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Do Wrestling Shows Hurt Kids?

Imitation may be the sincerest form of flattery, but when it comes to kids imitating their favorite wrestling star, someone could end up seriously injured - or even dead.

In Dallas this spring, a 3-year-old boy was accidentally killed when his 7-year-old brother tried out a wrestling move on him known as the "clothesline."

The boy ran towards his little brother, slamming his arm into the child's neck. The boy died several days later of severe head trauma.

The older boy was a fan of World Wrestling Federation stars "Stone Cold" Steve Austin and "The Undertaker", and said he had seen the move on television while watching wrestling.

With more than 1 million children under age 12 watching TV wrestling, the incident has many parents concerned that these shows may inspire children to engage in behavior that they don't understand as dangerous.

Dr. Howard Spivak, a member of the American Academy of Pediatrics Committee on Injury and Poison Prevention, says children often mimic what they watch.

"It's fairly common for kids to imitate what they see on television, in particular, to imitate behaviors that look like fun where the consequences are not clear or there appear to be no consequences," he says.

Dr. Spivak says it's also fairly common for children's mimicking to result in a variety of injuries.

He says injuries can include "anything from serious internal injuries or spinal injuries from these kinds of drops and kicks and things to arm and leg injuries from various kinds of holds."

Although some amount of roughhousing is common among children, especially boys, Dr. Spivak says that wrestling moves are far more serious.

"The level of violence, the kind of interactions that wrestlers are imitating or creating are worse and more dangerous than they have been in the past," he says. "It has moved farther and farther away from the sport of wrestling to a show, or almost a circus, that illustrates or demonstrates fairly dangerous kinds of moves."

Dr. Spivak suggests that parents monitor what their children watch, and be aware of what they may learn or perceive from what they see on television.

"I think that parents should be more cautious about what they let their kids watch," he cautions. "I think that it probably wouldn't be a bad idea for kids, particularly younger kids, but even older, school-aged kids, not to watch much of this.

"If they do," he adds, "Parents should watch with them, should talk about it, discuss what is being observed and the risks and the seriousness about it."

The 7-year-old boy in Dallas, who has not been identified, will not be charged for the crime because of his age and the accidental nature of the crime, officials say.

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