04/10/2015 04:30 pm ET Updated Jun 10, 2015

The Unscripted Side of Professional Wrestling

Critics of professional wrestling organizations often claim that because wrestling is "choreographed," it is completely fake. However, the injuries pro wrestlers sustain are in fact very real and very dangerous -- often leading to these same critics' deafening (albeit, temporary) silence.

Even though pro wrestlers are trained to perform moves in a way that reduces injury, their bodies take on a lot of repetitive impact. Over one's career in the ring, there remains a real risk of paralysis, brain damage, or even death. Concussions and spine injuries are two of the most dangerous health concerns professional wrestlers face each time they land on the mat. Let's take a closer look at these two.


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.

Ringside trainers and referees must be able to spot concussion symptoms so that they can get treatment right away. In an article published earlier this week in Huffington Post Sports, a new study found collegiate athletes often demonstrate symptoms of depression within days after sustaining a concussion. Post-concussive symptoms may include nausea, vomiting, dizziness, imbalance, loss of consciousness, fatigue, memory loss, difficulty concentrating, difficulty sleeping, mood changes, and sensitivity to light and noise. If even one of these symptoms are present after a wrestler sustains a blow to the head, treatment should commence immediately and return delayed when all symptoms have completely subsided.

Spine Injuries

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.

Some of pro-wresting may or may not be scripted -- you be the judge. What is not debatable; however, is the importance of heightening public awareness of these undeniable injuries with long term effects. Raising public awareness in the NFL was arguably the genesis for several new policies aimed to protect players both during and after their career.

In pro-wresting, there's still a ways to go...

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