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Reiss Talks about Concussions and Pro Wrestling, and the WWE’s Wellness Policy

Professional wrestling is one of those sports (using the term loosely here) that typically flies under the radar of national consciousness when it comes to the risk of concussion. But that’s not because severe head injuries don’t happen in and outside the ring.

Dr. David Reiss, a noted expert on Chronic Traumatic Encephalopathy (CTE) and other medical and psychological aspects of sports concussions, was recently interviewed on the professional wrestling site called Kayfabe Kickout (www.kayfabekickout.com) about concussions in the sport.

The first question he was asked on the topic centered on just how important is it “for professional wrestling promotions to be properly educated on the long term effects of concussions and other serious brain injuries, that are the direct result of high risk spots in the ring; IE: chair shots, risky maneuvers, etc.?”

Said Reiss: “Only recently has there been medical recognition (and recognition in the media) of the severity of the long-term consequences of even minor concussions, as well as serious head injuries. Very convincing data both from sports (mostly football) and from the military indicates that multiple ‘minor’ injuries, even being subjected to concussive forces without the person necessarily identifying themselves as having been injured, can lead to very significant consequences over time including memory problems, cognitive impairment, depression and impulsivity. Not only is there a cumulative effect of minor incidents, but it seems that if there is not sufficient recovery time between incidents, the long term effects can be worse.

“This is a very serious issue that impacts multiple sports, and is especially significant in professional wrestling where concussive forces are experienced in the ‘normal’ working of a match, as well as by taking ‘chair shots’ or when a risky maneuver is not clean. There needs to be attention to reducing risks; knowing when to take an athlete out of action, and for how long; and what treatment approaches are available (neurological and psychological).”

He was also asked about the WWE’s Wellness Policy?

Speaking In “general” terms, he said that “simply having a wellness policy is a positive move. However, in all professional (and school) sports, the ‘management’ – be it a corporation or a college – has conflicting interests regarding protecting their investment in athletes versus protecting their ‘product,’ protecting their particular ‘brand’ and satisfying the public/media. Unfortunately, in essentially all professional sports, all but those athletes at the very top of the pyramid are rather expendable, replaceable by literally hundreds of other individuals with fairly equivalent skills.

“From a purely ‘business’ point of view, this decreases the motivation of the management to have the long-term health of the athlete as the primary motivation. I would like to see wellness programs in all sports directed by medically-informed personnel who are working purely in the best long-term interest of the athlete, independent form other pressures – including pressures from athletes themselves (and at times family members), who may not recognize that the short term risks are not justified by the potential long-term consequences.

In my opinion, this should involve clinical decisions, decisions regarding when an athlete should be removed from competition and also developing a fair and effective enforcement policy (regarding dangerous behaviors, drug use, etc.)  There is no one ‘correct’ answer or ‘perfect’ wellness program – but an athlete deserves to have experienced professionals making decisions who do not have a conflict of interest.”

For the entire interview, see http://bit.ly/U7PNxO

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