Concussions – My Plea To Athletes and Fans Alike

In 10 years, will we be able to recognize the game of football?  Will professional wrestling look anything like it does today?  Will the NBA crack down on hard fouls that send players crashing to the court?  Will MLB stop being ridiculous and actually dole out real punishments when pitchers hit a batter in the head instead of the 5 day suspension that just requires them to take their normal start 1 day later?

Concussions will change the future of sports as we know it…IF we truly care about the safety and well being of the participants.

I have seen first hand the damage that concussions can have on a person.  In my 12 years in IWA Mid-South, I cannot even begin to count the number of concussions that I witnessed considering all the hardcore matches involving chairshots and falling all balconies through tables.  The light tubes.  The water jugs.  The bumps to the floor.  The stop signs to the head.  The suplexes dropping guys on their head courtesy of the “strong style.”  The headbutts.  The piledrivers and powerbombs.  The amount of head trauma that professional wrestlers have will never be known because it takes ALMOST A YEAR OF TESTING on the brain for researchers to find the severity of damage to the brain.  That means that the families of pro wrestlers would have to donate the brain to Harvard or one of the other centers that are conducting these studies on athletes to run the tests.  How many are willing to do that?

Studies have found that CTE (chronic traumatic encephalopathy) is the condition found in most athletes and military personnel that have received multiple concussions or head traumas in their lifetime.  It is almost impossible to diagnose CTE while the athlete is still alive due to the invasive nature of the testing on the brain.  Some of the symptoms of CTE are depression, memory loss, tremors, slurred speech, vertigo, headaches, dementia, poor judgement, erratic behavior, slowed muscular movements and deafness.  I would be willing to bet that Muhammad Ali has CTE to go along with his Parkinson’s and other disorders from all the boxing matches he had especially the 3 fights with Joe Frazier, the beating in Zaire that the rope a dope strategy against George Foreman unleashed and then the horrific beating that Larry Holmes put on him when he had no business getting into the ring.  He has several of these symptoms and knowing what he did, it should not be a shock to anyone if he were to be diagnosed with CTE after his passing.

Thanks to the families of some of the fallen football stars the last couple of years, 11 in total, 12 if Junior Seau’s family allows it, a lot has been learned since 2008 about the effects of multiple head traumas that athletes are prone to receive.  One of the saddest moments in the history of professional wrestling was when Chris Benoit murdered his wife and son before committing suicide.  When the brain tests ran their course on Benoit, they found that he had the brain of an 80 year old man with dementia.  While that does not excuse his actions, it gives insight into how such a horrible thing could happen.  We are seeing a higher increase in athletes passing away at a young age in all sports.  The NHL had a string of deaths in the last year.  The NFL.  Pro wrestling.  Something has to be done to increase the safety because the athletes are just getting bigger, stronger and faster and hitting each other with greater force and creating more damage than ever before.

50 years ago, athletes didn’t lift weights, take steroids or even play year round.  They would play their season and then most would go home and work another job in the off season.  Today’s athletes are working out year round.  They are playing year round.  They are overworking their bodies and putting more stress on themselves than they can handle.  The effects of these changes are just now being seen.

While these athletes are grown adults and more than capable of making a decision of whether they want to risk their lives to perform their craft.  It is not my place to tell anyone what they can or cannot do for a living.  However, we can make sure that everyone is informed about the dangers.  We can make sure that we are not pushing people towards endangering their lives.

Looking back as a professional wrestling fan, I am embarrassed by my actions.  The amount of times that I yelled “boring” or chanted “we want blood” are inexcusable.  I wish I had known what I was asking people to do for my entertainment.  The same is true for fans of other sports as well.  How many of us have complained about the increase in rules in the last decade to protect the QB?  How many racing fans complained when they have put rules into place about using restrictor plates and slowing the cars down to avoid serious injuries.  How many of us have ever made the corny joke about “I went to a fight and a hockey game broke out”?  We are encouraging people to make poor decisions and to risk their safety and well being for our amusement.  Would we make that same sacrifice for them?  Would we knowing chance turning out like Muhammad Ali so someone else can enjoy it?

This situation hits so close to home to me not only because of all my friends that I fear for their futures but also because I myself have suffered two concussions.  In 12 years, I got hit in the head twice with a chair.  After Corporal Robinson hit him, I had headaches for a few days and dizziness.  I kept quiet.  Everyone else on the shows were getting hit 5 to 10 times in EVERY match and I’m going to complain about getting hit once in 3 years (at the time)?  After the 8 man tag barbed wire match, I received another concussion.  A stop sign to the head followed by a chair shot.  I don’t know how I made it home that night.  I woke up with the worst headache.  Everyone else in the match took a much worse beating than I did so I didn’t say anything.  Pride wouldn’t allow it.  I think that only makes it much worse for athletes that actually compete on a daily basis unlike me.  They don’t want to be thought of as weak or a coward. So they get back out there and keep on battling.  Thank God that my two concussions were only minor ones and were 4 years apart.  I think I made it out ok but I see minor differences.  My mind isn’t as quick as it was.  I can’t remember as well as I did when I was getting on the honor roll in school without picking up a book more than once.

I hope and pray that my colleagues were as lucky to come out with just minor setbacks.  I fear what they may be like in 10 years or 20 years.  Sadly, we’ll never know until it is too late  But think of that athlete as a human being the next time you are cheering for a bone crushing hit in football, a fight in hockey or chanting “boring” during a wrestling match.  Think of the consequences that these human beings will face in the future and appreciate the risks that they are taking to entertain us…and then ask them not to do it.



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