Back pain and injuries do not discriminate; you’re not alone. Even the most athletic, glamorous and famous people have to undergo intense surgeries and endure the struggle of therapy to get to full recovery.
Behind the gold medals and Oscar awards, here are 10 famous spinal injuries you may have missed:
The fastest man in the world was born with scoliosis, a curvature in his spine. Not only did this create tightness in his lower back, but also limited mobility in his hamstrings and calves, leading him to miss out on the 2010 track season.
“When I was younger it wasn’t really a problem. But you grow and it gets worse. My spine’s really curved bad [makes “S” shape with finger]. But if I keep my core and back strong, the scoliosis doesn’t really bother me. So I don’t have to worry about it as long as I work hard. The early part of my career, when we didn’t really know much about it, it really hampered me because I got injured every year.” Usain Bolt in Dec. 2011 ESPN The Magazine Interview Issue
2. George W. Bush
The 43rd President of United States of America, George Walker Bush, suffered from a persistent disc problem. According to the National Journal, he underwent a low-profile surgery and recovery period in January 2013.
3. George Clooney
Oscar-winning actor, George Clooney, suffered a severe spine injury while shooting a stunt sequence for Syriana in 2005. The head injury tore his dura mater causing severe, debilitating headaches. He underwent successful spinal surgery to join his vertebrae.
4. John F. Kennedy
After years of football and serving in World War II, President John F. Kennedy, suffered from chronic back pain and underwent his first spine surgery in 1954 and had 4 more surgeries to follow. He experienced a vertebrae collapse in his 30s, found it difficult to climb stairs, wore a back brace under his suit, and often times, used crutches when not in the public view.
5. Lolo Jones
In August 2011, Lolo Jones underwent spinal surgery at DISC for a tethered spinal cord after experiencing symptoms like difficulty feeling her feet and excruciating back pain. It all began after she tripped on a hurdle during the 100 meter event in the Beijing Olympics. Dr. Bray diagnosed Jones with the syndrome and performed the surgery. Six months later, Jones won first place at the US Open of Track & Field.
Jones also participated in the 2012 London Olympics, placing fourth in the 100 m Hurdles Final. Jones has also competed in bobsledding competitions in 2013.
6. Danny MacAskill
Professional street trials rider Danny MacAskill came to DISC to get a second opinion for his knee pain. Upon arriving, Dr. Andrew Bulczynski did an MRI on his knee but found nothing; he then ordered a back MRI and recommended he see Dr. Bray to find out if the knee pain originated from the back. Dr. Bray found that MacAskill had a partially ruptured disc, a bone spur, a pinched nerve (which caused his knee pain) and congenital spinal stenosis; MacAskill underwent surgery.
7. Dwight Howard
NBA Player, Dwight Howard, underwent a minimally invasive procedure for disc herniation after a failed non-surgical treatment in the Spring of 2012. The surgery prevented him from participating on Team USA in the summer Olympics.
8. Peyton Manning
Star quarterback, Peyton Manning, has had multiple spine surgeries throughout his entire professional football career. In 2011, he underwent a single-level anterior cervical fusion for disc herniation. He has also had surgical procedures for a bulging disc in the cervical spine. While many may have questioned his full recovery, he was still able to get 2 Super Bowl rings under his belt.
9. Jennifer Grey
Prior to the premiere of Dirty Dancing, Jennifer Grey was involved in a car crash that resulted in a whiplash injury that ripped several ligaments in the back of her neck. Although she received medical treatment, She experienced painful headaches and spasms in her neck when she moved her shoulders. Grey’s neck became severely compressed.
She was then approached by Dancing With the Stars to dance on the show, but Dr. Bray advised her to undergo immediate surgery because increased pressure on the spine could leave her paralyzed. To correct the problem, Dr. Bray performed what is called an anterior fusion through the front of Grey’s neck to put it back in alignment. “We took out the disc completely, lifted the neck up, and put it back where it belongs. This reduced the angulation and instability,” Dr. Bray says. “Then we put in a titanium plate to lock the joint back into position.”
Grey was still experiencing spurs that caused arm and shoulder pain, long-term effects of trauma from her initial accident. She returned for her second surgery with Dr. Bray to have spurs removed from her neck. Since then, in her first dancing appearance since Dirty Dancing, Grey was crowned the show’s 11th season winner.
10. Jackie Chan
While filming Police Story, he fell on a glass roof and damaged his spinal cord and broke his 7th and 8th vertebrae. While shooting Project A he fell and damaged his cervical spine.
Chan has had back surgery, and while he may be pushing the limits, he continues to perform, stunt and do what he loves.