The Mayo Clinic defines a concussion as a traumatic brain injury that alters the way your brain functions. Sometimes, the symptoms of concussions can be felt within hours, and include: headache, amnesia, confusion, vomiting, and dizziness. In other, more serious cases, symptoms can last days and even months. Long term effects include: personality changes, depression, sleep disturbances, sensitivity to light and noise, and memory loss. Concussions should not be ignored or dismissed.
Breaking it down in simpler terms; banging your brain around inside your skull is bad. Your brain is important. It is stored snugly inside your skull to protect it and keep it safe. Thinking logically, brain injuries are the most serious, non-life threatening injuries out there. Broken arms, torn ACLs, and superficial cuts, can all be fixed with modern medicine. Traumatic brain injuries can not. Today, there is no way to repair a brain that has been concussed multiple times.
34 year old pro wrestler Bryan Danielson had dozens of concussions in his 16 year career. Due to this repeated head trauma, he announced his retirement from World Wrestling Entertainment this past Monday on Raw. Danielson gave a highly emotional 20 minute speech that detailed his time in the wrestling business, the people who were important to him, and how grateful he was for the way his career turned out. It was a memorable, genuine promo that had fans in attendance, and at home, in tears.
During his speech, Danielson mentioned that doctors had given him conflicting reports on the condition of his brain. Dr. Joseph Maroon, a doctor employed by the WWE, had recommended that Danielson never wrestle again. After suffering so many concussions, Maroon felt it was just too risky to allow Danielson to get back in the ring. Danielson decided to get second and third opinions. These doctors tested Danielson and found his brain to be in normal shape for someone his age. In sum, they said he could wrestle. Despite these other results, the WWE still refused to let Danielson wrestle again. Then, a couple of weeks ago, Danielson took newly developed tests in New York and the results were not good. In fact, the outcome was so poor that Danielson decided to walk away from the profession he loved, at the pinnacle of his career.
Danielson had a great run in pro wrestling. He was an incredible worker in the ring, having spectacular matches with a variety of opponents. His style was hard hitting and technical. He made his name on the independent wrestling scene, most specifically working for the Ring of Honor promotion. Despite his lack of size, he still managed to gradually grow a rabid fanbase in the WWE. He even won the World Championship in the main event of Wrestlemania. He truly did it all in the pro wrestling business.
His lasting legacy, though, will be retiring before it was too late. As concussions are studied more and more, their long term side effects will become better known. Danielson is the first big wrestling name to retire due to traumatic brain injuries. Although it may not be intentional, he is shedding light on a serious injury that is still not fully understood. Ten or twenty years ago, guys would have kept wrestling and badly damaged their brains and minds. Today, with better testing and guys like Danielson setting the example, we may be learning from the mistakes of the past. Danielson could be leading the way for other athletes in high impact sports (MMA, football, etc) to retire before incurring serious damage.
Danielson and his fans should not be sad. His retirement is good news. He may have gotten out with his brain still intact and made it possible for others to do the same.