Report: Another Pro-Wrestler Had Serious Brain Condition, Same as Chris Benoit

Joe Burgett @JoEburGett_WESenior Writer IIIDecember 9, 2009

In a less than shocking story, it is being reported from ESPN and doctors who studied former WWE and TNA talent Andrew "Test" Martin, that he had the same brain condition Chris Benoit apparently suffered from, called chronic traumatic encephalopathy(CTE).

Dr. Bennet Omalu, who is co-director of the Brain Injury Research Institute, was the man who studied Martin's brain. Omalu told that Martin suffered from brain damage—more specifically a syndrome he has defined as chronic traumatic encephalopathy, which stems from repeated blows to the head. Martin is the now the second former wrestler to be linked to CTE; as we know, Chris Benoit was the first.

Omalu mentioned that he conducted an analysis of Martin's brain tissues back in April and found excessive amounts of tau proteins similar to those he found in Benoit and in all the other athletes who he diagnosed the same brain issue. There is now a rising total of 20 dead athletes.

People should keep in mind that this is not just wrestlers who have this issue, as he mentioned 20 athletes are dead from it, but only two wrestlers have been diagnosed with it thus far. Benoit's brain issue forced him to kill his wife and child along with himself after he made it worse with drugs and stress of daily life. However, Martin died from a drug overdose not trying to kill himself or anyone around him.

This could mean that Benoit had a far worse form of CTE, which made him go nuts. Former wrestlers who worked with Benoit said that he was a nice guy and very helpful, a great friend and family man. One would think that because of that, he didn't have a brain issue whatsoever, especially knowing he traveled with these men and women and never blew up on them.

It could have been that he didn't use drugs with them, but on his own when no one was around. Therefore, once he did use them, along with being drunk and having this brain issue which made things far worse, he blew up for the first time when someone was around. Sadly the people there in his path were his wife and child. 

I am not making excuses for what Benoit did, but if this brain issue is as bad as what the doctors are making it out to be, then a simple thing like getting drunk could make a person with this condition, especially an athlete, a crazed mad man.

Omalu mentioned that this condition seems to be a lot more common in the world of boxing, which makes sense seeing as the point is, in most boxers' minds, to knock someone out.

Blows to the head are highly common in this sport, and most boxers mistake CTE for being "punch-drunk" syndrome, but that is not something to blame them for as this is really a new thing that not many outside of the medical world, more so the brain experts world, have heard of.

Omalu mentioned, "After repeated blows to the head, at some point the brain loses the ability to heal itself. The tau impairs normal brain function and kills brain cells. The delicate balance of the neurotransmitters, which control moods and drives and maintains satiety, can be destroyed."

This means that because Benoit could have had a serious case of this brain disease, he didn't really know what he was doing at the time he killed his wife and child along with himself, which is incredibly sad, if you ask me. Had he known and was able to control himself, he probably wouldn't have done it. Of course, no one knows about that now, I guess.

Omalu said he first discovered CTE in the brain of former Pittsburgh Steeler center Mike Webster in 2002. The Hall of Famer died of a heart attack but had long suffered from depression, memory loss, and erratic behavior. Omalu believed that these symptoms could be traced to the estimated 25,000 collisions Webster incurred playing for 17 seasons in the NFL.

The concussions also play a big part in sports today, especially in the NFL. Some like Troy Aikman had to retire because of the amount of concussions he sustained. Aikman was smart to do so, because as a QB you are going to get hit, its a part of the game. And if you are susceptible to head injuries, why keep playing?

This is something a lot of pro-wrestlers just don't think about. A lot of them keep working even after concussions. Half the time matches are not stopped as long as a wrestler can get up and continue, which is very, very bad.

The NFL, luckily, has started to batten down the hatches on concussions, making it where players cannot go back into a game if they sustain a head injury of any kind, such as a concussion. If it is a concussion, then the player must be tested by doctors outside of the team and the reports from the doctor will be sent to the NFL offices.

This is far better for the player's health, where it is in the doctors hands on whether they play or not, and the player will want to play no matter what, even if they are hurt.

Going back to wrestling, when you think about it, these wrestlers sort of do the same thing and a lot of the time the promotions will make them wrestle even when they are not supposed to. Brock Lesnar mentioned that he had to wrestle with three broken ribs for months because he just became WWE Champion. Is that really a good thing? I don't think so.  Have them take time off for God's sake!

Times have changed since then, thankfully, as the WWE rarely lets wrestlers go out and wrestle with a broken anything, unless it is small like a finger or something. There have been times where people like Matt Hardy wrestled with a cast on their arm.  However, because the bone was protected he was safe to do so.

Back to Omalu's findings.

He found that most who died from CTE died in a terrible way; from things that you just don't see out of many people, especially athletes. Such as Terry Long, another former Steeler who died from drinking antifreeze in 2005, and former Eagles safety Andre Waters who died of a self-inflicted gunshot to the head in 2006, just to name a few.

These people are dying simply because they don't know what they are doing, or how to stop it, which is why they are making the crazy decisions we are seeing, with some real stupid ones resulting in death.

Omalu's partner, the co-director of the Brain Injury Research Institute and chairman of the department of neurosurgery at West Virgina University School of Medicine, Dr. Julian Bailes, made a statement regarding the findings of Martin, saying:

"People wondered if Mike Webster was an isolated event. And then came Terry Long and Andre Waters. When we announced our findings about Chris, some in the media said it was 'roid rage. We said at the time the real finding was that repeated head trauma was the cause. With Andrew Martin as the second case, the WWE and the sport in general have to ask themselves, 'Is this a trend?' The science tells us that jumping off 10-foot ladders and slamming people with tables and chairs is simply bad for the brain."

The WWE responded to Bailes, saying:

"While this is a new emerging science, the WWE is unaware of the veracity of any of these tests, be it for Chris Benoit or Andrew Martin. Dr. Omalu claims that Mr. Benoit had a brain that resembled an 85-year-old with Alzheimer's, which would lead one to ponder how Mr. Benoit would have found his way to an airport, let alone been able to remember all the moves and information that is required to perform in the ring. WWE has been asking to see the research and tests results in the case of Mr. Benoit for years and has not been supplied with them."

According to Bailes, the Brain Institute has never received a request from the WWE to see the Benoit records. He invited the WWE to review the data at any time they wish.

This would give the WWE a chance to back up what they say, however, how would they do their own tests any better than the Brain Institute? These men and women are experts on the brain, something guys like Vince McMahon cannot say they are.

Sure, the WWE has their doctors, but I can't really wrap my brain around what the WWE is trying to accomplish here. The Brain Institute called them out on a legitimate issue, the WWE's answer is that they want to do their own tests?

Why don't they work closely with the experts here for once, instead of being defensive on this issue? Just something we need to think about.

A WWE spokesman also pointed to the company's Talent Wellness Program that is summarized on the corporate website. It includes mandatory testing of brain function by all talent, specifically the IMPACT concussion management used by the NFL and other leagues that is overseen by WWE medical director Dr. Joseph Maroon, who has been the Steelers' neurosurgeon for more than 25 years.

Shouldn't we think about the last line? The Steelers' neurosurgeon? Didn't we just see a few people from that team on the list above who has the same condition? Did Maroon see this condition in them? No. So what makes you think he will see it in any other?

This man is said to be a great doctor, and he probably is. But, apparently he is not an expert on this condition.

But, it's not just the WWE that felt a little defensive by the claims of the Brain Institute, the NFL got defensive in the beginning. According to ESPN:

"When Omalu cited CTE as a factor in Webster's demise in a 2005 edition of the Neurosurgery journal, the NFL essentially dismissed him. Three doctors, all in the employment of the league, called for a retraction.

"In 2006, a federal appeals court upheld a ruling by a lower court that the NFL wrongfully denied Webster disability benefits and ordered the payment of between $1.5 million and $2 million to his estate.

"Gradually, the league has come to recognize the dangers of concussions and repeated head trauma. In 2007, incoming NFL commissioner Roger Goodell presided over the league's first summit on concussions."

Last week, Goodell sent a memo to all 32 teams outlining a stricter concussion protocol, that I mentioned earlier.

Bailes testified in October before the House Judiciary Committee about the issue of head trauma, here is what was said:

"As far as the NFL goes, I think we've moved past the point of them not believing us. The findings and corroboration that CTE is real, I think, has led to the realization that we must change the way the sport is played.

"We aren't trying to ban the sport; we're trying to make it better. Wrestling ought to take note of that. The story of Andrew Martin should be a wake-up call for people involved in another very popular sport that repeated impacts on the brain are not a good thing."

This is something that makes a ton of sense, if you ask me. The people are trying to make sure the athletes in wrestling and football are taken care of and the head is not something dismissed.

Omalu also mentioned that he would love to see Eddie Fatu's brain, to possibly see if there is a similar problem. Fatu died recently, and because of the way he died, Omalu felt that he may have been positive for a brain problem.

Dawn Marie, a friend to Fatu and founder of Wrestler's Rescue was asked about him.

"Did Eddie suffer from depression?"

She said, "Yes."

Did he have the tau in his brain? I hope they test his brain tissue to find the answer. There's an epidemic here, and we have to find out why.

Omalu said that this is a massive problem and "denying that these athletes are at risk is wrong." Which I feel we can all agree with.

But, what do you think? Is this just some issue that these men and women at the Brain Institute are bringing up to make money, or is it a legit issue that should be recognized?


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