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Posted in: Chair Shots
Chair Shots: Is A Concussion Storyline EVER A Good Idea?
By TripleR
May 22, 2013 - 11:25:38 AM

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If you watched Monday Night Raw you saw it. If you didn’t watch Monday Night Raw, you surely heard about it. At the close of the show, during a match with Paul Heyman’s newest client, the former Michael McGillicutty, Triple H collapsed to the floor, suffering the effects of his match the previous night with Brock Lesnar, and the sledgehammer shot to his head. From all accounts, this is the beginning of a storyline where Triple H will be suffering from post-concussion symptoms, in which his family tries to talk him into retiring from the ring. So I ask you readers, in a time when concussions are the center of attention in many sports, is faking one for a storyline a good idea?

Chris Nowinski retired from his WWE career at the age of 25, after suffering post-concussion symptoms for a full-year.

Concussions are nothing new in sports. They’ve been around since sports began. Two of the greatest quarterbacks in the history of professional football, Steve Young and Troy Aikman, chose to end their careers after suffering 7 and 10 concussions respectively. Aikman, in his final year of playing, suffered several concussions in one season. Now, the NFL has on the field diagnosis of concussions after players take shots to the head. If the team officials feel you have not passed the tests successfully, you don’t get to play again. Former San Diego Charger player Junior Seau committed suicide in May of 2012 from a gunshot wound to the chest. After his family donated his brain to the National Institute of Neurological Issues and Stroke, it was found that Seau’s brain showed sign of CTE, a condition that causes damage to the brain from repeated concussions.

After his retirement from the WWE, Chris Nowinski became an expert in the field of concussion, helping to found the Sports Legacy Institute, which not only investigates the effects of concussions on athletes, but also looks to find ways to prevent them from occurring. Nowinski was instrumental in diagnosing the cause of former NFL player Andre Waters’ suicide. He too, like Junior Seau, shot himself. After researching his brain tissue, it was determined that Waters, 44 at the time of his death, had the brain tissue of an 85 year old man, with characteristics showing early stages of Alzheimer’s.

Bret Hart retired in 2000 after receiving a thrust kick to the head from Goldberg resulting in a concussion. He believes he may have had several more concussions following that kick after being unaware of the severity of his injuries.

There are no accurate statistics concerning the rates of concussions amongst the population, but it is estimated that 6 out of every 1,000 people have had a concussion at least once in their life. Concussions can not only cause structural damage to the brain, but also cause major mood changes, and decreasing or total loss of various functions through the body. Your brain controls everything; senses, motor skills, cognitive thoughts, memory- it’s all there. So continual damage to the brain can severely impact a person’s ability to maneuver a normal, healthy life.

The WWE took a big step towards protecting their Superstars at the beginning of 2010 by banning chair shots to the head. Anyone who’s seen The Rock and Mankind’s “I Quit” match in 1999 saw the brutal head shots that Mick Foley took while having his hands cuffed behind his back. The Rock blasted Mick in the head 11 times, full force. Those 11 head shots were just a small portion of the unprotected blows that Mick had taken over the years, and he has stated he feels lucky that his brain isn’t more damaged from the years of abuse he took. But despite these steps, professional wrestlers are always going to take blows to their heads. Professional football players are always going to take blows to their heads. Any athlete that participates in a violent sport where hitting is commonplace is going to take blows to the head. So where do you draw the line?

After an errant kick, current WWE Champion Dolph Ziggler suffered a concussion that resulted in retrograde amnesia. He is still unable to travel, and no timetable for his return is known.

On the same PPV event that Dolph Ziggler missed due to a concussion, Randy Orton brought back his Punt Kick to the head of the Big Show, a move that historically was used to injure his opponents, often causing storyline concussions. It’s a dangerous move, because if Orton doesn’t pull off of the kick in time, he could legitimately cause the same injury that this move is supposed to represent. It’s difficult to do at full speed, and in May of 2012 the move was banned due to concussion awareness. So why was the move brought back? Why, following a story stating that the WWE is looking to take further precautions to protect their Superstars, did the WWE allow Randy Orton to punt the Big Show in the skull? Many believe it was a one-time instance due to the "Extreme" nature of the PPV, but in my opinion it wasn't at all necessary and set a bad tone considering the reason it was banned in the first place.

You have to look no further than the top of the food chain to see where the dysfunction lies. Triple H, heir to the WWE throne, has for years used a sledgehammer to beat his opponents into submission, often times with blows to the head. How can you legitimately tell the Superstars of the WWE that they aren’t allowed to do something, when the top guy is not only showing blatant disregard for that rule, but also developing a storyline in which he’s suffering from concussion-like symptoms. It’s like telling a 5-year old that they can’t have a Snickers bar because it’s bad for them, and then eating one right in front of their face.

In 2007, Chris Benoit murdered his wife and 7-year old son before killing himself. He was found to have suffered severe brain damage, with his brain in the state of an 85-year old man with Alzheimer’s. His father said repeated concussions caused brain damage to his son and was the major cause of the deaths.

The WWE is in a catch-22 situation. They want to protect their athletes in a sport where it’s almost impossible to do so. Yes, they can eliminate chair shots to the head. Yes, they make their matches less violent. But every Superstar on the roster is going to take a blow to the head at some point during their career. It happens on an almost nightly basis. Wrestlers get suplexed, back dropped, super kicked, and punched time and time again, 4-5 times a week in some instances. If the WWE, or any other federation for that matter, wants to eliminate ANY blow to the head, we’re going to be left with PPV matches consisting of Rock, Paper, Scissors instead of wrestling contests.

Something most certainly needs to be done, but Triple H, and the WWE are taking the wrong stance by having a “fake” concussion storyline. If their intent is to raise awareness of concussions and their effects, the storyline has to end with Triple H retiring. He can’t just “shake them off” and return to the ring as good as new. There has to be a pay-off at the end. Most people in the IWC are talking about the ending of Raw in terms of Triple H “burying” Curtis Axel by centering the match on himself. I’m more concerned about the number of athletes that get buried due to the same injury that Triple H, one of the most powerful people in wrestling, is currently faking. If the WWE wants to raise awareness, educate the fans on the extent of World Champion Dolph Ziggler’s injury. If you want to educate the fans, stop sweeping what concussions did to Chris Benoit under the rug. Stop pretending- put up or shut up!

Until next time,
Trip Out!

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