Shawn Michaels – The Effect of Wrestling Injuries

In February, wrestling legend Shawn Michaels talked about his problems with painkillers while promoting his new book – Wrestling for My Life.  Michaels writes about how he’d been taking 35 painkiller pills a day until his two year old son, Cameron, noticed the funk he’d put himself into. Now he’s revealed how a conversion to Christianity has helped him kick the habit and put himself in a much better place.

Decades of Punishment

Wrestling is a punishing sport. It was a back injury in 1998’s Royal Rumble that began Michaels’ spiral into painkiller abuse. He initially rose to prominence in the mid-80s and admits that as a kid, he did not have a career plan or even a big dream. He became a member of The Rockers and was known as the Heartbreak Kid. In 1996, he won Wrestlemania XII.

In 2002, Michaels returned to the ring variously in the last decade and a half. Yet from his first retirement onwards he was suffering from his back injury and other injuries related to impacts during bouts and from the strains the body takes during training. To stave off the pain, Michaels turned to using painkillers. As time went on, he needed to take more and more pills to reduce the toll it took on him. However, one day his son realized that his father was tired all the time and spent most of his days on the couch. He’d fallen into a fog of painkillers, which was leading him to a dangerous path, one which had killed many of his fellow wrestlers.

Not Just Shawn Michaels

Michaels has a point. Since 1985, at least 60 pro-wrestlers have died before the age of 50. One famous example is the passing of Andrew “Test” Martin, whose autopsy reported an accidental Oxycodone overdose. In 2007, Test said he’d been to eight funerals for other wrestlers who died too young. Test was suffering ongoing problems from head injuries. Other wrestlers have struggled with substance abuse to cover or heal various injuries including Chris Benoit. It is not just wrestlers who take a pounding and suffer long term consequences, Dr. Bennet Omalu who investigated Test’s brain injury, saw similar effects with Football players like Mike Webster, Terry Long and Andre Waters. Others have come through their addictions like Kurt Angle who was taking 65 painkillers a day during 2003-04.

His Road To Recovery

Angle’s addiction was twice that of Michaels, but he too saw where his life was going and made a change. First he talked to a doctor about his issues then he went cold turkey wrapped in a blanket and watching movies. Shawn Michaels puts his recovery down to his son’s observation and a conversion to charity. Both men are clean now and shining examples for other wrestlers.

Their stories and the tragedies of Test and Benoit, show that awareness of the dangers of wrestling are going – just as they are for Gridiron. Hygiene, good diets and safe training are essential for the wellbeing of wrestlers, but so is good aftercare to make sure injuries do not linger, that wrestlers are not suffering in pain and most of all, that they are not left alone to fall into painkillers and other addictions to cover the pain they are in.

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