Friday, August 26, 2011

The death of JT Lightning


     On August 24, 2010 James Haase (JT Lightning) released the following statement:

 "Two weeks ago, i was diagnosed with throat cancer in my esophogus, which has spread to my lymphnods and now is in my liver. I have been through so many tests i dont know whether im coming or going. But it is uncurable and thats a hard pill to swallow, no pun intended. I just turned 40 and i never drank or did drugs and this all boils down from having acid reflux disease and not knowing it. This is a very trying part of my life because i always consdered myself a tough guy, so to speak, and this has brought me to my knees, begging for mercy. Wondering why me? I have no words to say to describe this. But if your out there and you are a friend of mine, be there for me when i need you, thats all i ask. I dont want pity. Just to be remembered for all the things ive done in my life through pro wrestling and music, punk shows or whatever. Thanks for listening".

     On August 4, 2011 JT Lightning passed away.  

JT Lightning


     Based on the above information, Lightning most likely had esophageal cancer as a complication of gastroesophageal reflux disease (GERD).  The most common symptoms associated with GERD are "heartburn" and regurgitation of stomach contents.  Many individuals however do not experience these classic symptoms but may still be at risk for complications of the disorder.  Reflux has been associated with a number of complications including cough,wheezing, laryngitis, erosion of teeth, chronic sinusitis, recurrent pneumonia, chronic hoarseness, pharyngitis, laryngeal cancer and esophageal cancer.

     Chronic reflux can damage the lining of the esophagus leading to a condition known as Barrett's esophagus, which predisposes to a type of cancer known as adenocarcinoma.  While GERD is common, the actual incidence of developing cancer is low.  Barrett's esophagus can be detected by a medical procedure called endoscopy.  Not all people with GERD need to be screened for Barrett's esophagus.  The American Gastroenterology Association has published recommendations for who should be screened (see Table 1).

Table 1 (1)

  • Age 50 years or older
  • Male sex
  • White race
  • Chronic GERD
  • Hiatal hernia
  • Elevated body mass index
  • Intra-abdominal distribution of body fat

     Lightning's case is somewhat unusual because of his age and he was unaware of classic reflux symptoms.  At the time his cancer was diagnosed, it had already spread to other sites in his body.  Unfortunately, such cancer of the esophagus does not respond well to treatment.    



  1. Gastroenterology. 2011;140(3):1084.
The medical resource was used in the preparation of this blog.  
Photographs are for illustrative purposes only.  Wrestling with Death does not claim ownership.

Friday, August 19, 2011

Watching professional wrestling on TV leads to violence

     Lionel Tate was only 12 years old when he murdered Tiffany Eunick in 1999.  Tate was later convicted of first degree murder in the death of the 6 year old.  Tate maintained that he was only wrestling with Eunick, including imitating moves he learned from watching professional wrestling on TV, when she became unconscious.  Eunick's injuries included a lacerated liver, skull fracture, brain swelling, and rib fractures.  The murder and subsequent trial received national attention and was dubbed by the media "the wrestling case".

Lionel Tate

     The Tate case is not an isolated incident.  In January, 1999 another 12 year old killed his nineteen month old cousin after performing a wrestling maneuver known as a "power bomb" on the toddler.  In Georgia a four year old killed a fifteen month old by jumping up and down on him.  This happened while the babysitter had a WWE video playing to entertain the children. (1)

     Despite the above cases, there is no absolute proof that watching professional wrestling on TV can lead to homicide.  However, there are data showing that it can definitely lead to violent and other risk taking behaviors.  The effects of viewing professional wrestling have been studied by DuRant and colleagues from Brenner Children's Hospital and Wake Forest University School of Medicine. (2,3)

     In the article entitled The Relationship Between Watching Professional Wrestling on Television and Engaging in Date Fighting Among High School Students, the investigators hypothesized  that the more professional wrestling adolescents watched on television, the more likely they would be to engage in violent acts such as date fighting, weapon carrying, and other fighting behavior. (2)

     The subjects studied were 2,485 public high school students from Winston-Salem/Forsyth County, North Carolina.  Students were asked to fill out a 71-item questionnaire that assessed health-risk and problem behaviors.  Multiple questions related to fighting and weapon carrying.  The frequency that professional wrestling was watched on TV in the prior 2 weeks was also assessed.  Wrestling was defined as WWE and World Class Championship (WCW) programming.  In October, 1999 2,228 students completed the survey.  In April/May, 2000 it was again administered to 1,935 of the students who had completed the survey in the fall.

     There were significant correlations between the frequency of watching professional wrestling during the prior 2 weeks and engaging in date fighting, fighting in general, substance abuse, and weapon carrying for both males and females.  The relationships were stronger among females than among males.

     In a second study published in the Southern Medical Journal entitled Viewing Professional Wrestling and Engaging in Violent and Other Health Risk Behavior, DuRant and colleagues  found similar results. (3)  This time 2,307 youths ages 16 to 20 years from 17 US states were surveyed in 2001 about health risk behaviors and watching professional wrestling on TV.  The frequency of watching wrestling was associated with having tried to hurt someone with a weapon, engaging in sexual intercourse without appropriate birth control, and cigarette smoking.  Furthermore, the more times wrestling was viewed, the more likely a youth was to also engage in date fighting.

     The authors concluded that the social learning that occurs from increased exposure to wrestling on television has a negative effect on adolescents leading to violent and health risk taking behaviors.

     The two Durant studies spanned a period from 1999 to 2001.  This falls within a critical time in the history of professional wrestling.  WWE and WCW were engaged in the Monday Night Wars.  In an effort to draw better rating the WWE changed the content of their shows to attract a more adult demographic.  This edgier version of wrestling was known as the "Attitude Era".  TV shows such as WWE RAW and WWE Smackdown  routinely depicted extreme acts of violence, racist stereotypes, sexism, simulated sexual acts, beer consumption, degradation of woman, and homophobia.

     In 2008 WWE decided top scale back on the more adult themes.  All WWE programming now conforms to "PG" standards.


  2. Pediatrics 2006; 118(2): 265.
  3. So. Med J 2008; 101(2): 129.

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

Friday, August 12, 2011

Super obese professional wrestlers

     The obesity epidemic in the United States is alarming and predicted to only get worse.  Currently 72 million Americans are obese. (1)  It is the second leading cause of preventable death, behind only cigarette smoking. (2)  Body mass index (BMI) is used as a measure of a person's fat.  It is calculated by dividing the weight in kilograms by the height in meters squared (kg/m2).   For a classification of BMI in adults see Table 1.

Table1:  BMI classification.
  • 25 to 29.9 kg/m2 is considered overweight.
  • 30 to 34.9 kg/m2 is considered obese (class I obesity).
  • 35 to 39.9 kg/m2 is considered moderately obese (class II obesity).
  • 40 to 49.9 kg/m2 is considered severely or extremely obese (class III obesity).
  • >50.0 kg/m2 is considered super obese (class IV obesity).

     In general, the higher the BMI is there is an increased rate of death from all causes.  Obesity is associated with a number of serious medical problems (see Table 2).

    Table 2:  Complications of obesity.
    • Coronary artery disease.
    • Congestive heart failure.
    • Deep venous thrombosis.
    • Pulmonary embolism.
    • Osteoarthritis.
    • Obstructive sleep Apnea.
    • Dementia.
    • Cancer of the esophagus, colon, liver, gallbladder, kidney, and Non-Hodgkins lymphoma.
    • Hypertension.
    • High cholesterol.
    • Diabetes.

         Obesity is also a problem among professional athletes.  A 2006 study by Scripps Howard News Service concluded that the heaviest National Football League (NFL) athletes are twice as likely to die before the their 50th birthday than their teammates. (3)

    Happy Humphrey vs Haystacks Calhoun
         Professional wrestling has always been about showcasing athletes that can capture the paying public's eye, whether it's hillbillies, farmers, cowboys, or fat men.  Table 3 is a listing of the professional wrestlers who would be classified as super obese based on BMI.  When viewing the list there are several points that need to be kept in mind.  First, professional wrestling has no national data base that keeps biostatistics on wrestlers.  Promoters have been known to exaggerate heights and weights of wrestlers.  Furthermore, a wrestler's weight may have fluctuated throughout a career.  All of these factors can impact the reported BMIs listed.

    Table 3:  Super Obese (BMI > 50 kg/m2) professional wrestlers.

    • Benny McCrary (Benny McGuire) 104.6 kg/m2
    • Billy McCrary (Billy McGuire) 100.4kg/m2
    • William Cobb (Happy Humphery) 98.9 kg/m2
    • Val Puccio 73.9 kg/m2
    • Rodney Anoai (Yokozuna) 73 kg/m2 
    • Gary Fletcher (Man Mountain Mike) 73 kg/m2
    • Martin Ruane (Giant Haystacks/Loch Ness) 70.4 kg/m2
    • Jerry Blackwell 70 kg/m2
    • William Calhoun (Haystacks Calhoun) 69.4 kg/m2
    • Akebono Taro 56.5 kg/m2
    • Nelson Frazier (Mabel/Viscera) 56.3 kg/m2
    • Chris Pallies (King Kong Bundy) 55.7 kg/m2
    • Scott Thompson (Krusher Kong) 54.8 kg/m2
    • Leon White (Vader) 53.4 kg/m2
    • Mike Shaw (Bastein Booger) 52.9 kg/m2
    • Solofa Fatu (Rikishi) 52.9 kg/m2
    • John Tenta (Earthquake) 52.7 kg/m2
    • Mark Henry 51.7 kg/m2 
    • Matt Anoai (Rosey) 50.5 kg/m2



    1. Center for Disease Control
    2. Am J Prev Med. 2010; 38(2): 138.

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

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

      Friday, August 5, 2011

      Pec tears in professional wrestlers

           The term pec tear is often used to refer to a rupture of the pectoralis major muscle.  There is a pectoralis major muscle located on each side of the anterior chest wall (see figure 1).  Ruptures can be divided into three categories (see Table 1).
      Pectoralis major muscle

      Table 1
      • Type I:  Rupture at tendon insertion to the humeral (arm) bone.
      • Type II:  Rupture at the junction between the muscle and tendon.
      • Type III:  Rupture of the muscle belly.

           Ruptures of the pectoralis major muscle were once thought to be uncommon.  The majority are due to sports related injuries, most commonly weight training/lifting. (1)  Such injuries have also been described in amateur wrestlers.  The use of anabolic androgenic steroids (AAS) have been cited as a possible risk factor for this type of injury. (2)  However, the relationship between AAS use and musculoskeletal injuries is not well understood. The little information that is available is based mostly on case reports suggesting a risk of muscle/tendon injuries. (1, 3)  There are animal models showing AAS use produces a change in collagen structure that could result in alterations in tendon elasticity.  This may place a tendon at risk for injury and rupture. (4,5)

           Whenever a professional wrestler suffers a pectoralis major muscle injury there is a suspicion that past or current AAS use may have played a role.  Such is the case with the recent pectoralis major tendon injury suffered by Matt Morgan in late July, 2011.  Other wrestlers who experienced similar injuries include John Cena (right pectoralis major injury on October 1, 2007), Adam Copeland (Edge, pectoralis major injury October, 2005 and July 2007) and Jay Reso (Christian, in September 2010).

      Matt Morgan


           There are no studies looking at the prevalence of musculoskeletal injuries in professional wrestlers who are former or current users of AAS.  There is a study involving retired professional football players who self reported AAS and musculoskeletal injuries.  (6)  The article is from Horn, et al. from the Department of Physical Medicine & Rehabilitation and Department of Exercise and Sports Medicine at the University of North Carolina and was published in 2009 in the American Journal of Physical Medicine and Rehabilitation. 

           In this study, a health questionnaire was completed by 2552 retired National Football League (NFL) players.  Results of self reported AAS use and musculoskeletal injuries were analyzed.  Of the retired player, 9.1% reported using AAS, with the highest use among offensive line men.  There was a significant association with self reported, medically diagnosed,  joint and cartilaginous injuries (disc herniations, knee ligamentous/meniscal, elbow, neck stinger, spine, and foot/toe/ankle injuries).  There was no association with biceps, triceps, or shoulder dislocation/injury.   Muscle/tendon injures (upper and lower) were also not more prevalent.

           The authors acknowledged that limitations of the study include that it was retrospective and relied on self reported data about AAS use.  The study was not able to look at the types of AAS used, dosage, duration, or frequency.   

           It should also be appreciated that football players may not be susceptible to the same pattern of injuries as professional wrestlers.  For example, pectoralis tendon injuries typically occur in sports that require forced contractions against a resistance.  This may explain the higher incidence of this particular injury in weight lifters and wrestlers. 

          On February 27, 2006 the WWE instituted a Talent Wellness Program that includes testing wrestlers for AAS.  If AAS are a risk factor for pectoralis major muscle injuries, the number of wrestler suffering this type of injury should decrease over time.

      1. Knee Surg, Sports Traumatol Arthrosc 2000; 8:113.
      2. Am J Sports Med 20 : 587.
      3. Arch Orthop Trauma Surg 1993; 112: 104. 
      4. Med Sci Sports Excerc 1991; 23:1.
      5. Orthop 1987; 11: 157.
      6. Am J Phys Med Rehabil 2009; 88(3): 192.

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