Former WWE Superstar Rob Van Dam is joining the list of athletes who will donate their brains to research for chronic traumatic encephalopathy (CTE) after their deaths.
Van Dam made the announcement during an appearance on The Taz Show podcast (h/t Greg Beck of WrestlingNews.co). "I've donated my brain and spine to the [CTE] study," he said. "I used to tell Chris Nowinski that I thought there was a correlation between THC and brains being protected from concussion damage."
Van Dam addressed the concussions he suffered throughout his career, though he doesn't believe he suffered any permanent damage:
I've had hundreds and hundreds of concussions but I don't think that I have any permanent damage. A lot of my peers do. A lot of my friends say 'oh yeah, I space out' or 'see lights' or this and that. ... Chris [Nowinski] said 'you know what, you're probably on to something, but it would cost hundreds of thousands of dollars before even start the study.' ... So anyway, now NFL is all over it.
Van Dam seemed to credit marijuana use for his ability to avoid any long-term effects from his concussions. On Feb. 27, retired Harvard professor Dr. Lester Grinspoon wrote an open letter to the NFL on Vice.com, urging the league to help fund a study to determine whether marijuana can help treat or prevent CTE.
"Given the severity of the problem, however, I think you, and the NFL, must go beyond simply following the medicine, and help lead the way by directly funding research to determine if cannabis...can indeed provide significant protection against the damage of repetitive concussions," he wrote.
Van Dam became the second major wrestling star this week to announce he would donate his brain to CTE research. On Wednesday, WWE Hall of Famer Kevin Nash told ESPN.com's Michael Rothstein he would be joining the cause after his death.
Nowinski, another former WWE wrestler, has done extensive work to find causes and solutions for head-related injuries in sports. He even set up the Concussion Legacy Foundation to research the problem.
The 45-year-old Van Dam became a wrestling superstar during his time in ECW, routinely taking direct shots to his head with chairs and other weapons. He has been in the sport for 26 years and is now wrestling on various independent circuits.