While injuries to former NFL players keep gaining media attention, a whole other group of athletes has been more quietly suffering. A New York Times article from August reported that in 2003, a medical examiner found that the death rate for wrestlers 40 years old and younger is seven times greater than that of the rest of the population. The list of former WWE individuals who have died young is staggering.
Despite the staged nature of their sport, WWE wrestlers withstand enormous amounts of bodily strain. From chronic back pain, to spine injuries, the list of issues is long indeed.
According to the New York Times article, the WWE did not offer medical treatment until 2006, when they initiated a “wellness program.” It pays for injuries sustained in the ring, but does not provide any long-term coverage for its wrestlers. In the WWE’s heyday in the mid-80’s, the culture did not necessarily encourage proper nutrition, or general physical health.
“Not many guys knew about stretching,” said Scott Hall, a.k.a., Razor Ramon, to The New York Times.
Many wrestlers turned to steroids to build their physiques, painkillers, drugs and alcohol to alleviate their pain. It was not uncommon for addiction to develop among the athletes, and continue to worsen long after their careers were over.
The nature of the sport comes with a “super machismo” attitude, so it probably comes as no surprise that WWE wrestlers would be turned off by something like yoga due to its more spiritual aspects, the chanting and “oomming”—all that “namaste” business.
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Three-time heavyweight champion Diamond Dallas Page, suffering from two ruptured discs in his back, decided to try a yoga video one day in his basement. He never stopped and eventually returned to wrestling at age 43.
“For the first 42 years of my life I wouldn’t have been caught dead doing yoga,” said Page to the New York Times. During his career, Page tore both rotator cuffs, his left knee meniscus (twice), and his right ACL.
Page decided to develop his own kind of yoga, not unlike Broga, one that would cater a little more toward the “macho,” manly, or bodybuilder types, who are otherwise broken down. Page began reaching out to fellow former wrestlers, all suffering from one debilitating ailment or another, to help them learn to heal through yoga. Shawn Michaels, Chris Jerico, Jerry Brisco, and Jake “The Snake” Roberts are among those for whom Page’s practices have made a tremendous difference in their health and in their lives.
D.D.P. Yoga, as Page calls it, combine yoga with calisthenics (e.g., Push-Ups, Lunges) and more traditional strength building exercises. It blends the “power” element of yoga with its therapeutic benefits through stretching and proper bodily alignment. D.D.P. also incorporates “dynamic resistance,” which Page refers to as engaging all of the body’s muscles and then moving against that tension.
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Child’s pose was renamed “safety zone,” mountain pose became “ignition.” High-lunge with arms overhead is “space shuttle.” Page’s Atlanta home, where he hosts his classes, with a classic-rock soundtrack, is called the “Accountability Crib.”
Page has also begun taping his friends and clients, to watch their transformations on video. In particular, documenting Roberts’ recovery, “The Resurrection of Jake the Snake,” has been in motion since Roberts arrived at the Accountability Crib several years ago.
Specific yoga workouts and DVS (like the “Psycho Extreme” workout) are available at DDPyoga.com.
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