The concussion crisis has left practically no sport untouched, as football, hockey, soccer, and basketball are all dealing with the potential long-term dangers of repeated sports-related brain injuries. The same can also be said for professional wrestling.
Whether you agree the mix of entertainment and athletics counts as a sport, there is no denying professional wrestlers subject their bodies to extreme levels of brutality. Inevitably, this involves experiencing numerous concussions. The issue of concussions in the WWE has been simmering for years, but this week it broke out into the spotlight as one of World Wrestling Entertainment’s biggest stars retired.
Daniel Bryan, real name Bryan Danielson, spent 16 years in the WWE, earning his place as a fan favorite and heavyweight champion. However, this week he took the stage on the WWE’s flagship show to announce he was retiring after being missing from the show since May due to injury.
Rather than leave the source of his injuries vague, Bryan made history by publicly addressing his history of traumatic brain injuries and the toll they’ve had on him.
“A week and a half ago, I took a test which said maybe my brain isn’t as okay as I thought it was,” he told an emotional crowd, who responded with chants of Bryant’s trademark “Yes!” He continued:
I’ve been wrestling since I was 18 years old and within the first five months of my wrestling career, I already had three concussions. It gets to the point where you’ve been wrestling for 16 years, that adds up to a lot of concussions. It gets to a point where they tell you you can’t wrestle any more.
Brain injuries are likely to remain a consistent issue behind the scenes of professional wrestling, but the fact the WWE let Daniel Bryan address the matter directly to his fans and viewers on primetime television may signal the WWE isn’t going to hide it anymore.
Instead, World Wrestling Entertainment may be gearing up to tackle brain injuries and their consequences head-on.