This Is Your Brain...|
Wrestling has been around a long time, both as a sport and as a form of entertainment. The introduction of the hardcore style matches has exposed sports-entertainers to a new level of intesnsity. Today's generation of WWF superstars take vicious chair shots, as well as other types of potentially lethal blows, direct to the head, seeming not fazed.
At the Royal Rumble, we saw The Rock smash a handcuffed Mankind over two dozen times in the head with a steel chair. How dangerous is this and how can anyone survive it?
Mick Foley, acknowledged by fans everywhere as the "King of Hardcore," is known for taking incredible blows to the head in some of the most unforgettable extreme events in Federation history.
"People think I'm reckless, but that's not true," Foley tells Raw Magazine. "When I'm wrestling, I look for warning signs. I'm very aware of my mental faculties, and if I feel them slipping at all I'll back away and protect my head-which actually I've been trying to do ever since the Royal Rumble. The Royal Rumble was probably was overboard and probably very dangerous. Actually, at my wife's request, I went on about six-month head shot hiatus. I basically asked the other wrestlers to, out of respect, let me heal-and if they were going to hit me, hit me on some other part of the body. There was a time when I was bumping into things, losing my depth perception, forgetting where I lived, things like that-and it was scary.
"The real danger in head injuries is when they are repeated... frequently. So, if I space out the impacts, I have a much better chance. I warn all the younger wrestlers and anyone who wants to venture into what you'd call 'hardcore territory' not to let people hit you in the head. Maybe if that television camera's red light is on, it's a different story; but it's just not worth it, because the damage creeps up on you. I don't think most wrestlers are as aware of the warning signs as I am. I've really made a concious effort to back off from major head impacts since my Royal Rumble match with The Rock."
As far as fans not believing that the wrestlers actually slam each other in the head with steel chairs, Foley responds, "You know, the funny thing is that many fans are convinced that there's a fake steel chair store where wrestlers order their chairs. A lot of it is derived from a desire to belive that the wrestlers are not getting hurt-it makes them feel more comfortable. Unfortunately we do get hurt, and there are some people who get off on that; but for the most part, I think the fans don't want to see us seriously injured and enjoy us for the entertainment value. I know my two kids, who are five and seven, knew the difference right away the two times when I got back from those to matches where I got injured, Hell In The Cell II and the Royal Rumble. And they were very, very shoken up by it."
Another Federation Superstar who comes to mind when you're talking about chair shots is Al Snow, who says, "It's not my favorite thing to get hit in the head with a steel chair; but in my particular avenue, it works to help get my character over with the people. I do whatever necessary or what I feel is required at the time. I don't necessarily enjoy it, but I'm not going to shy away from it, either.
"It's not a lot of fun to come home and be hurting so bad that your kids want to play with you or wrestle with you, you can't even do that. You have to kind of just lie there on the floor and recuperate. I don't think the fans want to see us really get hurt, but they want to be entertained. And we are, unfortunatley, our own worst enemies. We continue to raise the bar and raise the expectations of the fans as to what will be the next thing that will elite the proper response. We have to keep doing things like that. We are the ones who have taught the fans to expect these kind of things. If we didn't do it, then they wouldn't expect it."
When asked if he tries to protect his head when he has recieved a pretty good whack which stuns him, Snow replies, "Usually, whatever happens, happens. You know, it would have to be pretty dog-gone severe for me-or just about anybody, I imagine-to stop for a second and go, 'Oh, that's bad. I can't let him hit me there again. I better be careful.' It would have to be pretty bad as far as a shot to the head is concerned.
"I've taken some pretty bad ones and have been knocked kind of semi-conscious adn not even realized it. In Cleveland, there was a ridiculous incident where I got hit over and over in the head, but the second one knocked me silly and I didn't realize what was going on. I still don't remember being hit the third and fourth time that night in the ring, and to this day I still don't remember it. On those kinds of occasions when you take that kind of hard shot to the head, you don't even have a chance to think of whether or not the next time you should protect yourself, because usually you're not thinking straight.
"I do want to point out that if two guys are whacking each other pretty good and we see that someone isn't selling anymore, but is really getting hurt, we check up and give him a chance to breath or collect himself. We don't just whack him again on top of his skull. The name of the game is to be able to walk away the next day and have a life afterwards," Snow concluded.
Raw Magazine also spoke with Dr. Walter Camp of Greenwich, Conn., one of this country's leading neurologists.
"As far as I know, no wrestler has ever come out of it like Muhammad Ali," says Dr. Camp," and Muhammad was allegedly never knocked out. i don't know how wrestlers do it; but they seem to do it and you don't hear about serious injuries, like you do in boxing."
"One of the problems I see is when you get a single blow to the head, it rarely causes trouble. As a neurologist, I see kids who are brought in with their third concussion. And the problem is, they're fine. I don't mean being knocked unconscious, but really having their bell rung. They're fuzzyheaded or confused, but then they're fine. It's repeated occurences where there's trouble. Coaches have to take these kids out when they get knocked woozy in a game, and not let them go right back. But the same kids who get the cuncussions are usually repeat occurences. They seem to have a propenity for head injuries. So, they get weeded out through the ranks, through high school, college, etc."
Dr. Camp continued, "By the time they've gotten to this level, they've been exposed to a lot of punishment and have to survive. So, these athletes are better conditioned to recieve these blows and walk away from what would put an average person into a hospital.
"The main danger once you've recieved a major head blow is to avoid a repeat occurence. Millions of people love wrestling, so I'm hoping that these wrestlers take it easy on their heads. But they want to make sure not to get the problems the pugilistic fighters get. These wrestlers are in a business adn they want to stay in that business for as long as they can.
"The brain is a miraculous thing, but once you've gone too far, once you've done it enough, you can't back up. There's nothing that will fix it. The brain can reach a point where the next injury in the one that can cause permanent damage and it is cumulative. My rule for parents, coaches and young athletes is: When you get the third concussion, you need to stay out of contact sports. If you've gotten that far, and you're prone for that, then maybe there's something about you adn you've just got to stop."
Mick Foley concurs. He hopes the fans understand.
"I'm really hoping that the fans don't froce the guys to hurt each other permanently. With my reputation as a guy who loves pain, I really don't care for it at all in my everyday life and I'm trying to get out as permanently pain-free as possible.
"Like yesterday, I got out of the car and could barely walk because my knees were in a great amount of pain. I can't imagine that someone would think I enjoy that... the idea of not being mentally aware enough so that I can enjoy my kids growing up. I want to entertain the fans and put on the best possible show I can.
It's exciting being out there, and I think that adrenaline is a dangerous thing. In the meantime, I think I'm going to keep my eye out for that "fake" chair store. I could use a couple of those."