Are There Long-Term Consequences of Bodybuilding?

by Matt Weik

If you look at any athletes across all spectrums today, you’ll see injuries popping up left and right. The opportunity for injuries to sneak into the bodybuilding world is even more prevalent due to the nature of pushing the body to the limits with heavy weights. But, what’s the long-term consequences of doing so?

Exercise as we know it is good for our health. However, too much and you risk overtraining, overuse injuries, and even an exercise dependence. The one piece that isn’t discussed is what happens to bodybuilders after they retire from the stage? Many of them dwindle away, looking a fraction of their former self, while others try to hold onto the muscle they have built and maintain that lifestyle away from the stage. But, at what cost? Let’s take a look at some common names in the bodybuilding industry who have either had career ending injuries or who have had some debilitating injuries after retirement, possibly caused by the sport and lifestyle itself.

1. Ronnie Coleman

One of the most decorated bodybuilders of all time fell under the knife a few times after his retirement for his back and hips. He had a back surgery in December 2007, July 2011, December 2011, July 2015, and February 2016. He had hip surgery in July 2014 and August 2014. Some may call them battle scars while others might be scratching their head as to why someone would look at seven surgeries in the span of less than ten years and wonder why anyone would want to pick up heavy weights.

Regardless of the amount of surgeries, the quality of life Ronnie had towards the end and even after he hung up his trunks hasn’t been easy. Constant pain, rehabilitation, and recovery seems to be all he’s known for the last few years. After his most recent back surgery, they are hoping it will be his last and that he will be able to get back to the life he wants to live. I commend Ronnie for keeping his commitments during the time surrounding his surgeries and recovery. He didn’t miss an event because of them. Regardless of the time behind the windshield or in the air, Ronnie was still present at events meeting his fans. AND, he’s already back in the gym training.

2. Dennis Wolf

For years, Dennis has been a contender in every show he entered. Then back in 2016 he had surgery to fix a back injury where he supposedly had numerous fragments of his spine that had broken off and was causing him severe pain. While this hasn’t ended his career completely, we have yet to see “The Big Bad Wolf” back on a stage since. He vows the surgery isn’t a curtain call for him, and that he’s putting in the work to get back his lost muscle mass from surgery. No one is completely sure when we will see Dennis again, and we aren’t even sure if he knows at this point.

3. Jean Pierre Fux

Some of you might remember Jean Pierre Fux from back in the 90’s. His career was shut down after a freak accident at a photoshoot. Jean was being shot for FLEX Magazine and was in the middle of doing a squat for one of the shots when incredibly both of his quads tore, ultimately dropping him like a sack of potatoes. The photographer actually captured the entire event and published it in the following months issue.

4. Dave Palumbo

A man to this day who is still active in the sport and doing everything possible to keep bodybuilding relevant is Dave Palumbo—owner of RxMuscle.com who regularly talks about the happenings in the industry and sport. For those who don’t know Dave’s history in the sport, back in the day he was a freakishly large bodybuilder. Then Dave tore his quad in 2012 and needed rehab following surgery to regain full function and movement of his leg. Then most recently in 2017, Dave went under the knife yet again, this time for a shoulder replacement. Knees and shoulders are two areas that bodybuilders put a lot of strain onto due to common exercises like the squat, deadlift, bench press, and shoulder press.

5. Zack Khan

Similar to the injury Jean Pierre Fux had, Zack “King” Khan was another bodybuilder who unfortunately ended his career abruptly when he tore both of his quads. Khan was hack squatting when he ruptured tendons in both legs. His physique was marveled by many as he was freakishly large for the time-period and seemed to have a bright career ahead of him. Zack has tried to come back but never found himself placing anywhere near where his earlier potential would have had him. Now, unfortunately he seems to have been forgotten about.

6. Dorian Yates

Six-time Mr. Olympia winner, Dorian “The Shadow” Yates, is a man who knows a little something about injuries. While having one of the best careers in the sport, Dorian was known for at the time using a training method popularized by Mike Mentzer called “HIT” training. Ultimately is was high intensity training using heavy weights at short intervals so he was in an out of the gym fairly quickly compared to most bodybuilders of the era. However, Dorian’s career was cut short due to some injuries such as torn biceps and triceps. At that point it wasn’t ideal for him to continue his career and try to get back to the stage.