Professional wrestlers are known for being tough. They work through injuries. They take bumps and bangs beyond the limits of what the human body should endure. When their bodies hit the mat, it can cause the impact force of a car accident, and doctors are only now learning the long-term damage that these sorts of activities cause. Although they often times use or abuse pain medication to push through the physical pain, the still do permanent damage to various body parts. The damage especially affects the brains of these athletes.
It is easy to imagine the damage that happens during a pro wrestling match. The brain is a delicate and soft organ that floats in a pool of fluid, and it is protected by a hard shell called the skull. When a wrestler is slammed to the mat, the brain slams into the skull. If the impact is traumatic enough, it results in permanent damage to the vital organ. It is also being theorized that repeated light impact to the brain causes unknown long-term damage that may vary based on the individual.
The topic was in the public’s focus a few years ago when Chris Benoit killed his family. Although his actions cannot be directly linked to a traumatic brain injury, his brain was examined after his death. When researchers examined the wrestler's brain tissue under a microscope, they said they found evidence of years of repeated blows had caused the fully functioning individual to have severe brain damage.
"Chris's damage was extensive. It was replete across multiple areas of the brain," Dr. Julian Bailes said to ABC’s Nightline. "It remains one the worst we have seen."
However, brain damage in wrestling isn’t limited to Chris Benoit. In fact, it isn’t even limited to the guys you see on TV. Men and women all over the nation are doing damage to their brains, often times for little pay and no fame.
“I had a grand mal seizure which put me in the hospital via ambulance from my house. One minute I was fine, having dinner with my wife and discussing our days at work. The next thing I remember was waking up to four paramedics standing over me attempting to put me in a neck brace... After many hours and many tests it was determined that my seizure was caused by a "Perfect Storm" of bad events and bad choices on my behalf,” said Classy Chris Nelson, a now retired independent wrestler who has enjoyed moderate success in the squared circle.
Matt Hardy also suffered an apparent concussion at the ECW-esque reunion event title Extreme Rising from the Golden Dome on November 17th. Reports state that Luke Hawx was wrestling Hardy when Hardy started going into convulsions. The event apparently ended with Hardy being taken away by emergency personnel.
WWE Superstar and Hall of Fame legend Bret Hart also suffered a stroke as a result of brain trauma that he suffered in the ring. He was regulated to using a wheel chair and relearning to walk after the incident occurred. Although he is able to walk and talk now, his road to recovery is far from over.
Men aren’t the only ones who get brain damage from their work as professional wrestlers. Three-year indie veteran diva Santana Garrett recently told 911 staff members about suffering her first in-ring concussion. Santana is a regular part of Shine and Shimmer women’s wrestling, with hopes of making it to the WWE one day.
Chris Nelson also had this to say this to pro wrestlers, “Please protect yourself in the ring and outside of it… You have to think about your future and your personal health and wellbeing before taking that kind of punishment. I care about all of you guys… We are all brothers and sisters in this great business that we all love, but something has to be done to protect wrestlers, valets, managers and anybody in the wrestling business. Take it from someone who has permanent damage from a shot to the head. In 2002 I barely got hit, but I went completely blind for almost 2 weeks, was hospitalized and have cranial optic nerve damage for the rest of my life because of a head shot. Please think about this folks!”
Injuries to the brain can result in loss of consciousness, memory problems, headache, dizziness, nausea, lack of motivation and ability to concentrate, vomiting, blurred vision, mood swings, depression, fatigue, sleep deprivation, and more. Many even link the brain injuries that occur in pro wrestlers to the perceived high rate of suicide and depression in these athletes.
For young fans, please use this as a warning before jumping in the ring to become a professional wrestler. For wrestlers, please use the utmost caution in the squared circle.