Archive for March 18th, 2010

Eddie ‘Umaga’ Fatu Autopsy: 406 Pounds, Enlarged Heart

I have uploaded a facsimile of the Houston coroner’s autopsy report on Edward S. “Umaga” Fatu, the ex-World Wrestling Entertainment performer who died of a heart attack in December at age 36. See http://muchnick.net/fatuautopsy.pdf.

The experts may find things I miss in my first layman’s reading. What jumps out at me is that Fatu – who was six feet, six inches tall and weighed 406 pounds at death – had hypertensive cardiovascular disease and “hypertrophy”: an enlarged heart. (I earlier broke the story that the cause of death was a toxic cocktail of prescription painkillers, muscle relaxers, anti-anxiety drugs.)

The WWE website says the following about the “Cardiosvascular and Monitoring” component of the company Wellness Program:

“All WWE talent undergo an extensive cardiovascular stress test before they are offered a contract by WWE, and subsequently tested at least biennially while under contract (more frequently as and when circumstances warrant). Dr. Bryan Donohue, Division Chief of Cardiology at University of Pittsburgh Medical Center Shadyside Hospital, and Senior Partner at Donohue Cardiology Associates, administers WWE’s cardiovascular testing and monitoring program.”

Fatu was fired by WWE in June 2009 for refusing to go to drug rehab. In the Wellness Policy’s “three strikes” progression of discipline for drug violations, he had one strike, for having been a customer of the gray-market Internet dealer Signature Pharmacy.

At the time of his death, he was negotiating his return to WWE.

It is an understatement to say that the circumstances of Fatu’s death raise anew questions about both the efficacy and the transparency of a program often cited by Connecticut U.S. Senate candidate Linda McMahon, the former CEO of WWE.

Irv Muchnick

Where Does WWE’s ‘Medical Director’ Fit in Shakeup of NFL’s Concussion Committee?

The New York Times‘ Alan Schwarz — who has done some of the best work on the House Judiciary Committee hearings that spurred the National Football League to huddle up about its policies on concussions — reports that the NFL “further distanced itself from its tumultuous past” on this issue “by selecting two new co-chairmen for a renamed policy committee and accepting the resignation of one of that group’s most prominent members.”

See “N.F.L. Picks New Chairmen for Panel on Concussions,” http://www.nytimes.com/2010/03/17/sports/17concussions.html?src=me.

I am especially interested in where Dr. Joseph Maroon, a Pittsburgh Steelers team physician and an NFL consultant in this area, emerges from the announced shakeup. In 2008 Linda McMahon’s World Wrestling Entertainment hired Maroon as its medical director, with the hype that he was installing the same concussion-management systems spearheaded and used by him in pro football.

However, the more profound summary of Maroon’s profile may be that he was a leader on the NFL team that dragged its feet for years on mounting scientific evidence of the understated long-term dangers of concussions — and he has proceeded to help imbue the WWE with the same corporate culture and practices.

I don’t know what other conclusion you can draw from the way Maroon enabled WWE’s lie to ESPN last December about a supposedly fruitless effort to get access to Dr. Bennet Omalu’s postmortem studies of Chris Benoit’s brain. More than a year earlier, and six months into his WWE tenure, Maroon had attended a meeting with Omalu and other experts in which the Benoit brain slides were shown. (See “EXCLUSIVE: Linda McMahon’s WWE Medical Director Met With Chris Benoit Brain Experts in 2008,” December 14, https://wrestlingbabylon.wordpress.com/2009/12/14/exclusive-linda-mcmahons-wwe-medical-director-met-with-chris-benoit-brain-experts-in-2008/, and “Senate Candidate Linda McMahon’s WWE Lies to ESPN (Part 2),” December 16, https://wrestlingbabylon.wordpress.com/2009/12/16/senate-candidate-linda-mcmahon%00452%80%99s-wwe-lies-to-espn-part-2/.)

I also can’t draw any other conclusion from the way Maroon has apparently stood around collecting paychecks from WWE while it ran its December pay-per-view show, which was marketed around “TLC” — the appeal of wrestlers bashing each other with “tables, ladders, and chairs.” As Daniela Altimari of the Hartford Courant pointed out, WWE a month later conveniently amended its mysterious and ever-evolving internal “policy” to ban chair shots. And as James Caldwell of Pro Wrestling Torch has noted, WWE simply moved on to other brain-damage media with the February “Elimination Chamber” show.

Hey, Mr. Medical Director, how about doing some medical directin’?

Maybe one reason Dr. Maroon isn’t more focused is that he’s been busy with a new project: promoting a supplement called resveratrol, which is supposed to reduce risk of heart disease and to serve as something of an all-purpose fountain of energy and youth. Resveratrol is not yet sanctioned by the Food and Drug Administration, but Maroon authored a book touting it called The Longevity Factor.

Now Maroon is featured at the website of a company, Vinomis Laboratories (http://www.vinomis.com/), which markets a pill called Vindure 900. “Live Longer and Healthier with Resveratrol and Red Wine Grape Extracts.” No word there on whether Maroon is the company’s “medical director.”

Personally, I drink a glass of grape juice every morning. Larry King said this was good for me in a radio commercial, and judging from the number of wives King has run through, he should know.

Irv Muchnick


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