Aus USA Today:
WWE is tag-teaming with medical researchers to take on CTE.
World Wrestling Entertainment, known for past stars such as Hulk Hogan and current champ John Cena, says it is making a gift of $1.2 million over three years to further research aimed at developing a treatment for Chronic Traumatic Encephalopathy. The brain disease, associated with repeated concussions, has come under scrutiny amid concussion-related lawsuits by more than 4,000 former NFL players against the league. CTE has been linked to depression and dementia.
"Obviously, I think it's such a huge concern for everybody right now in sports and in the military. As we learn more and more about concussions and what can become of it, I think it's a problem for everybody," Paul Levesque, WWE executive vice president of Talent and Live Events, told USA TODAY Sports on Thursday.
The WWE says the gift is a continuation of the Talent Wellness Program it started in 2006, which now includes the same neurological baseline testing used in the NFL and such pro wrestling-specific mandates as a ban against bashing an opponent over the head with a metal chair.
"We still hit people with metal chairs, just not in the head anymore," said Levesque, who as a ring star and occasional wrestler is known as Triple H. "We took out the things that ... caused the most concussions and the most head impacts."
The gift is being made to the Sports Legacy Institute, a Boston non-profit with a mission to advance treatment and prevention of the effects of concussions in athletes and others, such as soldiers concussed by blasts. The Sports Legacy Institute has a pro wrestling connection: Co-founder Chris Nowinski played football at Harvard but also wrestled in the WWE under names that included Chris Harvard. His character had a move called the "Honor Roll."
Nowinski, in approaching WWE with an appeal for funding, knew from his own wrestling career that it was involved with the military. "I used to go visit Walter Reed (hospital), when I was talent there, on regular basis. So I thought they might be interested in funding CTE research, and they were," he said.
Nowinski sustained a concussion in a 2003 wrestling match. The problems he had in the aftermath, from a kick in the head by Bubba Ray Dudley, fueled his interest in prevention and treatment.
"It wasn't his fault. I was too close," Nowinski said of wrestling Dudley. "And unfortunately I lied about my symptoms for five weeks and kept going. ... I had a headache and was nauseous every time I got my heart rate up, but I fought through it as best I could."
Times have changed since in wrestling. Levesque said the WWE performer known as Dolph Ziggler recently sustained a concussion -- "He got hit with an errant kick that was supposed to be in the chest, and somebody zigged when they should have zagged, and he got hit on the chin" -- and is out for Sunday's scheduled Extreme Rules pay-per-view.
The WWE gift will be used by researchers at Boston University's Center for the Study of Traumatic Encephalopathy in a new investigation aimed at studying the effectiveness of potential treatments for CTE. The research will be led by neurologist/neuropathologist Ann McKee, co-director of the center, and Lee Goldstein, one of the investigators.
"We've come a long way in five years," McKee said. "This funding will further accelerate the pace of our research and hasten the development of methods to detect CTE during life as well as identify treatments to slow or stop its progression."
In addition to eliminating chairs to the head, the WWE says it also has modified its training and maneuvers to curtail blows to the head. Levesque said the effort is showing results.
"In 2011, we had 25 concussions of the 150 talent (wrestlers) on the road all year long. ... In 2012, we only had 11," he said.
Levesque said pro wrestling is fundamentally different from football when it comes to hard impacts.
"If you're in the NFL, your goal is to try to hit the other guy as hard as possible. ... The goal in what we do is the exact opposite," said Levesque.
"The goal in what we do is first and foremost ... protect your opponent. Without him you have nothing. ... Our whole goal is to make something look as devastating as possible and as impactful as possible with as little impact as possible. It's really the art of what we do. We really work on that with talent.
"If John Cena and I are in a story line together and I hit John Cena hard and he gets injured, and he's out, it hurts me as much as it hurts him. He's out; now my opponent that I'm in a story line with is gone and my storyline just ended.''
The research figures to benefit other sports, but Levesque noted that WWE often gets its wrestlers from other sports: "We recruit a lot of our talent from other contact sports, NFL, NHL, rugby and the Olympics. ... It's important for us as to where they're coming from and what has happened to them prior to them getting to us because it's ... in essence what we're getting as a talent.''
He said the wrestlers are the show in the WWE.
"With us, we're making brands and we're making stars, and those stars are the most important thing we have," said Levesque. "We can't just go buy a second-string John Cena and have them be on the show."