In recent years, the National Football League and the National Hockey League have faced very public litigation regarding head injuries sustained by the professional athletes in each respective sport. However, the World Wrestling Entertainment Inc. (WWE) is now involved in its own series of lawsuits with plaintiffs claiming brain injuries. Jimmy “Superfly” Snuka and numerous other former wrestlers are suing WWE claiming the business concealed the long-term effects caused by brain injuries sustained in and out of the ring. Specifically, plaintiffs are alleging the WWE failed to care for their recurrent head injuries “in any medically competent or meaningful manner,” as well as for hiding the long-term effects that such injuries could cause. The complaint was filed in federal court on Monday in New Haven, Connecticut and stated that WWE “placed corporate gain over its wrestlers’ health, safety and financial security, choosing to leave the plaintiffs severely injured and with no recourse to treat their damaged minds and bodies.” WWE made a statement stating its confidence that the case will be dismissed. “This is another ridiculous attempt by the same attorney who has previously filed class action lawsuits against WWE, both of which have been dismissed,” WWE said. “A federal judge has already found that this lawyer made patently false allegations about WWE, and this is more of the same.”
WWE matches are unlike most other sports. As the suit notes, these matches involve moves that are “scripted, controlled, directed and choreographed” by WWE. The head injuries sustained by many of the wrestlers are a direct consequence of such moves. Two moves in particular that are particularly risky for head injuries are the “body slam” and the “piledriver.” In a “body slam” one wrestler picks up the other and literally slams him into the ground. A “piledriver” was a common move in the past but has been banned in most cases and involves one wrestler turning the other upside down so that he can drop him head first to the mat. The wrestlers who are suing the corporation are claiming it consciously disregarded and concealed “medically important and possibly lifesaving information” about neurological conditions, Chronic Traumatic Encephalopathy for example, that most often appear in athletes who participate in contact sports where head trauma is frequent. In the suit, the wrestlers claim “the WWE knows that its wrestlers including the plaintiffs are at great risk for these diseases such as CTE that can result in suicide, drug abuse and violent behavior that pose a danger to not only the athletes themselves but their families and community, yet the WWE does nothing to warn, educate or provide treatment to them.” Because the wrestlers are independent contractors, rather than employees, they don’t have the normal medical benefits that other people and athletes have, says Daniel Wallach. He goes on saying, “They completely fall through the safety net. They’re in worse shape than retired professional football players or retired hockey players. They’re the most disposable athletes in the sports and entertainment business.”
The National Football League has already made settlements including $765 million to over 5,000 former NFL players who sued the NFL for damages as a result of head injuries. The NHL also is facing a lawsuit by several former players in which the plaintiffs claim the league idolized violence in the sport and was negligent in protecting the players from repetitive head injuries.
Dolmetsch, Chris. “Retired Wrestlers Sue WWE Over Brain Injuries.” Claims Journal News. N.p., 22 July 2016. Web. 25 July 2016.