The stigma around cannabis and a lack of medical evidence are making professional athletes reluctant to champion CBD as a treatment for pain, according to two retired sports stars.

Former professional soccer player and co-founder and CEO of CBD brand Mendi, Rachael Rapinoe, told delegates at Prohibition Partners Live that education and medical research are key if the industry is to progress.

Join the Cannabiz revolution

Want to stay ahead of the cannabis curve with the latest local and international news, analysis and intelligence and access to Australia's legal cannabis industry?

This article is included with our Premium subscription.

Rachael Rapinoe (left), with sister and fellow soccer star Megan

She said: “Athletes are educated and very OCD about recovery and performance. They want to do things that are backed by science.”

Rapinoe said while there is a lot of data supporting the use of CBD for pain relief, there are no controlled medical studies in the US due to a lack of support from the Food and Drug Administration (FDA).

“Until we get the support of the medical community, we’re not going to get the research we need for this industry to progress. Until that happens, there will be stigma,” she warned.

Rapinoe said the fact some high-profile athletes are starting to have public relationships with CBDs brands is helping to spread word of mouth among younger players and that, once they try it, they too become advocates.

“Prior to going to market we went to six of the nine women’s professional soccer teams [in the US] and did focus groups with the players. The consistent feedback was that anyone who hadn’t tried it was scared, and anyone who had, loved it.

“The younger players just said ‘if [US soccer stars] Megan Rapinoe and Alex Morgan are taking it, I’ll take it.”