‘I always gravitated to it, not just as a social lubricant, but also for the relaxing effect after a stressful day or a sports-related injury – especially inflammation. It’s known as a natural anti-inflammatory,’ explained Matthew Masifilo, the founder of kavafied and a former Stanford University defensive lineman who switched to the offensive line during a brief NFL career with the Tampa Bay Buccaneers.
Like many football players of Polynesian descent, Masifilo was hardly new to kava when he began using it for pain relief and sharing it with his uninitiated teammates during his playing days.
A native of Hawaii, Masifilo’s father hails from Tonga, one of a handful of countries in the Pacific that are responsible for the entire world’s kava production.
Kava also benefits from the fact that professional sports leagues have yet to ban it, so players can utilize the bitter brew without fear of failing a drug test. And maybe equally important, kava offers a social outlet for players without the dangers of alcohol or illegal drugs.
Several Miami Dolphins players, including three-time Pro Bowl center Mike Pouncey, have stated publicly that they use kava as an alternative to opioids.
By offering the raw materials and the AluBall, which allows for quicker preparation, such a company could make kava accessible to a new generation of athletes. A supposedly safe, natural painkiller and anti-inflammatory that loosens muscles and alleviates anxiety while promoting social, team-building behavior is a no-brainer for both professionals and amateurs.
But as South Pacific farmers can attest, the kava industry is at the mercy of the region’s violently erratic weather patterns. That’s why, according to Masifilo, researching sustainable ways to cultivate the plant is the best way to protect the industry.
‘The only barrier is the supply of kava,’ he said. ‘The supply will always limit its growth.’