The passing of World Wrestling Entertainment sensation Chyna- the “Ninth Wonder of the World,” as she had dubbed herself- racked the wrestling community with grief when she was found dead on April 20, 2016 at her Redondo Beach residence.
According to her manager, Anthony Anzaldo, her brain has been donated to the study of chronic traumatic encephalopathy (CTE) a brain injury associated with multiple concussions.
The body of the entertainer, born Joan Marie Laurer, was discovered by police after a friend made a 911 call when her calls to Chyna went unanswered for several days. The 46-year-old WWE performer had a history of concussions throughout her career.
Dr. Bennet Ifeakandu Omalu was the recipient of Chyna’s brain, according to her manager. Dr. Omalu, the focus of the 2015 film “Concussion,” was the first to discover and publish revolutionary findings on CTE.
CTE is a progressive and degenerative disorder of the brain that is found in athletes and others who have a history of repetitive brain trauma. That trauma can include symptomatic concussions and asymptomatic subconcussive blows to the head.
Since the 1920s, it has been understood that CTE affected boxers. Recently, however, reports of neuropathologically substantiated CTE cases have been associated with retired professional football players, hockey players, and other athletes with a record of repetitive brain trauma.
Progressive degeneration of the brain tissue, including the accumulation of an abnormal protein called ‘tau,’ is triggered by the trauma. It can be months, years, or decades after the final trauma is sustained before these alterations take place. Depression, aggression, confusion, memory loss, impulse control problems, impaired judgement, and ultimately, progressive dementia, are all associated with degeneration of the brain.
CTE, which can only be diagnosed post mortem, has been found in the brains of several NFL players, including former Raiders’ quarterback Ken Stabler, Chargers’ linebacker Junior Seau, and Giants’ running back Frank Gifford.
Long before Chyna’s passing, attorneys reportedly contacted her manager about joining a brain injury lawsuit against the WWE. Anzaldo said they declined.
Then known as the World Wrestling Federation, Chyna joined the WWE in 1997. Although she parted ways with the organization in 2001, she remained active in the entertainment industry. Chyna is only the most recent WWE celebrity to die young. Sadly, she joins the ranks of Owen Hart, Curt “Mr. Perfect” Hennig, Rick Rude, and the Ultimate Warrior.
Traumatic brain injuries are serious – even ones that occur over time and that seem minor at the time. Concussions are often sustained by athletes and car accident victims. On sports fields across the United States, an estimated 300,000 concussions will take place this year alone. While they may seem like minor injuries when they occur, they can have long-lasting consequences that often prove to be fatal. Preventing a concussion is the key – as is recognizing the symptoms of a concussion and taking the necessary steps to protect your brain and allow it to heal. Athletes should wear appropriate protective gear, such as helmets and pads. If they do sustain a mild brain injury, they should be monitored by their coach and by medical staff and not allowed back in the game. It is important that they are seen by a physician immediately and allowed to rest until their brain has had time to fully heal.
Athletes that are allowed to sustain multiple concussions in their careers are at an increased risk for developing serious and debilitating disease, such as chronic traumatic encephalopathy. Symptoms of this include irritability, impulsivity and early on-set dementia as they age.
If you have sustained a concussion or a brain injury in an accident, it is important to understand the issues that you could face – both now and in the future. Brain injuries are not minor injuries and you may need more compensation than you realize. Before reaching any settlement with the insurance company, it is important to speak to an experienced Longmont brain injury attorney. Contact the law firm of Fuicelli & Lee, PC, for a free case evaluation. You pay nothing unless you receive a financial settlement or award. Call our office at 303-355-7202 or fill out our confidential contact form.
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