Every professional sports star will have dedicated many years to keeping psychically fit, staying healthy and constantly pushing themselves to reach the very top of their game.  Soccratis was created by lifelong soccer practitioners of the game on the basis that in the modern development of the game, those who wish to continue on to a high level in playing, coaching, or managing, must be conscientious citizens of the world and advocates for their own success. 

A successful athlete will be disciplined, competitive and able to perform well under extreme amounts of pressure. The success (or failure) of an athlete is not just about how well they play or how hard they train, but also about how dedicated they are to changing their mind set and their lifestyle to maximize their success. 

In some cases, an athlete may need to work even harder to overcome their own genetics.  In fact, there are many successful pro athletes and sports stars in the world today that have had to battle a range of medical conditions that their fans may not even be aware of. 

Perhaps one of the most famous sporting celebrities who battled a serious medical condition was Baseball super star Lou Gehrig.  The New York Yankees player was first diagnosed with the progressive neurodegenerative disease ALS at the age of 36. After he died, his legacy went on to increase awareness of the disease.  So much so that ALS is now commonly referred to as Lou Gehrig’s Disease

Unfortunately, sometimes a sport star will be forced to give up their craft, after being diagnosed with a serious disease, as was the case with Lou Gehrig. However, in other cases whereby their condition is deemed to be less serious, athletes have been able to continue performing at the highest level, despite being diagnosed with a medical disorder. 

Below are four currently active stars of the sporting world who have been diagnosed with a medical condition:

Venus Williams (Sjogren’s syndrome)

Sjogren’s syndrome is a chronic systemic autoimmune disease for which there is currently no cure.  It can produce a range of different symptoms for the diagnosed individual, but most sufferers report extreme fatigue, muscle and joint pain, dry eyes and a dry mouth. Venus Williams, currently ranked at No. 44 in the WTA singles rankings, first revealed that she suffers from Sjogren’s syndrome back in 2011.  

Being struck down with constant pain and fatigue was a crushing blow for the 7 time grand slam winner, but with the support of her doctor, her dietician and her coach, she has been able to increase her endurance and strength by switching to a raw vegan diet and eliminating all animal products. 

Lionel Messi (Growth hormone deficiency) 

Lionel Messi is a world class soccer player (arguably the best to ever grace the game) who plays as forward and captain for both Barcelona and the Argentina national team. As such a successful and revered football player, it is surprising to learn that in his early years he received treatment for an inherited medical condition. 

At 11 years old, the already soccer-mad Lionel Messi was diagnosed with a 

growth hormone deficiency.  He was started on treatment almost immediately and spent the next three years injecting hormones into his legs to help them develop fully, until he moved to Barcelona where his team paid for his ongoing medical treatment. 

GHD is more common in males than females and the most common symptom of the disorder is the slow or stunted growth of a child from the age of two or three onwards. Children with GHD grow slowly, but remain in proportion. While GHD is not a fatal or degenerative disease like ALS, it is a condition that could make training and competing impossible for less dedicated athletes. This makes Lionel Messi’s rise to the very top of the football world even more impressive.

Phil Mickelson (Psoriatic arthritis)

Phil Mickelson is an American professional golfer who has won 44 events on the PGA Tour, including five major championships, three Masters titles, a PGA Championship and an Open Championship. During the height of his success he was one of the best players in the world and he still performs to this day in the most competitive of golfing tournaments. 

In 2010 he suffered intermittent aches and pains in his joints. Eventually they got so bad he could not get out of bed. A rheumatologist diagnosed him with a condition called psoriatic arthritis (PsA).

PsA usually strikes individuals between the ages of 30 and 50, and it causes inflammation and pain in joints throughout the body. It can also make parts of the body swell, and fingers and toes can start to look like sausages, a condition called dactylitis. At present doctors still have no conclusive answer for why certain people develop PsA and others don’t. They suspect, however, that the condition may be related to the immune system and how it interacts with the environment in people with genetic susceptibility. While there is no cure for the disease, there are medications on the market that help to ease the associated symptoms. 

Tim Howard (Tourette syndrome)

American soccer player Tim Howard is these days best known as the goalkeeper and captain for the MLS club Colorado Rapids. His long and successful career has also seen him play for the likes of Manchester United and Everton in the English Premier League. He is also known for his refusal to medicate his Tourette syndrome, and instead embraces his tics and symptoms with good grace and no shame. 

Tourette’s is a neurological disorder that is usually characterized by repetitive, involuntary sounds and movements. The condition affects between 1 and 3 percent of people, but their symptoms can vary wildly. The stereotypical image of Tourette’s sufferers cursing uncontrollably is not always the way the condition affects those diagnosed with it, and Howard himself has never, to his knowledge, had a swear word slip out. 

At the age of 10, Howard began to develop facial tics and obsessive-compulsive behaviors. While the tics would come in waves, he spent most of his teenage years learning how to deal with tics that would come and go, and present in different formats. Soccer became a great outlet for dealing with the pressure of his Tourette’s, and he went form college football, to playing for some of the greatest teams in the world without allowing himself to be restricted by his condition.

Sport Stars To Look Up To

It is easy to idolize famous sports men and women and to feel like you are sharing every step of the journey with them. While we can enjoy tense games and close calls from the comfort of our sofas, for athletes with medical conditions, every performance is the result of a ton of hard work and a bucket load of dedication. One could even go as far as to say that it may even be their ability to overcome physical hardships that makes them able to achieve so much success in the sporting world.