A Potential Tragedy Just Waiting to Happen – how backyard wrestling can lead to injuries of children

A Potential Tragedy Just Waiting to Happen – how backyard wrestling can lead to injuries of children – Brief Article

I’D LIKE TO THINK OF MYSELF AS someone who is up on the current wrestling scene. But I only recently discovered the growing phenomena of backyard wrestling.

It’s not a recent phenomena, however. Backyard wrestling in this country goes all the way back to colonial days. Wherever there are kids, there will be wrestling in some form. When I was young, I, too, indulged in a form of backyard wrestling. I always saw myself as a “Bruno Thesz” and won many a match with my over-the-shoulder back-breaker.

But there was a big difference between my backyard frolics and the organized mayhem that is taking place in backyards today. In my day, we had amateur backgrounds, having had wrestling drilled into our heads in numerous gym classes. We also wrestled the traditional way–on the ground. Aerial movements were not allowed for the simple reason that we could seriously injure ourselves and our opponents.

Extreme fixation

I look around today and see not only an explosion of backyard wrestling, judging by the numerous Web sites about it, but also a proliferation of organized backyard federations, most of which seem to play on the word “extreme” in their titles. Scanning their home pages and the recent spate of news stories about this phenomena, I see each federation has a ring and that most of its wrestlers wear costumes and masks. But most disturbing of all, I see that bodies too physically and mentally immature to fully understand the consequences of such actions are repeating the worst antics of modern pro wrestling.

Why are teenagers holding wrestling matches in which thumbtacks, chairs, and tables play such important roles? Where are their parents in all this? In one newspaper story, the mother of one participant said she was glad to know where he was, and that he could be doing something far worse. The logic behind that is frightening. If he were playing Russian Roulette in the backyard, would she be as happy? And what could her son be doing that is far worse? I guess she means drugs. But why such a radical choice? Couldn’t her son be involved in a healthier activity like amateur wrestling?

One day soon the inevitable will happen: Someone will get seriously hurt. Backyard grapplers I’ve spoken with maintain that they carefully choreograph their movements like the pros. Sooner or later, though, something will go horribly wrong and a participant will be injured. Then the fun will really begin, as the lawyers will circle and the luckless parents of the “promoter” in whose yard the injury occurred will be informed by their insurance company that their homeowners’ policy won’t provide coverage.

Who’s to blame?

Looking around for the inevitable placement of blame, a truly American tradition, one will first alight on the usual suspects: the promoters. But as much as I can blame Vince McMahon and Paul Heyman for a lot of things, I can’t really blame them for this. Oh sure, they contribute to the problem, with matches featuring tables and barbed wire. But kids have been imitating the antics of their favorites since, wrestling was first televised.

The first thing we learned imitating our heroes was that while wrestling was phony, the holds used in it were not, If used correctly, wrestling holds can look devastating and not hurt at all. But we didn’t know that going in. The kids today do know that but compensate by the severity of the accouterments used in their matches. The difference is this: Put a kid in a Boston crab and he’ll scream “uncle” rather quickly and end up with little more than a sore back and bruised ego. Mistime a jump off the garage roof when you hit your opponent, and you could be talking about a hospital stay.

If you think this doesn’t happen with the pros, think again. Mick Foley is a walking collection of wars from his years of “hardcore” wrestling. Steve Austin suffered a serious neck injury when an Owen Hart piledriver was mistimed. Bret Hart suffered a concussion when Goldberg screwed up a move. Hart may return, but he’ll never be the same. However, he is 40 years old; he’s done his time. Imagine being 15 and having an athletic career cut short because your backyard opponent missed a move.

I tend to blame those in the media who think this is another instance of kids having harmless fun. We are obsessed with anything “extreme.” Witness ESPN’s “X Games,” a few days of nonsense with athletes defying gravity and common sense on skateboards and bikes. Trying this at home could be just as detrimental.

If I come off sounding like a Miss Grundy, I don’t mean to. I’m just worried about our young athletes cutting promising careers short trying to be stuntmen. All the backyard wrestlers would be better served going back to the basics and taking up the proud tradition of amateur wrestling. Each year wrestling pays the price of non-participation by athletes who could make a difference for their high school teams and themselves. And it’s not a bad road. Just ask Kurt Angle or the WWF’s recently signed Brock Lesnar, another NCAA wrestling champion, if you think I’m wrong.

Update: The case for regulation

Another would-be wrestler has suffered the ultimate tragedy. Tony Nash had trained for only four months with his Wisconsin promotion when he was asked to take the place of another wrestler who had failed to show at a card in August. This was Nash’s first, and as it turns out, last match. His opponent dropped him in a back suplex. Instead of landing on his back, Nash landed square on his neck. He died shortly thereafter. Of course, Nash should have been trained longer. Had there been state regulation of this athletic event, Nash would probably be alive today. It’s just something to think about.

COPYRIGHT 2001 Century Publishing

COPYRIGHT 2001 Gale Group