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Medicina dello Sport 2015 June;68(2):231-41


language: English, Italian

Premature death in professional wrestlers: cardiovascular and neuropsychiatric effects of anabolic-androgenic steroids

Prometti P. 1, 2, Bellini G. 2, Amaddeo P. 3

1 FSM Istituto Lumezzane, Brescia, Italy; 2 Scuola di Specializzazione in Medicina dello Sport, University of Brescia, Brescia, Italy; 3 Centro di Medicina dello Sport, Azienda Ospedaliera Papa Giovanni XXIII, Bergamo, Italy


AIM: The modality and prematurity of death among professional wrestlers defy logic, insinuating a causal relationship between cause of death and use of anabolic steroids (AAS). This article proposes to conduct a retrospective study from 1985 to today to collect instances of premature death drawn from data published by World Wrestling Entertainment.
METHODS: We re-evaluated the pharmacological data of AAS, analyzing the reason of use and adverse effects on cardiovascular and cognitive functions.
RESULTS: Both experimental data and clinical autopsies have demonstrated that abuse of AAS causes the development of myocardial hypertrophy, similar to dilated cardiomyopathy in the presence of myocardial fibrosis and inflammation associated with changed lipid profiles, which acts on the arrhythmogenic substrate in the triggering of fatal arrhythmias. Not only are the dose and duration of consumption harmful, but the results are irreversible. It has been proven that pathological alterations of affective disorders vary greatly from depressive syndrome to paranoid psychosis, from reverse anorexia to drug and alcohol abuse. It has been hypothesized that neurotoxicity directed from the encephalic region is associated with visual-spatial memory. The retrospective study of approximately 600 professional wrestlers confirmed a significant reduction in life expectancy: more than 50% of wrestlers die before the age of 50. The age segments that represent the greatest mortality are the fourth and fifth decades of life. Among causes of death, those that stand out most are sudden cardiac arrest and drug abuse (52%) and violent death (10% suicide, 7% accident) – dramatic events probably related to the abuse of AAS.
CONCLUSION: The message of the study is clear: it is necessary to implement training programs that are respectful of health and simultaneously monitor cases so that in everyday primary prevention practices we can diagnose and correct the first signs of suspected AAS abuse.

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