There have been two major names when it comes to researching chronic traumatic encephalopathy (CTE) and its effects on the brain due to collisions and injuries in professional sports. One is Dr. Bennet Omalu, the man whose story was told in the movie Concussion, starring Will Smith. He took on the NFL in a huge battle to expose the dangers of brain damage. The second is Chris Nowinski, the former WWE wrestler who was forced to retire due to concussion-related issues. Nowinski founded the Concussion Legacy Foundation after leaving the WWE and Chris has done more than almost anyone when it comes to revealing what CTE does to a brain.
In a recent story published by the Boston Globe, it appears that Chris Nowinski has been accused of turning a blind eye to the WWE in recent years. The reason for the accusation comes due to the fact that the WWE has donated $2.7 million to the Concussion Legacy Foundation since 2013, and in that time, there have been no professional wrestlers examined by Nowinski’s group.
According to Boston Globe reporter Bob Hohler, this isn’t the first time he has looked at conflict-of-interest stories when it comes to Chris Nowinski concerning CTE and its cause and effect. Hohler pointed out that the first came with the impact sensors for football helmets that turned out to be a profit-making venture for Chris and the Concussion Legacy Foundation, which is supposed to be a non-profit organization. The other conflict of interest came with Nowinski’s co-founder, Dr. Robert Cantu, who had relationships with various sports groups.
This is not to say that Chris Nowinski hasn’t done a lot of good in the world when it comes to CTE discovery. His career came to an end when he suffered a concussion while wrestling in the WWE and then continued to wrestle for four more weeks, making it worse. Nowinski wrote a book in 2006 called Head Games about concussions he suffered over his life, including those from the WWE, after which Chris started working to discover the results of concussions on brains. When Nowinski learned about the effects of CTE and its connections to football, Chris started to investigate brains of deceased athletes.
— The Boston Globe (@BostonGlobe) June 13, 2016
According to Sports Illustrated, Chris Nowinski was able to be the first person to get the brain of Chris Benoit. The former WWE star who killed his wife, Nancy, and their young son before committing suicide himself. His brain ended up being worse than a long-term Alzheimer’s patient and he was still wrestling actively in the WWE up to his death. Hohler mentioned that, after Benoit, Nowinski went silent on the WWE.
“We all know he was the first to get [Chris] Benoit’s brain, and he found severe CTE,” said Hohler. “Then it looked like he went silent. The next was Andrew Martin–Test–but that was [Dr. Bennet] Omalu, and Omalu had done that on his own.”
Hohler looked at the people who had died and had their families donate their bodies for Chris to investigate, uncovering that there were 43 people since 2013 who died from CTE-related symtoms and that Nowinski had received the rights to investigate these deaths. Not one of those 43 people were professional wrestlers from the WWE.
— Chris Nowinski (@ChrisNowinski1) June 14, 2016
The Boston Globe reached out to Chris Nowinski for a comment, but they said that he was not forthcoming for a number of days about his relationship with the WWE as they exchanged emails. Chris said he doesn’t want to do that anymore and, instead, Nowinski is collecting pledges from WWE professional wrestlers to donate their brains after they die.
The question that the Boston Globe asked was why none of professional wrestlers who died recently had not pledged to donate their brains to Nowinski. With WWE names like Rowdy Roddy Piper, the American Dream, Dusty Rhodes, the Ultimate Warrior, Axl Rotten, and more passing away, none of those former WWE wrestlers were sent to Chris and the Concussion Legacy Foundation for examination. The concern now is that, if Chris Nowinski is turning a blind eye to the WWE, who will look into the effects of concussions on wrestlers in the future?
[Photo by David J. Phillip/AP Images]