Tuesday Morning Backlash on Concussions in Wrestling

Penny Candy; On Concussions in Wrestling
by Penny Sautreau-Fife

I didn’t get a column in to Glazer these past few weeks on the daily Backlash columns like usual as I’m recovering from a head injury. Late Monday evening in the shower I lost my footing and fell forward pretty fast, nailing the faucet with my forehead. It left me with not only a pretty bloody gash, (I bled like Foley), but a grade III concussion. For the past few days I’ve been kind of zoning in and out of lucidity. Since at this moment I seem to be lucid enough to focus, I’m writing about it, as it’s made me hyper aware of the issues wrestlers face when they have a concussion.

First of all, as bad as I’ve been since the injury, I’m horrified at how many wrestlers continue working in this condition. Granted I already have disabilities that limit my mobility and concentration, but bloody hell this is a pain in the ass. I’m constantly dizzy, my balance has completely gone to shit, and I keep forgetting where I am in my own apartment, and we live in a damned BACHELOR suite.

What posesses a wrestler in this condition to keep working? And if Chris Nowinski is right, why does the WWE ignore the problem? When one is concussed they should automatically be taken off the road. They’re a liability in that ring if they’re off balance and can’t concentrate.

Of course, Nowinski may be exxagerating given his less than pleasant parting of ways with the ‘E, and chances are WWE management may not always be aware when a worker is concussed, because I’m pretty sure half these guys would hide it so as to not lose their spot.

A LOT of wrestlers work through injuries they shouldn’t, and why? Because of the fear of losing your rung on the ladder to someone healthier. Wrestling fans, the more casual ones, are thought to have a pretty short memory, and if you’re away too long they lose interest in you. How true or not this belief actually is, is frankly irrelevant to the wrestlers. Most wrestlers believe it to be true. So they either shortcut in their rehab or worse, don’t leave at all.

Rey Mysterio is a prime example. We all know he’s been in dire need of serious knee surgery for at least three years, but the best he’s done for his knees is an occasional three weeks off to rest them. He has as yet in the past three years put of the actual surgery, and chances are he’ll be playing with his grandkids in a wheelchair. Why? You and I both know he’s not exactly an easily forgotten wrestler. But it’s safe to assume in Rey’s mind, he’s the little guy, the underdog, and if he takes the time off he actually needs, he’ll come back and have to start at the bottom of the card again.

To a point I suppose I can understand this. My wife’s made me mostly stay in bed, and been watching me like a hawk. But Wednesday night, feeling limited and useless, I got up and tried to do a rack of dishes as she slept, because I didn’t want to feel hobbled and of no use to her. I woke her up with the crash I made as I got dizzy and fell back into our deep freezer, knocking our deep fryer off of it into the laundry basket we put empty pop bottles in. I KNEW I should have just stayed in bed, in my mind at least, but my heart had an irrational fear of being somehow left behind or thought of as lesser if I didn’t suck it up and force myself to get some chores done.

For wrestlers, multiply that by 20 and you begin to understand the self-defeating obsession with not surrendering to injury. If I was that stubborn about doing dishes with just my wife to think about, imagine how a guy working in front of thousands every night must be feeling. In their minds, giving in to injury must feel like failing somehow.

But having this serious concussion, I was stupid to try it, and every time I watch a wrestler who I know is working through an injury like this, it’s going to make me very uncomfortable, and a little scared for them.

But I understand them a little better now.

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