Archive for January 5th, 2011

WWE Cardiologist Bryan Donohue Takes Down His Beta Website Home Pages

I’ve been criticizing World Wrestling Entertainment’s consulting cardiologist, Dr. Bryan Donohue, who is also the chief of cardiology at the University of Pittsburgh Medical Center’s Shadyside Hospital.

I question his outside investment in and undisclosed hype on behalf of a supplement company, and wonder where that fits in with UPMC’s vaunted new ethics policy.

I also wonder if WWE cardio screening was asleep at the switch with Eddie “Umaga” Fatu, who died of an enlarged heart at age 36.

Earlier today I posted links to Dr. Donohue’s draft website home pages, which highlight his association with the supplement company, Vinomis Labs, and its flagship product, the resveratrol supplement Vindure. These beta pages, labeled “Sample 1,” “Sample 2,” and “Sample 3,” have been up for a year.

Now Donohue has taken the pages down. When you go to http://bryandonohue.com, you get the greeting “Coming Soon!”

Those of you who want to see crude screen prints of “Sample 1,” “Sample 2,” and “Sample 3,” which were captured before Donohue deleted them, should go to http://muchnick.net/donohue1.pdf, http://muchnick.net/donohue2.pdf, and http://muchnick.net/donohue3.pdf.

The dude seems  to have something against the concept of accountability.

Irv Muchnick

Dear Senator Udall: Help Coordinate Concussion and Steroid Investigations

Below is the text of a fax sent today to Senator Tom Udall, Democrat of New Mexico.

Dear Senator Udall:

 

As someone with a public stake in Congressional follow-through on investigations of the professional wrestling industry’s occupational health and safety – including, as I will proceed to explain, both concussions and drug abuse – I read with great interest the news of your request to the Federal Trade Commission for an inquiry on the consumer product claims of the Riddell football helmet manufacturer.

 

I am the author of the book CHRIS & NANCY: The True Story of the Benoit Murder-Suicide and Pro Wrestling’s Cocktail of Death. I blog about related issues at https://wrestlingbabylon.wordpress.com.

 

I am cc’ing two other interested parties in this discussion: Richard Blumenthal, your new Senate colleague from Connecticut, and Gil Kerlikowske, director of the White House Office of National Drug Control Policy. Here is the pertinent background.

 

In 2007, in the wake of the tragic story of World Wrestling Entertainment star Chris Benoit (who murdered his wife and their 7-year-old son before taking his own life), the wrestling industry’s pandemic of young deaths was investigated by the House Committee on Oversight and Government Reform; at the time the chair was Congressman Henry Waxman and that body had a Democratic majority. In January 2009 Congressman Waxman concluded his work in this area by forwarding his personal findings to the White House Office of  National Drug Control Policy. The committee’s investigation had included extensive transcripted interviews of WWE executives and contractors by committee staff.

 

Though the primary focus of that probe was steroid and prescription pharmaceutical abuse, there was also a great deal of information generated on WWE head-injury policies and procedures. In a sense, pro wrestling is “ground zero” of this whole subject in both legitimate sports and sports entertainment: the Benoit case raised awareness of the phenomenon known as Chronic Traumatic Encephelopathy; and perhaps the leading advocate of CTE research and concussion-management reform is Chris Nowinski of Boston’s Sports Legacy Institute, a WWE performer who had to retire due to cumulative brain trauma.

 

Unfortunately, in my layman’s view, the concussion aspect of the Waxman Committee investigation was both incomplete and riddled with misleading testimony, some of which may have risen to perjurious levels.

 

Indeed, my further opinion is that the entire Waxman exercise of 2007 was incomplete because it did not result in public hearings and because nothing further has been heard on the matter from either Congress or the White House.

 

The 112th Congress has a major opportunity to rectify that lapse. Senator Blumenthal, like yourself, comes to Washington after long experience as his state’s attorney general. In addition, he was elected to the Senate, in some measure, on the basis of renewed scrutiny of pro wrestling occupational health and safety issues, and he has promised to incorporate them into his agenda.

 

From my perspective, one key is to coordinate disparate aspects of prospective investigations of wrestling, and that is what brings me to your work on football helmet safety. The New York Times account of your initiative cites a study of the Riddell helmet design by Dr. Joseph Maroon, a Pittsburgh Steelers team physician and a member of the National Football League concussion policy (which, as I am sure you know, was so heavily criticized in House Judiciary Committee hearings that the league last year dismissed its leadership and installed new co-chairs). Since 2008 (subsequent to the Waxman Committee interviews), Dr. Maroon also has been medical director of WWE, and has faced much additional criticism in that role.

 

Historically, Dr. Maroon has tended to echo the line on concussion research issued by his corporate clients, be they the NFL or WWE. Without knowing much about the merits of the Riddell helmet matter, I was encouraged by the fact that Dr. Maroon now seems to be distancing himself from some of the specifics of Riddell’s exploitation of the data from his helmet study. I speculate that this may be due to the helpful pressure of a United States senator’s voice on the issue. I also think that is an excellent model – for yourself, for Senator Blumenthal, for Mr. Kerlikowske, or for any elected or appointed public official who confronts the important challenge of reforming and regulating the wrestling industry.

 

Thank you for your attention to these points. I look forward to continuing to follow your work.

 

Sincerely,

 

Irvin Muchnick

Muchnick’s 12/31 Interview on Dave Zirin’s ‘Edge of Sports’ in Podcast Form

http://edgeofsports.com/audio/media/12-31-10_segment2.mp3

View Dr. Bryan Donohue’s Untouched Website Templates

World Wrestling Entertainment, the University of Pittsburgh, the University of Pittsburgh Medical Center, and cardiologist Bryan Donohue and neurologist Joseph Maroon have not commented on my report yesterday on the ethical questions raised by the doctors’ outside business interests. (See https://wrestlingbabylon.wordpress.com/2011/01/04/pitt-med-center-doctors-supplement-company-and-wwe-ties-skirt-ethics-policy/.)

But for those of you who are interested, three dummy versions of Dr. Donohue’s personal website, with hints of its still-unloaded promotional content, can be viewed at http://bryandonohue.com.

 

Irv Muchnick

Dr. Joseph Maroon’s Disturbing Pattern of Misstatements

Dustin Fink, the Illinois athletic trainer who authors the indispensable “Concussion Blog” (http://theconcussionblog.com), was intrigued enough by yesterday’s item here about the conflicts of interest of World Wrestling Entertainment’s doctors from the University of Pittsburgh Medical Center that he went back and re-read Chris Nowinski’s book Head Games. In Chapter 7, Fink came across another example of Dr. Joseph Maroon’s penchant for misremembering facts related to concussion controversies.

Nowinski recounts how, after Dr. Bennet Omalu found that the late Pittsburgh Steelers players Mike Webster and Terry Long had Chronic Traumatic Encephelopathy, Maroon led the National Football League chorus in attacking the “fallacious reasoning” behind Omalu’s research.

I was the team neurosurgeon during Long’s entire tenure with the Steelers, and I still am,” Maroon said. “I re-checked my records; there was not one cerebral concussion documented in him during those entire seven years.”

Omalu, however, came found in Long’s records a letter by Maroon, dated December 22, 1987, asking that Long be suspended from play for two weeks because of a concussion.

No one who has seen the football movies North Dallas Forty and Any Given Sunday can fail to appreciate the tremendous commercial pressure NFL team physicians face. Anecdotal evidence mounts that Joseph Maroon has not been among the best at staring down that pressure from his corporate clients – which now, tellingly, include WWE as well as the NFL.

 

Irv Muchnick


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