EagleTribune.com, North Andover, MA

Merrimack Valley

September 7, 2013

Former wrestler leads way in concussion research

Harvard grad Chris Nowinski spent more a half-dozen years dealing with concussion syndrome

Chris Nowinski was in his early 20s and living the good life. At least that’s what he thought, as a pro wrestler competing in full arena after full arena with dozens of live television events on his resume.

He was not only famous, but pretty wealthy.

But the man WWE fans first knew as “Chris Harvard,” relating his matriculating at Harvard University while starring on the football team, had a secret near the end of his career at age 25.

He had excruciating headaches every single day.

Nowinski said his those headaches took on a life of their own in 2003 at a pro wrestling event in Hartford, Conn. when Bubba Ray Dudley — he’s now called ‘Bully Ray’ — kicked him in the head. He was out cold. He suffered a high-grade concussion.

The only problem was he didn’t know then what he knows now — the concussions are brain injuries and need rest and rehab like any other injury — and he continued flying around the country nearly every day for the next five weeks.

“My last match was in Green Bay, Wisconsin,” said Nowinski. “It was a tag team match. My short term memory was shot. I remember saying to my partner, ‘If I blink out, take it home.’ “

A decade later, Nowinski is devoting his life, through a non-profit he co-founded, Sports Legacy Institute, trying to help solve the concussion crisis by advancing the study, treatment and prevention of brain trauma and its effects in athletes and other at-risk groups (military).

Nowinski will be appearing at Andover Country Club on Tuesday night, 6 to 8 p.m., giving a presentation and taking questions. While there is no cost to attend, all those that donate $100 or more to Nowinski’s organization receive a signed copy of his book, “Head Games.”

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