Injury Analysis: Buffalo Bills DT Gable Steveson

Injury Analysis: Buffalo Bills DT Gable Steveson

The Buffalo Bills went outside the box looking for developmental projects in signing wrestling Olympic gold medalist Gable Steveson on Friday. After Steveson dominated NCAA competition, winning two national titles and adding a third place finish, he won Olympic gold in Tokyo on a last second takedown to win 9-8.

Steveson is one of the more accomplished heavyweights in recent memory along with Ohio State’s Kyle Snyder who also won Olympic gold in 2016. After the Olympics, Steveson joined the WWE in 2021 before being let go in April. 

He turned his attention towards MMA and the NFL to see what his possibilities are moving forward. Steveson has a lot to learn moving forward but with his athletic ability, he has the opportunity to transition to football and be successful. The key thing will be to stay healthy and be a sponge as he learns. 

Below is the publicly reported injury history for Gable Steveson and analysis. 

Injury History


Diagnosed with Wolff-Parkinson-White syndrome, underwent cardiac ablation. 

Steveson was found to have the condition shortly before leaving for the Tokyo Olympics but delayed receiving treatment until he started with the WWE. He underwent a cardiac ablation in September 2022 and returned to training several weeks later. 

Injury Analysis

Wolff-Parkinson-White syndrome is a rare congenital heart condition in which there is an extra electrical signal between the upper and lower chambers of the heart. This extra electrical pathway bypasses the AV node in the heart which helps regulate the heartbeat. When this area is bypassed, the heart can get more excited and this causes an increased heart rate greater than 100 beats per minute. The heart signals can also travel backwards causing irregular rhythms. This increase in speed can cause an irregular heart rate called supraventricular tachycardia leading to rates between 150-220 beats per minute. They can also deal with atrial fibrillation which has its own hosts of issues. 

Credit: Vancouver Coastal Health

WPW can cause rapid, fluttering heart rate, chest pains, dizziness, fainting, fatigue, or shortness of breath. These are episodes that have varying lengths of duration and can be random or activity induced. The problem with this is that this condition can lead to sudden cardiac death in children and young adults if the heart.

This can be managed through medications or a procedure known as an ablation. Steveson likely had his issue managed with medication until he could undergo the ablation procedure to correct the issue. This is where part of the heart muscle is essentially zapped to create a scar which blocks the signal from traveling in the heart. This often can restore the heart rhythm to normal and people can go back to regular activities. 

Credit: Johns Hopkins

There is a chance that this could develop again, anywhere from 5-12 percent, but the concern for recurrence is highest within the first year after the procedure. Even if Steveson did have a recurrence, another ablation could be addressed the issue, but considering this is a known issue, he would have had it thoroughly checked out by the Bills staff before he would have signed. 

This was the only issue that I found for Steveson regarding his injuries in college. I follow college wrestling closely and injuries are fairly well documented at that level, even if the specifics of the injury isn’t available. I don’t recall him dealing with any major injuries and research did not reveal any other issues. There were likely occasional smaller muscle strains and sprains he worked through that were not documented.

One reason for his possible injury luck is due to his training routine where he does not max out lifting weights. He found that he can accomplish what he needs to without running the risk of overstressing his back or knees trying to push his body to the limit for one or two reps. He maxes out at three to four reps which demonstrates more control and functional strength over maximum power for one rep. 

Final Thoughts

I like this signing not only because I grew up wrestling and continue to be a collegiate wrestling fan, but because of the developmental appeal. Steveson is a world-class athlete that has fantastic lower body strength, the ability to create and dictate leverage, hand fight, and overall elite athleticism. He has the physical tools and athleticism to translate to football, his biggest hurdle will be learning the game and the position itself. 

The only injury concern I have is the acclimation injuries we see when trying new activities. The general soreness, sprains, strains that come along with it may force him to miss some time here and there. However, I am not more concerned than any of the rookies coming off NFL Combine training.

We have seen other athletes over the years transition from one sport to another with varying levels of success. Two well known wrestling examples include Stephen Neal who was a NCAA and World Champion before signing with the New England Patriots. Another example is Carlton Hasselrig, a six-time National Champion (3 at DI, 3 at D2) before he embarked on a career with the Pittsburgh Steelers and New York Jets, resulting in a Pro Bowl nod with the Steelers. We know Sean McDermott’s penchant for wrestlers who also play football, these are some of the more successful examples from guys who never played who later transitioned. 

The Bills drafted a player this year who has never played football in Travis Clayton and intend to develop him to see what they can do with him. Taking a flier on Steveson is even less of a risk but they can provide him the time and resources to develop as well. 

I don’t expect to see him on the field outside preseason games in 2024, maybe in 2025, but Steveson could eventually develop into a depth option or even role player in the NFL. It’s impossible to determine if he could progress to a Pro Bowl or All Pro level, but I like the idea of taking an elite athlete and trying to maximize his transferable skills. 

I wish Gable Steveson the best of luck in his new journey and to remain healthy. 

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