Following in the footsteps of brain-injured NFL players, two onetime World Wrestling Entertainment performers living in Pennsylvania are suing their former employer over repeated, violent blows to the head that they say resulted in permanent brain damage.
“For most of its history, WWE has engaged in a campaign of misinformation and deception to prevent its wrestlers from understanding the true nature and consequences of the injuries they have sustained,” claims the lawsuit.
According to the complaint, Vito LoGrasso of Coatesville now suffers from severe headaches, memory loss, and depression from his years as a WWE wrestler. A second plaintiff, Evan Singleton of Lancaster, has been declared completely disabled by his doctor, despite just a year with WWE.
Perhaps most egregiously, the wrestlers’ lawyer, Harris Pogust, said the concussions or sub-concussive events are part of scripted violence.
“The individuals in charge of the WWE know even before going into the match that these individuals are going to suffer blows to the head,” he said, “and encourage many of these wrestlers to what they call, ‘turn up the heat’ and make these matches as violent as possible.”
Among other claims, Pogust said WWE doctors purposely failed to diagnose concussions in the interest of generating profits.
“Somebody gets hit in the head, and they get knocked out; they claim they’re woozy, and the crowd goes crazy,” he said.
The complaint details maneuvers such as the “brain buster” and “chair shot” that target the head and lead to numerous injuries.
Attorney Jerry McDevitt, who represents the WWE, said there had been no effort to keep information about concussions from its wrestlers, adding that the company has been proactive in protecting performers as newer medical evidence has emerged about traumatic brain injury.
“We have brought in some of the best doctors in the world to be ringside physicians,” he said. “We do impact testing for concussion management at the time the events occur and are suspected.”
McDevitt noted the suit contains sections that are copied verbatim from another pending lawsuit in Oregon.
“What they’re doing is they’re making cookie-cutter allegations against everybody, whether they fit or they don’t, and they just don’t fit with the WWE,” he said.
The lawsuit was filed in Philadelphia in the same federal court where a judge has given preliminary approval for the NFL’s settlement over concussions, which is expected to reach approximately $1 billion.