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New study aims to improve the health and wellbeing of professional wrestlers

A unique project will bring academics and professional wrestlers together to address serious issues around health and wellbeing.

Despite its global popularity, wrestling has a poor record of looking after its performers.

Now, a new project – led by Loughborough University – will tell the stories of 15 men and women working within professional UK wrestling and aims to identify ways of improving health and wellbeing.

Researchers hope to answer four key questions:

  • What are the specific health and wellbeing challenges for professional wrestlers?
  • What is the existing healthcare provision in wrestling and what are the challenges of delivering healthcare in this context?
  • How do wrestlers manage the physical and mental health issues routinely experienced in their work?
  • What is the relationship between the symptoms and the lived experiences of wrestlers and the stories they tell?

Principal investigator Dr Claire Warden, also one of the founding members of Wrestling Resurgence, said she wants to understand what kind of safeguards need to be put in place to protect performers.

She said: “While generations of fans have enjoyed the larger-than-life characters and physical dexterity of professional wrestling across the world, this popular entertainment form has always suffered from issues such as substance abuse, exploitation, excessively long and arduous working hours, and lack of preventative healthcare.

“As both soap opera and athletic contest, underground theatre and test of physical endurance, recent scholarship has shown that wrestling is a liminal form – drawing from many influences.

“This has meant that wrestling has slipped down the gap between art and sport where significant progress has been made in regard to performer/athlete welfare and wellbeing.

“These problems have, until now, only been discussed anecdotally rather than through systematic study, meaning it is as yet frustratingly impossible to access accurate, proven information.

“Health and Wellbeing in Professional Wrestling aims to conduct a supportive health check of British professional wrestling in the hope that it can uncover potential future interventions.

“It responds to the exponential growth of British professional wrestling which, in the past decade, has moved from niche entertainment form with small crowds nostalgically pining for the good old days of Big Daddy and Giant Haystacks to a world-leading innovator in terms of digital platform use, physical athleticism and storytelling.”

Also involved in the project are Loughborough academics, Dr Dominic Malcolm, Dr Anthony Papathomas, Professor Mark King and Sam West.

The 15 people from the industry, who will be involved in the project, include three medics, three trainers and nine of the country’s leading wrestlers.

A website will also be established, which will contain images, videos and written accounts of life as a wrestler in the UK.

ENDS

Notes for editors

Press release reference number: 20/159

Loughborough is one of the country’s leading universities, with an international reputation for research that matters, excellence in teaching, strong links with industry, and unrivalled achievement in sport and its underpinning academic disciplines.

It has been awarded five stars in the independent QS Stars university rating scheme, named the best university in the world for sports-related subjects in the 2020 QS World University Rankings and University of the Year by The Times and Sunday Times University Guide 2019.

Loughborough is in the top 10 of every national league table, being ranked 7th in the Guardian University League Table 2021, 5th in the Times and Sunday Times Good University Guide 2020 and 6th in The UK Complete University Guide 2021.

Loughborough is consistently ranked in the top twenty of UK universities in the Times Higher Education’s ‘table of tables’ and is in the top 10 in England for research intensity. In recognition of its contribution to the sector, Loughborough has been awarded seven Queen's Anniversary Prizes.

The Loughborough University London campus is based on the Queen Elizabeth Olympic Park and offers postgraduate and executive-level education, as well as research and enterprise opportunities. It is home to influential thought leaders, pioneering researchers and creative innovators who provide students with the highest quality of teaching and the very latest in modern thinking.

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