Friday, June 24, 2011

Traumatic spinal cord injuries in professonal wrestling

     Traumatic spinal cord injury is a devastating condition that has the potential to result in partial or permanent disability.  In the United States the incidence of traumatic spinal cord injury is approximately 40 per million persons per year.

     The main causes of spinal cord injury are: (1)

  • Motor vehicle accidents: 47 percent.
  • Falls: 23 percent.
  • Violence (i.e. gunshot wounds): 14 percent. 
  • Sports: 9 percent. 
  • Other: 9 percent.

     Most spinal cord injuries are the result of an injury to the vertebral column.  This can occur by a number of mechanisms including: (2)

  • Fracture of a vertebral bone. 
  • Dislocation of a joint.
  • Ligament tear.
  • Herniation of a disc.

       With a complete cord injury the individual may experience loss of sensation and complete paralysis below the level of injury.  Such an injury occurred to wrestler Darren Drozdov (Droz).  On October 5. 1999 while wrestling Accie Conner (D'Lo Brown) he suffered a cervical spinal cord injury at the C4-C5 level.  He was eventually able to regain partial use of his upper extremities.

     Transient paralysis can occur after a spinal cord injury and result in temporary paralysis, loss of sensation and reflexes below the level of injury.  Individuals will often times make a complete recovery.  Such an injury occurred to referee Tommy Young on November 28, 1989.

     Another example of a transient spinal cord injury occurred to wrestler Steve Williams (Steve Austin) on August 3, 1997.


Mitsuharu Misawa
     A sudden traumatic spinal cord injury can be immediately life threatening.  This is especially true the higher the lesion is in the cervical spine.  An injury at the C1-C2 level is associated with a 6.6 fold increased risk of death, C3-C4 injury a 2.5 fold increased risk, and a C6 to C8 a 1.5 fold increased risk. (3)  Japanese professional wrestler Mitsuharu Misawa died June 13, 2009 in the ring after getting injured from a suplex.  While the official cause of death was not released by the family, it is presumed he sustained a high cervical spine injury causing cardiopulmonary arrest.

     Another well publicized spinal cord injury occurred on December 11, 1990 in Tampa, Florida during a WWE Suprestars TV taping.  Enhancement wrestler Chad Austin teamed with Lanny Poffo (The Genius) against The Rockers, Frederick Jannetty (Marty Jannetty) and Michael Hickenbottom (Shawn Michaels).  Jannetty performed a "Rocker Dropper" on AustinAustin landed incorrectly and suffered a spinal cord injury.  Austin subsequently sued the WWE and on April 29, 1994 the case was settled and he was awarded a reported 26.7 million.

  2. Spine (Phil Pa 1976) 2001; 26: S2.  
  3. Arch Intern Med 1989; 149(8): 1761.

The medical resource was used in the preparation of this blog.

Photographs and videos are for illustrative purposes only.  Wrestling with Death does not claim ownership.

    1 comment:

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