Former WWE wrestler Chris Nowinski, a prominent campaigner for the proper handling of concussions, has weighed in on a recent controversy involving Miami Dolphins quarterback Tua Tagovailoa.
Nowinski, who competed in the first season of Tough Enough in 2001, wrestled with WWE between June 2002 and June 2003 before retiring from the ring with lingering post-concussion symptoms.
Today, Nowinski is much better known as a neuroscientist and campaigner on the effect of concussions in sports, frequently contributing via academic articles and in the media.
He wrote ‘Head Games: Football’s Concussion Crisis’ in 2006, and co-founded the Concussion Legacy Foundation in Boston, Massachusetts. He also has a Ph.D. in behavioral neuroscience from Boston University.
The current controversy surrounds Miami Dolphins quarterback Tua Tagovailoa, who suffered a concussion against the Cincinnati Bengals on Thursday night, four days after being injured in their previous game.
Last Sunday, Tagovailoa had looked unsteady on his feet after taking a tackle against the Buffalo Bills. The NFL and its players’ union are investigating whether concussion protocol was followed on Sunday.
The 24-year-old was evaluated after that incident but was cleared to return to the field for the second half.
Nowinski has spoken out numerous times since last Sunday about the situation.
— Chris Nowinski, Ph.D. (@ChrisNowinski1) September 30, 2022
Appearing on The Dan Le Batard Show on Friday, Nowinski spoke of his own experience in the WWE:
Nineteen years ago, after playing football for Harvard, I wrestled for the WWE and had a very bright future on Monday Night Raw. I had a number of concussions, including two in a month that, at the time, I didn’t understand were concussions, so I didn’t report them. But the second one in a month gave me permanent post-concussion syndrome, ended my career, changed my life — changed everything.
In trying to get better, I learned that everything we were doing about concussions in sports was wrong, and I made it my mission to change that.
On the situation surrounding the NFL, he added (courtesy of Fightful.com):
Frankly, this is such a medical disaster that if I’m Tua and I recover from this, which is not guaranteed, I might say ‘I don’t want to play for this team anymore because of what they did.
I’ve been doing this for now 15 years, and I will tell you, I spent the beginning of this week, visiting the widow of one of my college teammates who died with CTE, and he played in the NFL. This is not the week to mess around on this issue. I see what happens down the line to these guys and if no one’s gonna say anything, I’ll say it. We’ve got to treat this thing like a life-or-death issue, or else people are gonna die.