Kyros Law announces that Don Leo Heaton’s family has donated his brain for a study of CTE in professional wrestlers. Mr. Heaton known as Don Leo Jonathan was a towering figure in the history of wrestling. Known as the world over as the “Mormon Giant,” Don Leo’s style and performances were foundational to the modern era of wrestling when he was one of the world’s best known performers between the 1950s into the 1970s. Don Leo was involved in Championship matches with Pedro Morales, Bruno Sammartino in WWWF and frequently wrestled Andre the Giant. At 6′ 6″ and more than 300 pounds, he is considered as one of the greatest athletic “big man” wrestlers of all time. The Wrestling Observer on his passing, noted his stardom to millions of fans and that his natural ability was “almost mythological to those in the business.”
Don Leo was by far the oldest wrestler involved in lawsuits against the WWE and died in the midst of fighting for his rights and the legal rights of professional wrestlers. His lawsuit (now being appealed) was sadly dismissed a few weeks before his death.
Like NFL great Frank Gifford, who lived to age 85, Mr. Heaton at age 87 decided to donate his brain to help the next generation of athletes. Sports organizations like the NFL and WWE should be studying CTE so that athletes can understand the risks and develop better treatment. The NFL settled claims made against it, finances CTE studies and helps former players at risk for CTE. The NFL recently awarded one of Mr. Kyros’ clients diagnosed with CTE over $3.8 million. In contrast the WWE denies that CTE exists in wrestlers, fought the injured wrestlers legal claims with scorched earth tactics, does nothing to help wrestlers with CTE or wrestlers at risk for the disease and WWE is attempting to silence legal advocacy on behalf of wrestlers in various ways. Don Leo and his family hope his donation will contribute to ongoing medical research linking professional wrestling to occupational diseases like Chronic Traumatic Encephalopathy.
The WWE has donated millions of dollars to the leading CTE advocacy group (The Concussion legacy Foundation in Boston) and appears to have influenced that entity (headed by former wrestler Chris Nowinski) not design or conduct studies of CTE in deceased wrestlers. See front page Boston Globe expose on this WWE CTE research suppression activity.
In contrast to the WWE financed Nowinki group which does not actively recruit brains to study wrestlers, Kyros Law has advocated for wrestlers with CTE and facilitated the brain donations of many of the most famous professional wrestlers to die in the past few years including Jimmy Snuka, Mr. Fuji, Balls Mahoney, Chyna, Axl Rotten, Rockin’ Rebel, Rex King, Ron Bass, and Brickhouse Brown. At least five of these wrestlers have tested positive for CTE to date with several studies pending.