Monday, May 10, 2010

Repeated concussions and effects on behavior

Bob at Striking Thoughts has an excellent post detailing some of the autopsy slides of the brain of Chris Benoit, the pro wrestler who murdered his wife and child before killing himself in 2007. The gist of his post is that it may have been the repeated head trauma that affected his behavior, and should be avoided by all of us. Bob certainly never claims that the repeated concussions were the sole cause of the murderous behavior, but his inclusion of evidence that Benoit’s brain was damaged in compelling.

The family of Chris Benoit has been searching for answers since late June, when the professional wrestler killed his wife, 7-year-old son and then himself….

The tests, conducted by Julian Bailes of the Sports Legacy Institute, show that Benoit’s brain was so severely damaged it resembled the brain of an 85-year-old Alzheimer’s patient.

Bailes and his research team say that this damage was the result of a lifetime of chronic concussions and head trauma suffered while Benoit was in the wrestling ring.

Benoit’s “finishing move” was the flying headbutt. The above video is but one instance of Benoit using this move over decades of theatrical wrestling.


We have posted here several times (see Head Butts - recipe for disaster? and other links at the bottom of this post) on how dangerous using head butts can be, but it should be noted that they are extremely effective as a self-defense tool. The danger is in the ease with which you can either knock yourself out cold, but even more in the regular damage to your own brain that is inflicted by training with them.

I have also had a series of controversial posts on the effectiveness of martial arts or boxing-type headgear on preventing brain injury. My opinion is that it’s not effective, and could actually increase your chances, in normal studio-type or full-contact, sparring, of brain trauma. Not a scientific opinion, but one based on my experience and common sense. There are some caveats to that, but read the posts and form your own opinion.

One additional piece of information that may influence you:
My understanding is the the US Marine Corps stopped allowing head contact in their MCMAP program due to the vast number of concussions and even deaths that were inflicted as a result of the head contact. No doubt it was due to the gung ho attitudes of the young recruits and Marines involved, but it speaks to the inherent danger of head contact as well.

Indeed the point of Bob’s post is well-taken, “Bottom line: there are many ways to safely practice self-defense without risking repeated and needless blows to your head.” In other words all of us training with contact should utilize controlled contact to the head to avoid exactly the type of damage mentioned in the Science Daily press release (see below).

Thanks for the important update, Bob.

Post links at Striking Thoughts

Use your head! « Striking Thoughts
Science Daily: Wrestler Chris Benoit Brain's Forensic Exam Consistent With Numerous Brain Injuries

On the Use of Head Butts

TDA Head Butts - recipe for disaster?
TDA Head Butts - use 'em or not?
WHEN HEADS COLLIDE! by Hock Hochheim
Dead athletes' brains show damage from concussions
Is the Headbutt Effective for Self Defence via

On Effectiveness of headgear

TDA Headgear or mouthpieces
TDA Does headgear protect your noggin? – UPDATED
TDA Stop hitting me so hard!
Boxing Damages Brain Despite Headgear Protection


FredInChina said...

Great article Nathan.
In the case of Chris Benoit, the title could also have been:
"Repeated behavior and the effect on concussions..."


Nathan Teodoro said...

Too shay, Fred.

On a serious note, we are all responsible for our actions, especially in cases like this where there is no excuse. I would add that pro wrestling, like most other sports must police itself for behaviors and actions which could endanger the performers and the public. Benoit's is a nothing out of the ordinary in the sense that these types of crimes happen all the time, but the cause is still that there is evil in our hearts that is only restrained, but cannot ever be conquered by our own will.

The lesson in this, is just what Bob at Striking Thoughts said, though, protect your noggin!

Have a great day, and thanks for participating.