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EGENIS seminar: "Hard Knock Life: Concussion, Dementia and Sport" Dr Greg Hollin (University of Leeds)

Egenis seminar series

The first decades of the twenty-first century have seen a ‘concussion crisis’ in sport. While there has been increased, and considerable, concern about the acute health risks associated with brain injury, much of the crisis has oriented around ‘Chronic Traumatic Encephalopathy’, or CTE, a form of dementia associated with repetitive head injuries such as those experienced as part of sporting activity. Within this context, there has been widespread criticism levelled at innumerable Sports Governance Organizations with accusations that responses to the crisis have been both too slow and too circumscribed. Nonetheless, concussion governance has been embedded in numerous sports in the form of, for example, new or altered rules, increased medical provision, diagnostic technologies, compulsory coaching courses, return to play protocols, and legislative change.

Event details

Professional wrestling – a curious sport/theatre hybrid with an apparently high risk of concussion – continues to be immune to these regulative shifts. Wrestling has no governing body, no qualifications are needed to coach trainees, and no standards nor oversight exists for those running promotions or training schools. Over the course of a year’s ethnography at a wrestling organisation that both hosts wrestling matches and acts as a popular training school, I sought to ask: what does the concussion crisis look like in a space completely devoid of medical regulation and infrastructure? In this talk, I outline, first, the general contours of sport’s concussion crisis. Then, second, I move on to think specifically about professional wrestling, arguing that in the absence of medical bureaucracy, professional wrestling has developed an emergent medical infrastructure within which trust is centralised. I conclude with a discussion of the consequences of this informal form of concussion management and the implications for understanding the concussion crisis more broadly.

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