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February 29, 2016

Does WWE star Daniel Bryan's concussion retirement signal change for sports?

If you're not a regular viewer of "Monday Night Raw," you missed a look at the future of concussions in sports.

In an emotional retirement speech, WWE star Daniel Bryan, whose real name is Bryan Danielson, said he's walking away from the world of professional wrestling due to concussion concerns.

Danielson spent most of 2015 sidelined after a spring concussion.

WWE would not clear him to wrestle, and as the year went on, Danielson began making noise in interviews about wanting to perform, if not in WWE then elsewhere.

But on the Feb. 8 episode of "Monday Night Raw," Danielson made an about-face and announced his retirement.

Danielson, 34, explained that he'd fought WWE's refusal to clear him because he had gotten EEGs, brain MRIs and neuropsychological evaluations showing he was fine. Then he took another test, and his focus changed.

"A week and a half ago," Danielson said, "I took a test that said that maybe my brain isn't as OK as I thought it was."

Danielson also said he had suffered three concussions within the first five months of his career. Sixteen years later, Danielson said, "it adds up to a lot of concussions."

WWE wouldn't say what specific test Danielson took that pushed him into retirement, nor would they make him available for an interview. On ESPN, Danielson described it as an EEG — basically measuring electrical brain currents, he said — while doing reflex testing.

The test found some "slowing" and a lesion, Danielson said.

Watching at home, my ears perked up. That a person can do well on his tests, then take a new one suggesting he's not "as OK" as he thought is a scary prospect, especially when you consider that the science around concussions still has a long way to go.

Retirements like Danielson's are going to happen more often in the coming years, as new tests give doctors better tools for gauging brain health.

Dave Meltzer, who writes the Wrestling Observer newsletter each week, said he thinks it's the "start of a big deal."

Many wrestlers and football players whose brains were found after death to have CTE — chronic traumatic encephalopathy, defined by Boston University as "a progressive degenerative disease of the brain found in athletes (and others) with a history of repetitive brain trauma" — were guys who would not have retired under normal circumstances, Meltzer said.

"I absolutely believe you'll see shorter careers and people retire earlier because they're going to find out what condition they're in," Meltzer said. "Even if they want to continue, the governing bodies will say (they) can't."

Personally, I suspect many athletes who otherwise appear to have good brain health are less OK than they think...More?

source: chicagotribune.com

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