WWE Will Fight Brain Injuries Lawsuit From Jimmy Snuka And Others

'They're the most disposable athletes in sports.'

19/07/2016 2:00 PM AEST | Updated 19/07/2016 4:26 PM AEST
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Plaintiff Jimmy Snuka is one of the onlookers

World Wrestling Entertainment, better known by its acronym WWE, has thumbed its nose at a lawsuit which a large group of former wrestlers whose careers date back to the 1970s have filed over brain injuries.

More than 50 plaintiffs filed the lawsuit which alleges that the WWE failed to care for wrestlers' repetitive head injuries "in any medically competent or meaningful manner".

The wrestlers include Joseph "Road Warrior Animal" Laurinaitis, Paul "Mr Wonderful" Orndorff, Jimmy "Superfly" Snuka and other well-known names from what many consider the heyday of the "sport".

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Jimmy Snuka pictured in 2013.

The class action lawsuit says that the three gentlemen just mentioned, in addition to others, all suffer from cognitive difficulties including "headaches, dizziness and memory loss".

Here's a key section of the complaint:

"WWE placed corporate gain over its wrestlers' health, safety and financial security, choosing to leave the plaintiffs severely injured and with no recourse to treat their damaged minds and bodies."

The wrestlers also say the WWE concealed information about neurological issues such as Chronic traumatic encephalopathy, or CTE -- a degenerative disease found in people who have had repeated blows to the head.

The suit also accuses WWE chairman Vince McMahon of classifying wrestlers as "independent contractors" rather than employees, a distinction which exempts them from certain worker protection laws.

It claims the WWE did next to nothing to protect wrestlers from traumatic brain injuries sustained throughout their careers, and accuses the WWE of failing to provide health insurance or medical support in the wrestlers' retirement.

The claim was filed on Monday, and the WWE soon afterwards issued the following statement:

"This is another ridiculous attempt by the same attorney who has previously filed class action lawsuits against WWE, both of which have been dismissed. A federal judge has already found that this lawyer made patently false allegations about WWE, and this is more of the same. We're confident this lawsuit will suffer the same fate as his prior attempts and be dismissed."

This is far from the first lawsuit against a major American sporting body over head injuries. Both the NFL (American football) and NHL (ice hockey) have been sued in recent years.

In 2013 the NFL agreed to a $US765 million settlement after more than 5,000 former players sought compensation over concussion-related brain injuries. Up to 18,000 former players were eligible for their slice of the compensation pie. The NHL case continues.

Former NFL player Kevin Turner died this year, aged just 46. He was diagnosed with amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (ALS), also referred to as Lou Gehrig's disease, which is linked to CTE. He was a lead plaintiff in the major lawsuit filed by former players against the NFL.

But one lawyer says the former WWE wrestlers are in fare worse shape than hockey players or footballers.

"These wrestlers don't have medical benefits. They're independent contractors," Daniel Wallach, a sports law expert in Fort Lauderdale, Florida, told Bloomberg.

"They completely fall through the safety net. They're in worse shape than retired professional football players or retired hockey players. They're the most disposable athletes in the sports and entertainment business."

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