Pro Wrestler Brain Damage Lawsuit

The WWE has for a long time subjected its wrestlers to extreme brutality; used misinformation and deception to prevent its wrestlers from understanding the dangers; and did not stop matches even when wrestlers had been injured.

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Sports-related concussions . . . it’s not “new news.” Not too long ago, former football players reached a settlement with the NFL in which the NFL agreed to put aside $755 million to pay future claims involving brain damage suffered by players as a result of repeated concussions during their years of play.

But the gridiron is not the only venue in which athletes can receive lifelong crippling injuries — many happen in the ring as well. Boxers and wrestlers are also among those who pay a high price for entertaining their fans.

What the WWE Should Have Known About Brain Injuries
Problem of Sports-Related Brain Injury Long Acknowledged
NFL Players Sought Justice for Brain Damage
Chronic Traumatic Encephalopathy in Professional Wrestlers
Help for Injured Wrestlers

PBM FILES WWE LAWSUIT IN PHILADELPHIA

On January 16, 2015, Pogust Braslow & Millrood, along with three other plaintiffs’ firms, filed a class action lawsuit in U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of Pennsylvania on behalf of two former World Wide Entertainment (WWE) wrestlers and a potential class of similarly situated plaintiffs. The complaint alleges, among other things:

  • The WWE has for a long time subjected its wrestlers to extreme brutality that it knew, or should have known, can cause long-term and irreversible bodily damage, including brain damage.
  • The WWE has used misinformation and deception to prevent its wrestlers from understanding the dangers they face.
  • WWE forces wrestlers to engage in activities deliberately designed to increase injuries.
  • WWE and its medical professionals have not stopped wrestling matches when it was clear a wrestler had been injured.
  • WWE downplayed the seriousness of head impacts wrestlers suffered and urged them to play through the injury.

Brain Injury

The two named plaintiffs in this action are Evan Singleton and Vito LoGrasso. Evan wrestled under the name “Adam Mercer” from 2012 to 2013. After approximately 15 matches in which he sustained multiple trauma, Evan suffered a serious head injury, but the WWE downplayed the incident and cleared him to continue wrestling after inadequate rest time. He now suffers from tremors, convulsions, migraine headaches, memory loss, and an impaired ability to reason. A doctor has declared him completely disabled.

Vito LoGrasso wrestled for the WWE from 1991 to 1998 and from 2005 to 2007, during which time he received blows from chairs, metal garbage cans, baseball bats, and hard surfaces. Nevertheless, he was coerced into wrestling while seriously and obviously injured. Vito suffers from severe headaches, memory loss, depression, anxiety, and deafness.

The lawsuit asks the Court to declare it to be a Class Action, with the proposed Class being defined as follows:

All persons who currently or formerly wrestled for World Wide Entertainment or a predecessor company, and who reside in the United States.

The lawsuit seeks compensatory and punitive damages and the establishment of a trust fund to pay for medical monitoring and diagnostic exams for current and former WWE wrestlers.

WHAT THE WWE SHOULD HAVE KNOWN ABOUT BRAIN INJURIES

Blows to the head — whether repetitive or singly — can cause concussions, what we commonly refer to as TBIs (traumatic brain injuries). But even blows which are of a sub-concussive level can cause a degenerative disease called chronic traumatic encephalopathy (CTE). CTE occurs when repetitive head trauma cause the production of abnormal proteins in the brain known as “tau.” The tau proteins basically form tangles around the brain’s blood vessels, disrupting normal functioning and eventually killing nerve cells.

Early symptoms of CTE are:

  • attention deficit
  • lack of concentration
  • memory loss
  • disorientation
  • moodiness
  • rage
  • confusion
  • dizziness
  • headaches.

As the disease progresses, additional symptoms appear:

  • lack of insight
  • poor judgment
  • dementia.

Severe CTE manifests in the following:

  • progressive slowing of muscular movements
  • staggered gait
  • absence of facial expression
  • impaired speech
  • tremors
  • vertigo
  • deafness.

PROBLEM OF SPORTS-RELATED BRAIN INJURY LONG ACKNOWLEDGED

The concept of CTE and its association with contact sports has been around since the 1920s and has long been a topic of medical research and sports safety initiatives.

Heart Attacks

It was first described in 1928 by Dr. Harrison Stanford, chief medical examiner in Newark, New Jersey. The term he used was “punch-drunk” in describing a complex of symptoms that appeared to be the result of repeated sublethal blows to the head. The repetitive brain trauma associated with boxing was originally termed “dementia pugilistica” and is more recently known as CTE.

Repetitive concussions, TBI, or CTE can develop in athletes of many sports, such as football, boxing, wrestling, rugby, hockey, lacrosse, soccer, skiing. In some sports, players may experience thousands of subconcussive hits over the course of a single season.

NFL PLAYERS SOUGHT JUSTICE FOR BRAIN DAMAGE

In the past few years, professional football players have sought judicial remedies for the irreversible damage caused by repeated head injuries. Researchers at the Department of Veterans Affairs have now examined the brain tissue of 128 football players who, before their deaths, played the game professionally, semi-professionally, in college or in high school. They report that nearly 80 percent of the sample tested positive for CTE.

This was no surprise to the NFL players who filed suit against that organization, alleging that the league concealed the link between football and brain disease. The Court approved a settlement agreement which includes no admission by the NFL that they committed the alleged wrongs; however, court filings show that the NFL expects nearly a third of all retired players to develop long-term cognitive problems like Alzheimer’s disease or dementia, as a result of their football play. The NFL will put $755 million in a trust fund for injured players. Survivors of players found to have died with CTE can qualify for a payment as high as $4 million.

CTE IN PROFESSIONAL WRESTLERS

That wrestlers can sustain permanent brain damage has been known for decades. The first known case of CTE in a professional wrestler was that of Chris Benoit. Benoit became a professional wrestler when he was 18 years old and wrestled for 22 years. He was known for his aggressive style and likely used anabolic steroids, both encouraged by wrestling organizations. At age 36, Chris began to have marital problems, was depressed and experienced memory lapses. He experienced episodes of rage and violent behavior, ultimately killing his wife and son and committing suicide. An autopsy found evidence of CTE in his brain.

Another wrestler linked to CTE was Andrew “Test” Martin, who wrestled for WWE. He was found dead at age 33 of an accidental overdose of oxycodone, but analysis of his brain tissue discovered excessive amounts of tau proteins, a sign of CTE.

One reason professional wrestlers are likely candidates for chronic traumatic encephalopathy is the large number of potential exposures they face each year. Many WWE wrestlers fight hundreds of times per year, and unlike other professional athletes, they have no off-season in which to rest and recover from injuries. Former WWE star Dawn Marie Psaltis has estimated that a main-act performer will do 250 to 275 shows a year for which the wrestler will train and perfect dangerous maneuvers and then be subjected to an intense match lasting between 4 and 10 minutes. In her estimation, a professional wrestler is likely to sustain at least 5,000 blows to the head per year.

The WWE encourages its “talent” (that’s how they refer to their wrestlers, who receive no health insurance, disability insurance, or unemployment insurance) to heighten the violence of their matches in order to “heat up” the audiences and increase the organization’s profits. The matches are scripted to include blows to the head with steel chairs and ladders, smashing heads through pine tables, and beating opponents with chains. Even the names given to these “moves” are reflective of their violent nature and potential for head injury: Brain Buster, Bulldog, Cobra Clutch Slam, Facebreaker, Jawbreaker and Power Slam.

The WWE also is said to encourage steroid use so that their wrestlers are extremely strong and able to inflict damage on their counterparts in the ring. Steroids also have the effect of increasing a user’s tolerance for pain; thus they are more likely to wrestle through the serious head injuries they do sustain.

HELP FOR INJURED WRESTLERS

The suburban Philadelphia law firm of Pogust Braslow & Millrood is accepting new cases from present and past professional wrestlers who are experiencing the symptoms of chronic traumatic encephalopathy (CTE) or traumatic brain injury (TBI). We believe you and your family deserve fair compensation for the negligence, misrepresentation and concealment by a professional wrestling organization like the WWE which led to your injuries.

If you would like more information about CTE as it relates to wrestling, contact our nationally recognized class action law firm at 1-888-348-6787 or complete our contact us form to begin your journey to justice.