Fortescue Metals Group director Jenn Morris is a regular medical cannabis user and believes its benefits could extend to helping some of the world’s top sporting codes deal with an emerging concussion crisis.
The two-time Olympic hockey gold medallist, who has been on the board of the $62.5 billion iron ore miner since 2016, turned to medical cannabis for relief from chronic pain she has endured since suffering a childhood back injury.
It has helped her cope better and convinced her to join the board of Levin Health, a sports science start-up formerly known as Levin Growing that is built around cannabis.
In addition to pain management, Levin will investigate the potential use of medical cannabis to treat concussion as greater awareness of the long-term impact of head knocks forces rule changes in contact sports around the world.
Levin’s chief executive is Mark Brayshaw, who until recently was CEO of the AFL Coaches Association and before that boss of the Richmond Football Club.
He hails from a famous sporting family and his son Angus Brayshaw, who plays in a helmet, is part of the Melbourne team that will try to break a 57-year premiership drought in the next few weeks.
Ms Morris said she was a case study in how medical cannabis could help relieve chronic pain and that using it had helped her get back to exercise and living a healthier, happier life.
“I’ve lived with chronic pain since I was about 12 years sold. I had a back injury when really young, two knee reconstructions and throughout my life I’ve battled endometriosis,” she said.
“You reach a point where put up with pain for years and years and eventually that chronic pain inhibits your normal day-to-day activities.
“What Levin Health is trying to solve is personal for me and I believe we can be a significant player in this market.”
Ms Morris uses a product that contains the cannabidiol (CBD) component of the cannabis plant and not the THC chemical that produces psychoactive effects.
Levin produces a combination and is focused on conducting clinical trials to fill some of the research void on the efficacy of medical cannabis products.
Ms Morris, a member of the Australian Sports Commission and former chair of Western Australia’s peak health promotion body Heathway, said medical cannabis could have a role to play in reducing inflammation around the brain in concussion cases but more research was needed.
She said while the treatment of muscle strain injuries in elite sport had evolved rapidly, concussion treatment had not.
“Hamstring injuries are treated much differently these days depending on the individual, concussion treatments are basically the same,” she said.
The Levin management team includes Australian medical cannabis pioneer Harry Karelis, who was involved in founding AusCann, Zelda Therapeutics and other cannabis companies.
Mr Brayshaw said Ms Morris, whose directorships include copper producer Sandfire Resources as well as Fortescue, would add extensive senior executive and board experience to Levin.
“And her insight and understanding of chronic pain is invaluable to the challenges facing the medical cannabis space,” he said.
“Levin Health will also focus on concussion, an issue of increasing concern across so many fields of modern sports.”