Nowinski Urges NHL Players to Donate. Ignores WWE Wrestlers

A wrestling fan emailed me this item about the controversial Chris Nowinski- the founder of the Concussion Legacy Foundation that has gotten millions of dollars from WWE and has Triple H on its Board of Directors.

Last year Mr. Nowinski, a former WWE wrestler was the subject of a Boston Globe Expose on the Foundation’s failure to do any studies of WWE wrestlers and its apparent inaction on recruiting WWE wrestlers brains for CTE studies- per the June 2016 article Mr. Nowinski implausibly told the Boston Globe that he did not acquire WWE wrestlers brains because “Many people who meet our brain donation criteria die each year, and I would estimate we do not pursue over 99% of cases.” Mr. Nowinski also told the globe that he had scaled back actively pursuing brains of people who have died. Yet here he is in August 2017 actively recruiting brains for NHL players (with WWE money?) and linking to an ESPN article about how the failure of NHL players to donate raises “red flags.”

The key component of CTE research is getting athletes to donate their brains, without Brain donations there is no research. Mr. Nowinski, Boston University (this author graduated from BU law) and the WWE appear to be working towards a goal that ignores studies of CTE wrestlers. Does millions of dollars from the WWE and Mr. Levesque’s board seat influence this research?

When former “troubled” NFL player Junior Seau died on May 2, 2012 there was massive media speculation that he may have had CTE. Indeed this diagnosis was later confirmed after numerous entities attempted to acquire Mr. Seau’s brain for CTE study. According to the book: League of Denial (Mark Fainaru-Wada, Steve Fainaru): “Minutes after Seau’s body was carried out of the house, his oldest son Tyler began getting calls seeking his father’s brain.” (p.7)

Indeed the episode occupies an entire chapter of the League of Denial book entitled “buzzards.” The authors report that “at least half a dozen prominent researchers were making a play for Seaus’ brain.” These included a research doctor who won the Nobel Prize. The day of Seau’s death (at 5:55am) the Nowinski-headed BU group apparently enlisted a famous Sports Illustrated writer who tweeted to over 1 million followers: “Dedicated researchers in Boston studying deceased players’ brains for evidence of trauma attempting to obtain Junior Seau’s. Hope they do.” (p.332)

However contrast this brain recruitment activity when a year earlier on April 3, 2012 Chief Jay Strongbow died. Nothing. No recruitment, no mention of CTE.
Maybe that was because he was out of the limelight, but then:
June 28, 2013 WWE wrestler Matthew Osborne dies. No CTE Study.
February 18, 2014 Nelson Frazier dies  No CTE study.
April 2, 2014 Ultimate Warrior. No CTE study.
June 10, 2015 Dusty Rhodes No CTE study.
July 30, 2015 Roddy Piper. No CTE study.

No CTE Studies, donation drives or activity by BU, Nowinski, Nobel prize winners, NIH or anyone else for wrestlers. Mr. Seau is famous to be sure, but is he more famous than the Ultimate Warrior? Or Roddy Piper?

Lets image the scenario in reverse- let’s suppose that the NFL donated millions of dollars to Mr. Nowinski’s Group at BU to study the effects of activity in the squared circle on the brains of former WWE wrestlers (this would actually make sense as Nowinski is a former WWE wrestler who says he retired in part due to head trauma sustained in WWE matches). Later after donating millions, the number two executive at the NFL, say Tod Leiweke was given a board seat on this foundation and the foundation did not study the brains of any professional football players. Further suppose the NFL financed a study of 100 former WWE wrestlers brains and they overwhelming showed CTE. At the same time the NFL denied that it knew anything about CTE in NFL players (and did not educate them, warn them or help them about CTE.). While the NFL did nothing about CTE, the WWE donated tens of millions earmarked to study the brains of WWE wrestlers, and WWE put aside one billion dollars to help them. Mr. Nowinski then showed up at Wrestlemania to protest the “inaction” by WWE, but was given comped Superbowl tickets and made no mention of CTE while in attendance at NFL games. Would it be plausible that the NFL did not influence CTE research in any way?

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *