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What WWE wrestler Daniel Bryan's return to the ring could mean for other athletes’ career-ending head injuries




WWE Superstar Daniel Bryan flies off the ropes during the WWE Smackdown Live Tour at Westridge Park Tennis Stadium on July 08, 2011 in Durban, South Africa.
WWE Superstar Daniel Bryan flies off the ropes during the WWE Smackdown Live Tour at Westridge Park Tennis Stadium on July 08, 2011 in Durban, South Africa.
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In 2016, World Wrestling Entertainment (WWE) officials told popular professional wrestler Bryan Danielson, known in the ring as Daniel Bryan, that he’d probably never wrestle again.

He’d suffered a history of concussions and had even undergone surgery to repair damage to a nerve root in his neck. But Bryan began to dig into the results of his tests and as he did, he started to have doubts, which led him to seek out a variety of other treatment options. On Tuesday, WWE officials announced that after being evaluated by three independent brain injury experts, Bryan had been cleared to return to in-ring activity with the WWE.

The news was met with both surprise and excitement from the “WWE Universe” (how wrestlers and the WWE refer to their fans). Bryan was a fan-favorite during his first stints with WWE, and his signature “YES!” chant has taken on a life of its own even outside pro wrestling in GIFs and other internet memes. But it also raises the question of what might be learned from Daniel’s case, and how certain aspects of his treatment and evaluation might be applied to other athletes in other sports who have been forced into retirement due to repeated concussions and would like to make a comeback.

AirTalk reached out to WWE and Bryan Danielson (aka Daniel Bryan) directly for comment as well as permission to discuss specifics his treatment, but as of the airing of this segment we did not receive a response. In accordance with HIPAA, Dr. Kutcher will not be sharing any specifics about his evaluation of Mr. Danielson during this segment.

Guest:

Jeffrey Kutcher, M.D., one of the independent doctors who evaluated Daniel Bryan for his return to wrestling; he is a sports neurologist and global director of The Sports Neurology Clinic, a Michigan-based care center for patients suffering from neurological disorders and sports-related neurological injuries