Sunday, May 6, 2012

Suicide in Professional Football and Professional Wrestling

     The suicide of ex-professional football player Junior Seau shocked the sporting world.  Seau shot himself in the chest on May 2, 2012.  The death grabbed the attention of the media and drew attention to the alarmingly high incidence of suicide among former NFL players and the possible connection to concussions.

     Since 1987 twelve NFL players have committed suicide. (1)   The brain of former Chicago Bear's player Dave Duerson was examined and shown to have changes of chronic traumatic encephalopathy (CTP).  CTP is a neurodegenerative disorder caused by repetitive head trauma. (2) Similar findings were found during the autopsies conducted on other former NFL players. (3)

     Although the deaths of NFL players is deemed newsworthy, the same can not be said for the deaths of professional wrestlers.  Since 1987 twenty four professional wrestlers have committed suicide. (4)  With the exception of the 2007 death of Chris Benoit, the subject has received little attention.  Finding of CTP were documented on the autopsies of Benoit and Andrew Martin. (5,6)
     The WWE as part of the Talent Wellness policy monitors wrestlers using the imPACT concussion managment program.

     The other noteworthy observation is that Seau is the eighth member of the 1994 San Diego Chargers to have passed away.  With a team roster of 53 players, that makes 15% who have died.  Players and members of the media are outwardly asking if the '94 team is "cursed" due to the number of premature deaths.  By way of comparison, 29% of the wrestlers from WrestleMania X held in 1994 have died.  The 7 deceased are Owen Hart, Randy Savage, Yokozuna Crush, Earthquake, Bam Bam Bigelow, and Luna Vachon.  Yet no one seems to be aware of this statistic.




  2. J Neuropathol Exp Neurol. 2009 July; 68(7): 709–735.  at