Are the risks from concussions and head trauma overblown? That's what a study published in February seemed to say. Boston Public Radio hosts Jim Braude and Margery Eagan talked to medical ethicist Art Caplan on Wednesday about the concussion debate, the hits pro athletes rack up over their careers, and about how the sometimes-maligned WWE has moved to protect its athletes and discourage racism in its ranks.

The following questions are paraphrased, and Caplan's answers are edited where noted [...].

There was a study published — of which Dr. Joseph Maroon was a part — that seemed to indicate concussions aren't as dangerous as we've come to know them to be. What?

Caplan: [Maroon] found that perhaps concussions aren’t as bad as we think we are. Through a long series of tests he basically said, "You know, everybody’s freaking out about concussions, and if you really monitor what the outcomes are you’re gonna find that things perhaps aren’t as bad as popular opinion has it."

He failed to mention that he’d been the team neurosurgeon for the Pittsburgh Steelers since 1981, and medical director of WWE since 2008. Those are clear conflicts of interest, and would cast doubt on his findings, right?

Caplan: If you’re on the payroll for a sports team […] you have to report to ownership, you’d get evaluated by coaches, you’d probably get some feedback about how you’re doing from the players, and the goal there is to keep everybody on the field and win, not to sit you down, or not to get you out of the game.

I think in sports — both at the college and the pro level anyway, where it would be affordable — the team doctors should report to report to a league-mandated board of doctors who are separate from the coaches, separate from the owners. They do the evaluations of how the individual team docs do. In other words, you have an independent panel that evaluates you and re-hires you. You don’t get re-hired by the team or the owner for saying, “Yeah, half our guys aren’t able to count backwards from a hundred, but we did win.”

Junior Seau killed himself at 43, and it’s thought he had a traumatic brain injury that could have led to depression and ultimately his suicide. At his Hall of Fame induction ceremony, the NFL is preventing his daughter from speaking to the crowd – she’ll only be shown on film. Is this ethically okay?

Caplan: I think the NFL can do whatever it wants. […] I don’t think they want any attention to how he died, the possible contribution of head trauma to his suicide. I don't know if the connection is there, I really don't. It's certainly worth exploring, and not letting his daughter speak, to me, is just the height of ethical indifference.

Seems like WWE is being very proactive about concussions. They’ve been honored by the Sports Legacy Institute here in Boston, which specializes in traumatic brain injury. What do you think of the organization's progress? And before that, what do you make of their dismissal of Hulk Hogan over his racist comments?

Pro wrestling is a great exhibition, and a wonderful way to learn the rudiments of ethics. There was always a 'heel' or a bad guy, and the good guys had to struggle. But good wins out over evil if you hang in there!

Caplan: Really disappointing, you know. As a little kid I loved wrestling. New Englanders will remember Killer Kowalski, Bobo Brazil and the “coconut head-butt,” which we wouldn’t allow today, it’s probably concussive. It’s a great exhibition, and a wonderful way to learn the rudiments of ethics. There was always a “heel” or a bad guy. And the good guys had to struggle, but good wins out over evil if you hang in there. I believe that’s the moral principles I still operate by today. [...]

He had some horrible things to say, including ample use of the n-word about another wrestler, The Rock. [...] I was shocked! This guy had stood for sort of the good things. He was the good wrestler, and you know, you get him out of character and there he is spouting racist garbage. WWE didn't argue about it, didn’t say, ‘Let’s see how the facts turn out.’ They just said, ‘Hulk, you're done,’ and they dropped him from the website, and they cut ties with him. I wish more pro sports and college teams would move that fast when racism or domestic violence rears their ugly heads. Whatever else WWE is, […] they understand their role in the community. [...] They are not going to put up with five seconds any of their wrestlers being racist. Good for them.

You were inspired to become a premiere medical ethicist because of your love for wrestling?

Caplan: I watched Haystack Calhoun, I listened to his thoughts I pondered his advice in life, and yes, I moved on to a career in ethics.