• By Ashley Matthew, Kayfabe Kickout Guest Writer

Heart Issues Found As Leading Cause In Pro Wrestlers Deaths

In a recent research study that I conducted in December 2012 of the leading causes of professional wrestling deaths, results showed that 46.6 percent of deceased male wrestlers who have worked with World Wrestling Entertainment from 1977 to 2012 have mainly died from heart disease. This is a substantial difference in comparison to 25.6 percent of the general male population in America who have died of heart disease from 2000-2008. The youngest male pro wrestler to die of heart issues was Lance Cade on August 13, 2010 at the age of 29. Another recent health scare occurred for current WWE superstar Jerry “The King” Lawler on September 10, 2012 when he suffered a heart attack ringside shortly after competing in a match on WWE Raw in Montreal, CA. After being pronounced clinically dead, he was revitalized but doctors feared he would have potential brain damage. After having surgery to repair a blockage to his heart and taking a few months off for recovery, Lawler returned to his ringside commentary position at WWE Raw on November 12, 2012. Deceased female professional wrestlers who have worked with the WWE from 1996 to 2010 have also mainly died from heart disease with a total of 75 percent in comparison to 27.3 percent of the total American female population from 2000 to 2010 who died of heart disease. The youngest female pro wrestler to die of heart issues was Bertha Faye on July 27, 2001 at the age of 40. While heart issues is a continuing issue in physical sports, particularly professional wrestling, fans and those in the business must wonder what exactly is the cause of the athletes developing these health risks. Dr. Manuel Mediodia, a medical practitioner who has treated professional and amateur boxers from Northside Boxing in Cincinnati, Ohio gives his views on what the potential cause is. “They have a lot of excess baggage in their bodies and then they would probably be developing strokes because they need to eat a lot,” Mediodia said. “Some of them could be a little careless and get too fat and develop circulation or blood pressure problems.” Mediodia feels that the stress from their careers also takes a physical toll on the wrestler’s health. “They cannot keep up with the tensions and health requirements,” Mediodia said. “The pressure is making their blood pressure go up because they have to be at some place at a scheduled time. Sometimes they feel they’re running late to the arena which makes them tense and that might develop some problems. If they have a busy schedule, they are not only battered physically but also mentally and those things will affect them and give them a shorter life compared to those who are not going through any stressful or severe physical conditions or sports.” Some of the wrestling deaths related to heart issues were also drug related. Mediodia feels that those drugs may have sped up the process of those particular deaths. “Most of the wrestlers I know have beefed up with their weight and could be on steroids,” Mediodia said. “Of course, that’s banned and I don’t know if there are any requirements for testing before they go into the ring. I presume if it gets found out that they have done something wrong with drugs, I’m sure it might impact their career.” WWE does have a Wellness Policy which states that any non-medical use and abuse of a prescription or performance-enhancing drug is strictly prohibited. The possession, use and distribution of illegal drugs are also prohibited. There is a list on WWE's website stating which drugs are considered to be against the Wellness Policy. WWE has random testing procedures throughout the year which result in all WWE wrestlers being tested at least four times a year. WWE may also issue tests at anytime to WWE wrestlers if they are suspected of illegal activity with drugs or alcohol. During the random testing, WWE wrestlers may also be selected for testing more than four times. If a wrestler tests positive, they will be penalized accordingly. If a wrestler refuses to test, they are automatically considered to be treated as positive for illegal substances and are also penalized. Also, if a wrestler does not provide a urine sample within the two hours they are given after notification of testing, they are considered to be refusing to test and are also penalized. First violations result in suspension for thirty days. A second violation results in a suspension for sixty days and a third violation results in termination of employment with the WWE. The wrestlers are also subject to fines. However, if a WWE wrestler voluntarily admits to a substance abuse issue prior to a drug test, they will not be penalized and WWE will help in getting the wrestler into the proper rehabilitation program for that situation. The WWE Wellness Policy was implemented originally on February 27, 2006. While the Wellness Policy was already in effect, WWE really began to enforce it more strictly in June 2007 after former professional wrestler Chris Benoit murdered his wife and son before committing suicide. Toxicology reports showed Hydrocodone, Xanax and other drugs played a part in the tragic double-homicide and suicide. Mediodia feels that enforcing the WWE Wellness Policy is vital in protecting the lives of wrestlers and their families. “It is very important and should be done to save the lives of athletes so the sport in some way would be clean,” Mediodia said. “They should be tested as severely as the other sports so that they don’t get in trouble. There should be a good testing mechanism that should be agreed to by all the physicians especially those that take care of these individual athletes.” Mediodia still recommends that WWE keeps focusing on the health of their athletes to prevent any further health risks from occurring. “I would recommend that they keep strict appointments with their family physicians or their sports physicians,” Mediodia said. “If they feel something is wrong or negative in their health, they could be helped right away and then they have a longer life. It’s just that simple.” Mediodia also feels that the better health the wrestlers have, the longer they will be able to compete in the sport of professional wrestling. “Their personal health is the main importance,” Mediodia said. “If they have good health, they will be wrestling for a longer time than the ones who are careless and drink too much or take drugs.”

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