Critics of professional wrestling organizations often claim that because wrestling is choreographed, it is fake. However, the injuries that pro wrestlers sustain are in fact very real and can be very dangerous. Even though pro wrestlers are trained to perform moves in a way that reduces injury, their bodies take on a lot of repetitive impact during their time in the ring, and that puts them at a high risk of serious injuries.
Concussions and spine injuries are perhaps the most concerning among professional wrestlers. Concussions and spine injuries can result in long-term damage like paralysis, brain damage, or even death.
Repetitive concussions are a major concern in professional wrestling. Wrestlers aren’t wearing any type of helmet, so any wrong move could result in a concussion. Concussions in football have had a lot of media attention recently, as we have learned more about the long-term effects of multiple concussions, and the issue has come to light in the pro wrestling world as well. Studies have shown that multiple concussions can result in permanent brain damage, including a progressive degenerative brain disease called chronic traumatic encephalopathy (CTE). CTE has been associated with memory loss, confusion, depression, aggression and impulse control problems, impaired judgement, and dementia. The WWE’s practices on handling concussions have come into question, with former wrestlers speaking out about the risk of concussions and CTE.
It is important that all athletes, including wrestlers, are able to spot concussion symptoms so that they can get treatment right away. Symptoms include nausea, vomiting, dizziness, imbalance, loss of consciousness, fatigue, memory loss, difficulty concentrating, difficulty sleeping, changes in mood, and sensitivity to light and noise. If even one of these symptoms are present after a wrestler sustains a blow to the head, he or she should receive treatment immediately and should not return until all symptoms have completely subsided.
The impact of some wrestling moves also makes pro wrestlers susceptible to several different types of spine injuries. Herniated discs can occur from repetitive motion and trauma. The damaged disc can put pressure on the spinal nerves, potentially causing back pain or symptoms like numbness, tingling, or weakness in one of the arms or legs.
Spinal fractures are also a common injury among wrestlers. Spinal fractures vary in severity, but the most severe fractures could require surgery to stabilize the spine. Depending on how the spine is fractured, it could narrow the spinal canal, causing spinal stenosis. Spinal stenosis can also result from inflammation of the tissues in the back or neck.
Perhaps the most concerning is the risk of injury to the spinal cord. Fractured or dislocated vertebrae can damage the spinal cord, potentially resulting in paralysis or death. Most recently, the death of Mexican wrestler Pedro Aguayo, Jr. has brought the issue to the forefront. Aguayo, Jr. suffered cervical spine trauma during a match when his neck came in contact with the ropes.
Concussions and spine injuries are a serious risk in professional wrestling, possibly even more so than in football and other impact sports. It’s important to be aware of these risks and do what we can to prevent them.