A group of former professional wrestlers claim in a class action lawsuit filed on July 18 against the Connecticut-based World Wrestling Entertainment, Inc., that their sport increases the likelihood of developing the neurodegenerative disease chronic traumatic encephalopathy. The progressive condition has been found in the brains of deceased college and professional football players and is thought by many medical experts to be widespread among players of other contact sports like rugby, boxing and wrestling.
A representative of the defendant dismissed the class action lawsuit as a ploy by a group of attorneys who have tried to sue the WWE in the past without success. A challenge facing the 53 former wrestlers is that they are classified as independent contractors rather than employees, and they lack the union representation that former professional football players enjoyed when they initiated similar litigation against the NFL.
CTE can currently only be diagnosed after death, and the condition has been discovered during the autopsies of at least two former professional wrestlers including former WWE champion Chris Benoit. In 2007, Benoit murdered his son and wife before taking his own life. Loyalties are likely to be tested if the case goes to trial as one of the founders of the Concussion Legacy Foundation is former wrestling star Chris Nowinski. Nowinski has worked closely with Dr. Bennet Omalu, who was played by Will Smith in the film ‘Concussion,” but his foundation receives substantial funding from the WWE.
Brain injuries are extremely challenging for medical professionals, and a delayed diagnosis can have profound consequences. Those who have been harmed by a misdiagnosis may seek compensation by filing a malpractice lawsuit, and attorneys with experience in this type of case could speak with experts and review medical records to establish that the care provided did not meet generally accepted standards.