From Absolute Muscle Unit to Walking on Crutches — What Went Wrong with Ronnie Coleman?

Ronnie Coleman is probably the most famous American bodybuilder and has every reason to be so. Ronnie shares the world record of winning the most Mr. Olympia titles, i.e., for eight consecutive years, with Lee Haney. During his bodybuilding career, Ronnie also won 26 International Federation of Bodybuilding and Fitness professional titles. Many muscle maniacs still idealize the huge and well-conditioned muscles that Ronnie boasted during his career peak.

Ronald Dean Coleman, aka Ronnie Coleman, was born on 13 May 1964 in Monroe (Louisiana). He’s an accounting graduate who started working as a police officer in Texas in 1989. Ronnie won his first-ever bodybuilding competition in 1990 at Mr. Texas, and there was no turning back from there. He won title after title and made a huge name in the industry, but injuries and surgeries finally got the best of Ronnie.

It all started with a herniated disk.

Young Ronnie. Image credit: Ronniecoleman8/Instagram

Ronnie suffered his first back injury while powerlifting in high school at 17. After another back injury while playing football, he regularly visited a chiropractor and continued with his bodybuilding journey.

Ronnie’s workout routine was all about lifting extremely heavy weights. Unfortunately, he herniated a disk while performing a squat in 1996. Ronnie was preparing for the Arnold Sports Festival at that time and did not pay much attention to the injury for the next ten years!

He participated in Arnold Classic, kept working out every day, and even won eight consecutive Mr. Olympia titles, all with that herniated disk! But it was not until 2007, i.e., after his retirement, that he finally decided to do something about that herniated disk. Apparently, this was not it for Coleman.

The injuries and surgeries left Ronnie Coleman crippled.

Lifting abnormally heavy weights helped Ronnie achieve a tremendous physique and win many titles, including eight times Mr. Olympia. However, the very same thing caused injuries and spinal problems to him. Ronnie Coleman suffered injury after injury, herniated several disks down the road, and had surgeries on every one except one. He also underwent hip replacement surgeries to replace both hips.

As of now, Ronnie has undergone 13 surgeries to fix his back, neck, and hips. Despite so many surgeries, 14 screws, two cages, and two rods inside his body, he’s still unable to walk on his own. His legs suffered severe atrophy after the first surgery in 2016 and after each one that followed. In 2020, Ronnie was confined to a wheelchair. He completely lost his mobility due to damage from all the surgeries.

Ronnie was so misfortunate that the screws doctors placed inside him broke four times! One of the times, the screw broke right after surgery as he turned over for the nurse to change his bandage. Unfortunately, Coleman has not completely regained his leg strength and cannot walk without assistance.

Who is responsible for his injuries?

Ronnie Coleman injury. Image credit: Ronniecoleman8/Instagram

Ronnie says his injuries are the price he paid to be a legend. He maintains a positive attitude and makes the most out of his condition. However, he also thinks that he would’ve been able to walk a long time ago had the surgeons performed the surgeries correctly. Ronnie also questions the surgical procedures and says they were performed only to make money.

Although Ronnie has his doubts regarding the surgeries, experts say Ronnie’s ignorance and stubbornness are responsible for the state he’s in today. After each surgery, he would rush to the gym as soon as he could. Each surgery required Ronnie to have at least six months of therapy, yet Ronnie would continue with the gym as if there never was an injury. He would hit the gym the moment he could walk with crutches.

Some believe that Ronnie unnecessarily pushed his limits by continuing his training with a herniated disk and that he should have moved away from the gym as soon as he noticed the injuries. Ronnie’s ignorance, negligence, and prolonged heavy lifting caused him severe injuries that crippled him to the extent that he could not even walk. Nevertheless, Coleman has no regrets and says he would do it all again if he had to.

Ronnie Coleman’s run-in with the DEA.

Ronnie Coleman in 2010. Image credit: B.Stefanov/shutterstock.com

Ronnie, a former cop, has never denied taking steroids. It’s not that he entirely relied on steroids to build muscles. He did not use steroids for the initial six years of his career. However, the frustration of not being able to win any competition led him to use steroids around 1996. However, Coleman always purchased the steroids legally, i.e., from pharmacies after conducting blood tests.

Ronnie alleges the DEA, who were trying to curb the black market at the time, deliberately wanted to charge him. They even made him testify before a grand jury to get his drugs legally. As for his injuries and deterioration, it could never be established that steroids caused any of it. Coleman, however, does not encourage using PEDs (performance-enhancing drugs) and steroids. It is also pertinent to mention that using steroids causes premature death and severe depression.

What’s Ronnie Coleman up to these days?

Although Ronnie retired from professional bodybuilding in 2007 and has experienced some absurd injuries, he is still active in the bodybuilding community. Ronnie is the owner of Ronnie Coleman Signature Series, a company that manufactures nutritional supplements and sports apparel for bodybuilders and athletes. He also underwent stem cell treatments during 2021-22 to reduce pain and speed up his recovery. However, there hasn’t been a notable change in Coleman’s condition even after spending over $2 million on surgeries over the years. He’s still working on regaining full mobility in his legs.

Ronnie is also highly active on social media. He has over 1.5 million subscribers on YouTube and over 5 million followers on Instagram. Coleman regularly shares content on social media that mostly involves bodybuilding tips, old memories, and his thoughts about the current bodybuilding scenarios. He is also back in the gym and often shares videos of him working out to keep himself in shape.

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