C.M. Punk Puts Spotlight Back on Dr. Maroon’s Team and WWE ‘Wellness Policy’

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by Irvin Muchnick


The pro wrestling media did a good job of interpreting the verbal volleys in hours upon hours of recent podcasts by WWE boss Vince McMahon and one of his former top performers, C.M, Punk (real name Phil Brooks), who quit earlier this year under bitter circumstances.

Of course, I am a good week and a half late to this party – and now the whole thing has been overriden by the announcement that Punk is taking the plunge into mixed martial arts, by signing a multi-fight deal with UFC. So I just want to cite the two writers who, I think, best honed in on the dimension of the dispute that should be most important for fans and non-fans alike: the absence of meaningful medical controls in the extreme entertainment genre that is WWE – an entity anything but fake on the scorecard of life and death.

On November 28, in “CM Punk raises old concerns about WWE’s Wellness Policy,” http://www.cagesideseats.com/wwe/2014/11/28/7300575/cm-punk-raises-old-concerns-about-wwes-wellness-policy, Keith Harris of Cageside Seats (part of the SB Nation blog family) noted: “The allegation that a WWE doctor was willing to clear a wrestler over the phone without a formal inspection has been made before, as Charlie Haas made similar allegations about  Dr. Joseph Maroon in 2010.” This referred to a story we published here at https://concussioninc.net/?p=2737.

Harris went even further with a December 1 post headlined, “Is the Sports Legacy Institute tainted by their association with CM Punk’s concussion claims?”, http://www.cagesideseats.com/wwe/2014/12/1/7310649/is-the-sports-legacy-institute-tainted-by-their-association-with-wwe. Harris pointed out that top WWE executive Paul “Triple H” Levesque, who is married to Vince and Linda McMahon’s daughter Stephanie, now serves on the board of SLI, Chris Nowinski’s organization, in an officially unofficial quid pro quo for a $1.2 million corporate gift. It is my view, and that of many others, that donations from WWE and the NFL tragically compromise the traumatic brain injury advocacy work of Nowinski, a former Harvard football player and WWE performer.

At Bryan Alvarez’s Figure Four Weekly, where David Bixenspan is a major contributor, Bixenspan went in depth into Punk’s contention that Maroon’s ImPACT concussion test is “bullshit.” Even more disturbingly, WWE doctors let Punk continue to work for weeks, possibly months, with a growth on his lower back that turned out to be a potentially life-threatening and contagious “MRSA,” or antibiotic-resistant staph infection. (Former WWE performer Hardcore Holly recounted a similar anecdote in his memoirs.)

The subscribers-only link to Bixenspan’s piece is http://www.f4wonline.com/component/content/article/40096-full-color-pdf-nov-28-figure-four-weekly-most-in-depth-analysis-of-cm-punks-complaints-about-wwes-medical-team-that-youll-read-anywhere-plus-news-a-reviews-from-around-the-world.

Bixenspan also told of new disturbing evidence of questionable care by famed orthopedist Dr. James Andrews, who (as in our earlier story on Charlie Haas) cleared Punk for return to action without even examining him in person. Dipping into some history of WWE’s relationship with the Andrews office, Bixenspan recalled that an unqualified doctor there, non-endocrinologist Dr. Tracy Ray, originally ruled on “therapeutic use exemptions” for steroid-family prescriptions for wrestlers:


“Ray was replaced in 2008 … by Dr. Vijay Bahl, an endocrinologist practicing at University of Pittsburgh Medical Center. Joseph Maroon and the head of the cardiological monitoring part of the program, Bryan Donahue, are also part of the [University of Pittsburgh Medical Center]. Initially, according to a 2010 article by Irv Muchnick, WWE had discussions with Dr. Richard Auchus of University of Texas Southwestern Medical Center, who was theoretically the best person for the job since he helped author the therapeutic use exemption (TUE) protocols for the World Anti-Doping Agency (WADA). Auchus’s proposal centered around how testosterone replacement therapy (TRT) should only be used to taper the wrestlers off steroids, not as an ongoing treatment, and for whatever reason, Auchus never heard back while Bahl was hired instead.”


This is all timely as Dr. Maroon’s group re-ups — I think the current popular term is “doubles down” — the hype for their hopelessly conflicted, indeed profiteering, “solutions” to the football concussion crisis. More on that next.


CONCUSSION INC.: The End of Football As We Know It, will be published early next year by ECW Press. You can pre-order both the hard copy and Kindle versions at http://amzn.to/1yQNPXY. View the cover at http://muchnick.net/cicover.pdf.

My 2012 ebook short, UPMC: Concussion Scandal Ground Zero, can be ordered from Amazon at http://amzn.to/A0Hq2g, or directly as a PDF file by remitting $1.49 via PayPal to paypal@muchnick.net.

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Concussion Inc. - Author Irvin Muchnick