West Virginia Wrestling


by Dr. Bill Welker, National Wrestling Hall of Famer
and Rick Welker

…on Concussions in Wrestling

By Dr. Bill Welker

In recent years, there has been a growing concern regarding the matter of "concussions," especially in the sports of football and wrestling.

By definition, the National Federation of High School Associations (NFHS) states that "a concussion is a traumatic brain injury that interferes with normal brain function." Keep in mind, "an athlete does not have to lose consciousness (be 'knocked out') to have suffered a concussion."

Now, if a wrestler demonstrates signs of a concussion, the official is required to stop the match. Furthermore, the wrestler can not return to competition and/or practice without the consent of an appropriate health-care professional. Neither the referee nor the coach has the authority or expertise to permit the wrestler to continue to compete.

In West Virginia those appropriate health-care professionals include the following: Medical Doctor (MD), Doctor of Osteopathy (DO), Doctor of Chiropractic (DC), Advanced Registered Nurse Practitioner (ARNP), Physician Assistant (PA-C), and Registered Certified Athletic Trainer (ATC/R).

If there is an appropriate health-care professional at the match, only s/he has the authority to allow the participant to continue wrestling. Note, that decision must be made within the time frame of the occurrence, be it Injury Time (one and a half minutes), Recovery Time (two minutes) or Blood Time (five minutes).

The NFHS offers the following suggestions/guidelines regarding concussion management:
1. No athlete should return to play (RTP) or practice on the same day of a concussion.
2. Any athlete suspected of having a concussion should be evaluated by an appropriate health-care professional that day.
3. Any athlete with a concussion should be medically cleared by an appropriate health-care professional prior to resuming participation in any practice or competition.
4. After medical clearance, RTP should follow a step-wise protocol with provisions for delayed RTP based upon return of any signs or symptoms.

In sum, concussions are very, very serious brain injuries and no parent would ever want their child to continue to wrestle without permission from an appropriate health-care professional. We are fortunate that the NFHS places an extreme amount of emphasis on concussion awareness.

Illegal Holds

The best definition I have come across for an illegal holds is "any maneuver used that could cause bodily harm, intentionally or not."

Examples of illegal moves include: full nelson, back bows, headlocks (without an arm encircled), forceful trips, pulling a thumb or less than four fingers, restricting breathing and/or circulation, and any holds used for punishment alone.

The penalties for illegal holds are assessed in the following order:
" First Offense: One match point for the opponent
" Second Offense: One match point for the opponent
" Third Offense: Two Match points for the opponent
" Fourth Offense: Disqualification

It is important to note that a wrestler who applies a legal hold shall not be penalized if his opponent turns it into an illegal hold.

Also, whenever possible, illegal moves should be prevented by an official rather than penalized. Unfortunately, the official often is not afforded the opportunity to intercede because the illegal maneuver happens so fast.

Mini-Mat Quiz

Q: Wrestler A applies an illegal full nelson to Wrestler B just before the final buzzer sounds to end the match. Wrestler A held a 12-5 lead at the time but this was his fourth illegal hold of the match. What will the referee do?
A: The official will disqualify Wrestler A, and Wrestler B would be declared the winner. Mat Message

"There are two kinds of regrets in life: things you have done and things you haven't done."
- William Howard Welker

(Dr. Bill Welker can be reached via e-mail at: mattalkwv@hotmail.com)

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