Jonathan Mahler of Bloomberg.com wrote a column Thursday asking one question: Is the NFL more hazardous than pro wrestling?
With the heightened awareness of concussions permeating in sports, it may be a fair question. Despite professional wrestling having the stigma of being “fake,” the harsh effects it has to the performer’s bodies are very real. And in some cases, worse than those who put their bodies on the line on any given Sunday.
In the specific cases of Chris Benoit and former Eagle Andre Waters, the effects can prove to be fatal. Mahler compared the damage that can be done to the bodies of the athletes on both sides of the fence.
“In at least one important sense, the distinction is arbitrary. Football players and pro wrestlers are both subject to the same laws of physics. No matter how thick and muscle-hardened their bodies, their brains remain fragile things, unprepared by evolution or exercise to be battered regularly against their skulls. An autopsy found that Benoit’s brain at the time of death resembled that of an 85-year-old man with Alzheimer’s disease. That’s precisely the conclusion a neuropathologist reached after studying the brain of former NFL safety Andre Waters, who had killed himself several months earlier.”
Mahler, like many others, knows that pro wrestling is a choreographed event but succumbs to the fact that not everything that happens inside of that 20 x 20 box can be faked.
There are still certain things that happen during the course of a match that could have long-lasting effects to a person’s body, including the brain.
“Wrestling may be staged, but that doesn’t mean it’s an optical illusion. When a wrestler gets hit in the head with a chair — which became routine during the extreme era (Attitude Era) — he really is getting hit in the head with a chair. This is not exactly salutary for the brain.”
Although wrestling has dealt with its fair share of tragedies in the last decade, it has taken some steps toward making the sport safer. The same can be said for the NFL, but the steps the NFL takes may have harmful effects to the sport that the vast majority of Americans enjoy on a weekly basis every fall.
“Professional football would surely love to make the game safer. It’s not doing the league any good to have former stars publicly acknowledge that they are suffering early-onset dementia or depression, never mind shooting themselves to death. But the NFL is not the WWE. Its violence is not choreographed; it’s spontaneous. Wrestling can cut back on the number of hits to the head its performers endure, and still be ‘wrestling.’ Once football starts limiting contact between players, it basically becomes a different sport.”
Since wrestling doesn’t have to worry about this, it leads Mahler to believe that pro wrestling is making more strides in helping their performers than the NFL is.
“Football players are not cartoon superheroes acting out a scripted drama; they are athletes in the grip of competition, employed by owners who care less about making stars than winning games. That’s why football is America’s favorite pastime, and wrestling is a subculture. It’s also why the WWE seems to be handling the concussion crisis better than the NFL.”
To read to the full column, click HERE.