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?
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.