Where Does WWE’s ‘Medical Director’ Fit in Shakeup of NFL’s Concussion Committee?

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The New York Times‘ Alan Schwarz — who has done some of the best work on the House Judiciary Committee hearings that spurred the National Football League to huddle up about its policies on concussions — reports that the NFL “further distanced itself from its tumultuous past” on this issue “by selecting two new co-chairmen for a renamed policy committee and accepting the resignation of one of that group’s most prominent members.”

See “N.F.L. Picks New Chairmen for Panel on Concussions,” http://www.nytimes.com/2010/03/17/sports/17concussions.html?src=me.

I am especially interested in where Dr. Joseph Maroon, a Pittsburgh Steelers team physician and an NFL consultant in this area, emerges from the announced shakeup. In 2008 Linda McMahon’s World Wrestling Entertainment hired Maroon as its medical director, with the hype that he was installing the same concussion-management systems spearheaded and used by him in pro football.

However, the more profound summary of Maroon’s profile may be that he was a leader on the NFL team that dragged its feet for years on mounting scientific evidence of the understated long-term dangers of concussions — and he has proceeded to help imbue the WWE with the same corporate culture and practices.

I don’t know what other conclusion you can draw from the way Maroon enabled WWE’s lie to ESPN last December about a supposedly fruitless effort to get access to Dr. Bennet Omalu’s postmortem studies of Chris Benoit’s brain. More than a year earlier, and six months into his WWE tenure, Maroon had attended a meeting with Omalu and other experts in which the Benoit brain slides were shown. (See “EXCLUSIVE: Linda McMahon’s WWE Medical Director Met With Chris Benoit Brain Experts in 2008,” December 14, http://wrestlingbabylon.wordpress.com/2009/12/14/exclusive-linda-mcmahons-wwe-medical-director-met-with-chris-benoit-brain-experts-in-2008/, and “Senate Candidate Linda McMahon’s WWE Lies to ESPN (Part 2),” December 16, http://wrestlingbabylon.wordpress.com/2009/12/16/senate-candidate-linda-mcmahon%00452%80%99s-wwe-lies-to-espn-part-2/.)

I also can’t draw any other conclusion from the way Maroon has apparently stood around collecting paychecks from WWE while it ran its December pay-per-view show, which was marketed around “TLC” — the appeal of wrestlers bashing each other with “tables, ladders, and chairs.” As Daniela Altimari of the Hartford Courant pointed out, WWE a month later conveniently amended its mysterious and ever-evolving internal “policy” to ban chair shots. And as James Caldwell of Pro Wrestling Torch has noted, WWE simply moved on to other brain-damage media with the February “Elimination Chamber” show.

Hey, Mr. Medical Director, how about doing some medical directin’?

Maybe one reason Dr. Maroon isn’t more focused is that he’s been busy with a new project: promoting a supplement called resveratrol, which is supposed to reduce risk of heart disease and to serve as something of an all-purpose fountain of energy and youth. Resveratrol is not yet sanctioned by the Food and Drug Administration, but Maroon authored a book touting it called The Longevity Factor.

Now Maroon is featured at the website of a company, Vinomis Laboratories (http://www.vinomis.com/), which markets a pill called Vindure 900. “Live Longer and Healthier with Resveratrol and Red Wine Grape Extracts.” No word there on whether Maroon is the company’s “medical director.”

Personally, I drink a glass of grape juice every morning. Larry King said this was good for me in a radio commercial, and judging from the number of wives King has run through, he should know.

Irv Muchnick


  1. Keith Harris says:

    WWE’s ‘Medical Director’ being a snake oil salesman is quite fitting. I blogged about your previous articles on the concussion issue last night (entitled The Connecticut media wakes up to WWE’s hypocrisy on the concussion issue, but it’s about more than just chair shots to the head). The key paragraph: “With all due respect to James Caldwell and Irv Muchnick, I think the focus on chair shots and gimmick matches misses the point a bit. Yes, unprotected chair shots to the head are completely stupid and should be eliminated from wrestling completely. But how much brain trauma does a lifetime of dangerous bumps cause? Which is a question WWE and most wrestling fans would rather not ask for fear of the answer.”

    • The commenter’s point here is fair but fuzzy. Pro football can’t eliminate concussions, either, but it can install rules to reverse the competitive advantage of helmet-to-helmet hits. Pro wrestling is choreographed, and the company with 90+% market share can and should eliminate stupidity like chair shots, period. That WWE has not done so tells us a lot about the value system of the McMahon family.

      • Keith Harris says:

        Irv, to clarify my fuzzy point, the way WWE wrestlers bump (flat on their backs) leads to a whiplash effect that causes a regular amount of brain trauma to any WWE wrestler. I agree that chair shots to the head are obviously stupid and should be completely eliminated. But flat back bumps may be just as stupid. Bumping differently (either on the shoulders like Ric Flair or a rolling bump like Mexican wrestlers) may be safer for wrestlers in terms of head trauma and it’s something that WWE should really consider, though they never will, if they are truly concerned about the concussion issue. Another thing WWE could do is give their wrestlers more time off and encourage their wrestlers to work a more technical, matwork based style, so their wrestlers would have to take less flat back bumps. That WWE would never dream of considering this, backs up your point about the value system of the McMahon family.