During the course of his NBA career, former All-Star Kenyon Martin sustained injuries that required surgery to repair.

Among those included two microfracture surgeries on both knees, major reconstructive surgery on his left ankle and having his left patella repaired.

Despite his setbacks, he spent 15 years in the league, and said part of the reason he could continue after his injuries was due to the medicinal use of cannabis.

Martin was one of a group of former NBA and NFL players who spoke to Bleacher Report about marijuana use in American sports leagues, and argued the benefits of lighting up.

"I played 15 years, man, and made it through a lot of major injuries and was still able to play basketball at a high level," Martin said. "That's medicine...I walk around in no pain."

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While the group smoked for more reasons than medicinal purposes, fellow ex-NBA star Matt Barnes echoed Martin's experiences, and said he smoked because he knew how it made him feel.

Matt Barnes won an NBA title with Golden State in 2017. Photo / Getty Images
Matt Barnes won an NBA title with Golden State in 2017. Photo / Getty Images

"I just knew 'man, I'm gonna hit that and my back's going to feel better, my toes going to feel better, my fingers – I broke all my fingers – my fingers are going to be alright," Barnes told Bleacher Report.

Martin estimated about 85 per cent of the league smoked the substance during his playing days, while Barnes said general managers, coaches and presidents were all indulging as well.

It was a similar case in the NFL. Recently retired tight end Martellus Bennett, who won a Super Bowl title with the New England Patriots in 2017, estimated about 80 per cent of the NFL smoked. while nine-year pro Shaun Smith, who said he smoked two blunts before every game, said it was at least 80 per cent.

"Everybody has their reason," Smith told Bleacher Report. "They might use it for their pain...we're all big guys, our body hurts."

Marijuana is now legal for recreational use in nine states of the country, and was allowed for medicinal purposes in 29.

However, of the four major American sports leagues, cannabis is a banned substance in the NBA, NFL and MLB, while the drug is not mentioned as a prohibited substance in the NHL's collective bargaining agreement.

Both the NBA and NFL have not closed the door on allowing the use of marijuana in the future. NFL spokesperson Brian McCarthy told Bleacher Report there was more to learn about cannabinoid compounds as they may relate to their potential treatment of acute and chronic pain. That view was shared by NBA commissioner Adam Silver.

"Marijuana is on our banned substance list," Silver said. "We are, however, interested in better understanding the safety and efficacy of medical marijuana."

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