A ‘recipe for disaster’ – Neurologist on Power Slap League

Competitors face off in an event hosted by the Arnold Sports Festival in 2022.
Competitors face off in an event hosted by the Arnold Sports Festival in 2022. | Photo by Gaelen Morse/Getty Images

Doctor said of competitive slapping that the ‘force applied to the face is the same force when one punches a face.’

Since UFC president Dana White announced he was stepping into the world of slap fighting, there have been questions about the safety of a “sport” that removes any suggestion of defense. Now, with the first Power Slap League episode in the rear-view mirror, those questions are turning into statements about just how unsafe this new combat sports spectacle seems to be.

Christopher Nowinski, a former Harvard football player-turned WWE wrestler—and one of the co-founders of the Concussion Legacy Foundation—wrote on Twitter of a Power Slap participant being knocked out, “This is so sad. Note the fencing posture with the first brain injury. He may never be the same. @danawhite & @TBSNetwork should be ashamed. Pure exploitation. What’s next, “Who can survive a stabbing”?”

Nowinski holds a doctorate in Behavioral Neuroscience from Boston University School of Medicine and serves on the NFL Players Association Mackey-White Health & Safety Committee, the Ivy League Concussion Committee, the Positive Coaching Alliance National Advisory Board, and as an advisor to All-Elite Wrestling.

According to the rules of Power Slap, “Flinching, blocking, or delaying the match are considered fouls.” Or, to put it more succinctly, defense is not allowed.

Nikos Evangelou, a clinical associate professor of neurology at Nottingham University Hospital and a consultant neurologist, told Sky News, “The force applied to the face is the same force when one punches a face. The head/brain receives a blow and the brain is concussed causing hopefully a temporary, but sometimes permanent, disruption to brain function.

“Sadly because of the potential twisting movement of the head there could be even more serious complications.”

Evangelou called slap fighting, “a recipe for disaster.”

Even in the sport’s very short history, there has already been a death related to slap fighting.

On October 22, 2021 46-year-old slap fighter, Artur “Waluś” Walczak, fell to the ground after being knocked out. Walczak was knocked down four times during the event and suffered a cerebral hemorrhage. Walczak was taken to the hospital, where he was placed in a medically induced coma. He never regained consciousness, passing away due to multi-organ failure in November of that year.

The first episode of what is expected to be an eight-week run of Power Slap did not fare well in the ratings. The show was delayed a week after Dana White was caught on tape slapping his wife, Anne, while on a family vacation in Mexico. It’s debut episode failed to keep a strong lead-in audience from AEW Wrestling to finish with a reported 295,000 viewers and a 0.10 share in the 18-49 demographic.

For now, TBS and White appear to still be full steam ahead on promoting this latest business venture. Hopefully those plans don’t result in the kind of long term harm that seem so likely from repeated, unprotected blows to the head.


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