using medicinal cannabis, she was in excellent shape; averaged 32.6 points and 11.6 rebounds.
“I had stopped playing basketball with sore ankles and was able to get a prescription through my doctor, which made my ankles feel much better and gave me more exercise to do more of the things I love,” Jackson said.
“It’s just been incredible for my recovery.”
Lauren Jackson was the happiest person in Australia when she spoke about her comeback to the Opals on Wednesday
Unfortunately, however, cannabis is on the WADA banned list – meaning Jackson had to stop taking the medication as soon as she started playing again.
She is currently awaiting the outcome of a therapeutic use exemption, which would allow her to resume using medicinal cannabis to relieve her chronic pain and improve her recovery.
Jackson joined the sports advisory board of leading sports science company Levin Health earlier this year to address the broader issue of chronic pain from exercise; 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 enormous impact 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 are seeing an increase in more prescriptions, more results and more community education,” he said.
“With medical cannabis enabling her (Jackson) to return to basketball on the World Cup team, her results and insights into her treatment and recovery have provided invaluable experience and first-hand knowledge about conditions and possible natural treatment options.”
Lauren Jackson takes court for Australia at 2013 FIBA Oceania Championship
Earlier this year, the company received ethical approval for a world-leading clinical trial to investigate the effectiveness of medicinal cannabis in treating people with chronic pain after musculoskeletal injury.
Having such a high-profile medical cannabis advocate 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 considered one of the world’s greatest female basketball players of all time.
She is a 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 the league’s MVP four times
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 the world’s number three, are aiming to build on their previous stellar World Cup achievements, having won silver in 2018 and bronze in 2014.
Australia’s only world title came in 2006 – a tournament in which Jackson captained.
They have drawn Group C, with group matches against France, Serbia, Japan, Mali and Canada, and the tournament kicks off on September 22 in Sydney.