Ex-pro wrestler Kevin Nash will donate brain to CTE research

Hall of Fame wrestler Kevin Nash will donate his brain and spinal cord to CTE research after his death, Nash told ESPN on Wednesday.

Nash will donate his brain to the CTE Center at Boston University and the Concussion Legacy Foundation run by former WWE wrestler Chris Nowinski.

"Chris Nowinski started the program, and I've had several concussions throughout my life and had scans done and stuff and knew that somewhere down the line, I've already had short-term memory problems," Nash said. "I decided to go ahead. The only way you can diagnose this is after you're dead.

"I went ahead and gave my spinal cord and my brain to the study, and I carry a card in my wallet that my brain and spine goes to them. It's in my will. Of course, my wife's aware of it."

Nash, 56, said he made the decision to donate his brain six or seven years ago and has been working with the center at Boston University.

Nash told ESPN that scans of his brain have shown abnormalities but that there has been no evidence of brain shrinkage. He also said he has been more emotional in recent years and that he has experienced short-term memory loss but isn't sure if that is related to prior brain trauma.

Nash said he isn't sure how many concussions he has had in his career, but said it is "easy, easy double figures."

"It's so powerful when icons like Kevin Nash are willing to pledge their brain for research and talk about it publicly," Nowinski told ESPN.com "Brain donation is really driving our growing knowledge of CTE and the long-term effects of brain trauma. And so I'm hoping that we solve this problem before Kevin's time comes, but Kevin announcing this means that other families are aware that this research is important and that if they lose somebody, they may think of the concussion legacy foundation."

Nash is part of the Legend Study run by Dr. Robert A. Stern at Boston University, a neurology professor at Boston University. Part of the testing Nash goes through now is an hourlong phone conversation testing cognitive abilities along with other testing online. Nowinski said more than 500 athletes are part of the study.

When Nowinski started the foundation, he went back to WWE wrestlers he knew and said Nash was one of the people who was supportive of what he was doing. Nash then shared his experiences of brain trauma with Nowinski and eventually became part of the study.

Nash recalled multiple times in his wrestling career when he would hit the ground or the mat, get knocked out and wake up during a match not knowing exactly where he was.

"I've woken up in the ring and like said to myself, 'Why am I in this building full of people,'" Nash said.

Asked if this would occur during a match, Nash said, "Several times. Yes, several times. You'd flash and just wake up and are so disoriented and then you come back and you're nauseous and you have a headache and you have a headache and you can't focus on the TV. But you just think, the old school is that you got your bell rung.

"No, dude, your brain got slammed against your skull."

Nash said as time went on, preventative measures and concussion protocol in the WWE became stronger. Nash told ESPN he believes the WWE has the best concussion protocol out there.

Nowinski said the WWE has "embraced this research" and that the Legend Study is partly funded by donations by the WWE.

Nash played football as a kid in Detroit and then college basketball at Tennessee and professionally in Europe before a knee injury ended his basketball career. He then wrestled professionally for a quarter-century and was inducted into the WWE Hall of Fame in 2015.

"I always knew when I got involved in this," Nash said. "I got upended in a basketball game and landed on my head and got knocked out. Anything you do in sports, go ice skate and fall and bang your head. It doesn't take much for your brain to bang off the inside of your skull.

"Anything you do in life that's athletic, that has any degree of contact whatsoever, there's that risk that you could be injured or have a concussion. I don't blame anything except it is my endeavors."

Nash, who went by Diesel and other names during his career, said he is essentially retired from wrestling. Since he has retired he has become a prominent actor, including roles in the movies "Magic Mike" and "John Wick."