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Proof: show wrestling kills

A show wrestler aged between 35 and 54 is three times more likely to die than his non-wrestling age mates. American sports scientists report this in PLoS One. Wrestlers are 15 times more likely to suffer a fatal heart attack or stroke than normal. We all knew this really, but now we have scientific proof: there's something badly wrong with professional wrestling.

There are regular reports in the media of bodybuilders, power-lifters, strongmen and show wrestlers who die at a young age. But reports in the media are not necessarily proof of mass fatalities in the wrestling world. Media reporting is sometimes one-sided and exaggerated. That's why sports scientists at Eastern Michigan University in the US decided to do a scientific survey of deaths among show wrestlers.

The researchers gathered data on 557 male wrestlers who were active between 1985 and 2011 from public sources such as the Wrestling Observer Newsletter and the WWE's officially licensed published Encyclopedia. They then compared the number of deaths in this group with the number of deaths in a comparable group of men who were not wrestlers.

Proof: show wrestling kills Proof: show wrestling kills

The researchers discovered that a wrestler who has been practising the sport for 10 years has a 5 percent chance of dying. That's a promising outlook if you compare it with cancer patients who have undergone radiation treatment and chemotherapy, but compared to healthy men and women in the prime of their life it's downright alarming.

The chance of developing a fatal form of cancer was 6.4 times higher among wrestlers than the healthy population. The chance of fatal cardiovascular disease was 15.4 times higher. And the chance of meeting a drugs-related death was a whopping 122.7 times more likely.

When the researchers analysed the figures more deeply, they discovered that the age of the wrestlers was not a factor in their mortality. It was above all the number of years that the men had been active professional wrestlers that increased the chance of early death. The longer a wrestler's career lasts, the more likely he is to kick the bucket.

Proof: show wrestling kills Proof: show wrestling kills

On further analysis, the researchers discovered that the wrestlers were also more likely to die prematurely the heavier they were. It is possible that heavyweight wrestlers also use more anabolic steroids.

Proof: show wrestling kills

"Considering the very high rate of premature mortality from cardiovascular disease, cancer, and substance abuse, the health and wellbeing of professional wrestlers who are part of the entertainment industry need an intense prevention strategy with aggressive treatment of each of the risk factors", the researchers summarise.

"Results from this study may be useful for professional wrestlers, and may be useful for the development of future wellness policy and medical care implementation among professional wrestling organizations."

PLoS One. 2014 Nov 5;9(11):e109945.

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