Former WWE star Chris Nowinski recently talked about his work with the Sports Legacy Institute in concussion research, talking with Randy Orton about the issue, his conversations with Chris Benoit and more. Check out the highlights:
On Randy Orton changing his thoughts on the issue: "A guy like Randy Orton just didn't buy into it, and I ran into him in March, and he started talking about his concussion experiences and he was like, 'Gosh I didn't know it was that bad.' He is an advocate for himself now to take time off and so it's interesting to see this turn."
On his conversations with Chris Benoit before his murder-suicide: "We incorporated Sports Legacies ten days before the Benoit tragedy. A year prior to that I sat down with Benoit when I was still working for (WWE) and he just started asking me questions. He was more interested than any other wrestler, which helps me realize that he actually knew there was something wrong with him. He asked me about how many concussions I had and I asked him and he said, 'Well, I had more concussions than I can count.' So, because he told me that and then he told me to give him a call. I remember months later... I called him and he acted like he didn't know why I was calling after he gave me his number. So, I thought maybe there was a memory thing or maybe a mood thing going on. So, when it happened, I was sure that is why it happened."
On Benoit's last year of his life: "Chris was a different guy emotionally. You talked to the guys who were on the road with him over the last year and he would break down crying for no reason, paranoia about someone kidnapping his son so he moved homes, different routes to the airports just in case someone was following him. He was really losing it because his brain had this pattern of cell death that left a lot of cognition, but destroyed emotions and impulse control."
On finding answers about Benoit: "We are trying to understand why it happened so it could be prevented in the future. People can see the warning signs in these people and there are plenty of warning signs. We can change what we do so the disease doesn't form in the first place. We can raise awareness so we can develop a treatment for it. People have to be accountable for their actions. But the other side is when people get a brain disease, they are not accountable. Verne Gagne killed a man in an Alzheimer's home. He is not being prosecuted for murder cause he didn't know what happened. CTE is different because it's a slow progressing disease and in your forties no one is going to say 'did he know what he was doing? Was he in control?' It's much much more difficult but certainly Verne is not considered a murderer for that. It's a tough situation, I rather work on prevention."
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