Unwritten Laws in the WWE Universe? Code of Silence, Kayfabe & Under-Reporting Wrestling Injuries.

The currently pending WWE lawsuit forcefully argues that WWE used its culture to silence injured wrestlers, maintain control over them and avoid legal duties to the injured wrestlers.

The wrestlers plaintiffs all contend that the culture of WWE fostered under-reporting of their injuries. The thread of these arguments appears throughout the WWE lawsuit (which is called a complaint). In the 225-page document, many of the wrestlers personal statements appear on this issue particularly in the Section called ‘WWE’s Ironclad Control: Kayfabe: The Legacy of the Wrestling Code of Silence’ which is on pages 75-79. Perry Saturn’s voice is typical: “At WWF it was an unspoken rule that you wrestled hurt.”

Unsurprisingly, it turns out that medical professionals that have studied self-reporting of injuries in sports have found that the phenomena of under-reporting is a widespread problem.

A cursory survey of the literature seems to confirm that studied athletes face pressure to “play through the pain,” even absent the extreme coercive workplace narratives presented by the WWE plaintiffs.

Medical literature has also studied athletes knowledge of concussions, using something called a, “Concussion Knowledge Index,” which highlights the notion that athletes may or may not comprehend what a head injury is and presumably manage that risk inadequately.

For example scholarly articles on the subject:
“Concussion under-reporting and pressure from coaches, teammates, fans, and parents.” Published in 2015 by Researchers (Kroshus, Garnett, Hawrilenko, Baugh and Calzo)

The study: “quantifies the pressure that athletes experience to continue playing after a head impact—from coaches, teammates, parents, and fans” The study concludes in part: “one-quarter of the sample had experienced pressure from at least one source to continue playing after a head impact during the previous year.” The studies “findings underscore the importance of designing interventions that address the system in which athletes make decisions about concussion reporting, including athletes’ parents, rather than focusing solely on modifying the individual’s reporting cognitions.”

A related 2015 study in the Journal of Athletic Training:
“Pressure on Sports Medicine Clinicians to Prematurely Return Collegiate Athletes to Play After Concussion.” This article (shockingly) concluded: “Most clinicians reported experiencing pressure to prematurely return athletes to participation after a concussion.”

Another 2016 Journal of Athletic Training article: “Playing Through It”: Delayed Reporting and Removal From Athletic Activity After Concussion Predicts Prolonged Recovery” makes key points among which are: “A substantial number of athletes did not immediately recognize or report concussion symptoms. Athletes who delay reporting concussion symptoms are at risk for protracted recoveries. Not engaging the medical staff and continuing to participate in athletic activity during the immediate postconcussion period potentially exposes the athlete’s already injured brain to additional neuronal stress that can compound injury neuropathophysiologic processes.”

These few studies, findings and articles found in a very brief online search are among dozens on the subject that tend to provide hard science support to the claims made by the wrestlers. As such the contested facts of the WWE lawsuit are clearly in the realm of expert witnesses who can attest to the likely veracity of the dozens of wrestlers claims.

It seems quite likely that wrestler having reached “the top” of their career in WWE faced immeasurably greater pressures than young athletes faced from their parents or coaches. And it seems likely that WWE hired doctors like Dr. Rios or Dr. Unger may have faced pressures to prematurely return a wrestler to the ring. These are some of the factual issues, once explored that can help produce a ‘just’ result to remedy a long-term issue in pro-wrestling.

In the Vito LoGrasso lawsuit some of these issues were discussed in Vito’s deposition testimony resulting in this interesting exchange between WWE’s Lawyer Mr. McDevitt and Big Vito. Who do you think is more likely stating facts closer to the truth? Do Unwritten Laws exist in the WWE Universe?

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