Even Elite Athletes Suffer from Back Pain

Even Elite Athletes Suffer from Back Pain


A Highlight on Marian Hossa of the Chicago Blackhawks and Olympians with Back Pain

This year, Chicago Blackhawks fans watched in horror as Marian Hossa sustained a serious injury to his back during game two of the Stanley Cup against the Boston Bruins. Hossa sat out of game three, but played games four, five, and six on a numb leg while enduring excruciating pain. An MRI revealed that the numbness was caused by a herniated disc that occurred during a particularly brutal blow in this important game. The disc pushed into his sciatic nerve causing the severe pain and numbness that ran down his body into his leg.

Hossa was scrutinized by the media and teammates alike for “not having a high enough pain threshold” and not being “tough enough.” If you suffer from back pain, or have experienced the painful symptom of sciatica, you know this is not the case. In the weeks following the Stanley Cup, Hossa suspected he would need back surgery to correct the damage to his spine, but has since retracted the statement expressing that he feels much better. This retraction furthered his reputation in the NHL as being a “sissy” and angered many devout Blackhawks fans.

Hossa’s injury is common, occurring in athletes and laypeople alike. Back pain caused by herniated or ruptured discs affects everyone differently, while one person may require surgery, another can get by on a cortisone injection or substantial rest. If back pain has ever caused you to not be able to participate in your favorite activities such as running, cycling, or playing golf, you may have felt depressed or even angry. You’re not alone. Just like you, back pain prevents elite athletes, like Marian Hossa, from participating in the sport they love, and in his case damaged his reputation.

Hossa isn’t the only athlete that has experienced a significant injury to their spine. The following is a list of famous athletes that encountered back pain while participating in the world’s greatest arena – the Olympics, and their inspirational stories of struggle and success.

Usain Bolt
Sprinter, Jamaica

Many people recognize Usain Bolt as the winner of six gold medals between the 2008 and 2012 Olympics, and the 100 meter and 200 meter world record holder. Fewer people know about Bolt’s struggles with back pain, which he cited as the factor holding him back from breaking his own 200 meter record in the 2012 games. In fact, Bolt didn’t train for an extended period of time in 2010 because of his back pain, which he says never fully subsided, but still managed to win three gold medals two years later in London.

Melanie Roach
Weightlifter, United States

Melanie Roach, world-class weightlifter, is applauded for her tenacity in the face of adversity. Going into the 2000 Olympic Trials as the #1 ranked US weightlifter, Roach dismantled the stereotype that professional weightlifters have muscular builds as a petite ex-gymnast. Just weeks prior to the trials however, Roach suffered a severe back injury that seemingly destroyed her weightlifting career. Five years later, after receiving back surgery and all but accepting the fate of her weightlifting career, Roach returned to her passion. With her resilience, not only did Roach qualify for and participate in the 2008 Olympic Games, but set U.S. and personal records in the process.

Jeannie Longo
Cyclist, France

Famous for her command of a sport otherwise dominated by young competitors, Longo competed in the 2008 Olympic Games at the age of 49. Although she had previously won multiple Olympic medals throughout her career, it was her performance in the 2008 Olympics time trial that garnered perhaps the most respect. Longo didn’t medal in this race, but she demonstrated tremendous resolve as she pedaled through a painful bout of sciatica, a painful lower back condition, mid-race.