In an email exchange this morning, another participant in the October 1, 2008, meeting of experts at the West Virginia University Brain Injury Institute – where World Wrestling Entertainment medical director Joseph Maroon was shown studies of dead wrestler Chris Benoit’s brain – has added valuable information.
For the full background, see “Muchnick Flashback: EXCLUSIVE – Linda McMahon’s WWE Medical Director Met With Chris Benoit Brain Experts in 2008,” http://wrestlingbabylon.wordpress.com/2010/09/07/muchnick-flashback-exclusive-linda-mcmahons-wwe-medical-director-met-with-chris-benoit-brain-experts-in-2008/.
Among the participants in that meeting was Peter Davies, professor of pathology and neuroscience at Yeshiva University’s Albert Einstein College of Medicine. Davies holds an endowed chair in Alzheimer’s Disease research and directs a center on Alzheimer’s and memory disorders.
Here is Davies’ full statement to me:
I was at a meeting in West Virginia in October 2008, originally at the request of Dr Ira Casson, who at the time was a member of the NFL Head Injury Committee (I’m not sure exactly what it was called then). Ira asked me to try to look at the material collected by Dr Omalu and Dr Bailes because I am considered to be an expert in the kind of pathology that Dr Omalu had reported seeing in the brains of ex-NFL and WWE cases. Dr Omalu was not an expert in this kind of pathology, and Dr Casson wanted an outside expert to see if there was anything significant going on. I was not then nor am I now affiliated with the NFL: I flew to West Virginia at my own expense: Dr Maroon (who was also a member of the NFL committee) “brokered” the meeting, arranging for me to meet with Dr Omalu and Dr Bailes and I did have the chance to examine several brain sections.
It was clear that there was pathology in these cases, although Dr Omalu had not done the kind of extensive staining of tissues that my lab has developed. I suggested to Dr Omalu that my lab could do much more extensive staining on these cases, to better define the pathology. Dr Omalu readily agreed, and sent me samples from several brains. We stained them, and reported on our findings to the NFL committee in June 2009: a brief summary report was prepared ahead of the meeting and sent to Dr Maroon, Dr Omalu, Dr Bailes and the NFL committee. The issue I had been asked to address was the nature and extent of the pathology in these cases: I reported that there was a unique and very serious pathology. I did not and do not discuss individual cases in a manner that can lead to their identification, although others involved with examination of this material have done so.
At the same time, the Boston University group also obtained samples of these cases from Dr Omalu, and has published extensively on their findings. There is no doubt that what is called CTE exists and is a serious concern for professional athletes in sports where the risk of concussions is high. Quite how common CTE is remains a question, as are the nature of the risk factors for development of CTE. I am now part of an NFL Players Association group trying to further investigate this.
Having read your blogs, I should add that I have never had any involvement with the WWE, and that I have never been contacted by anyone with a declared interest in the WWE.