What Happened To Ronnie Coleman? Why Can’t He walk

Written by James C., M.S.(C), PT

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The tale of Ronnie Coleman serves as a grim reminder that even the mightiest among us can fall prey to physical adversities.

Ronnie Coleman is unable to walk properly and has faced a serious health breakdown including not being able to lift his legs. In this article we will go over why Ronnie Coleman can’t walk and what caused it.

The 8-time Mr. Olympia winner’s journey through chronic pain, numerous surgeries, and slow rehabilitation unravels a narrative of resilience and enduring hope amid the shadow of crippling spinal complications.

Ronnie was known for his incredible strength as a bodybuilder being able to rep 800 lbs in the squat and the deadlift.

Many bodybuilders refrain from lifting such weights due to injury risks.

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Ronnie’s training style was different from most other competitors at his time as his main rival back in the day Jay Cutler was known for high-volume training and did not risk lifting mind-blowing heavy weights.

That doesn’t mean that other bodybuilders never lifted heavy weights but not to the extent of Ronnie Coleman who lifted weights that could easily have been performed at a powerlifting event.

His background in powerlifting might be why he always preferred lifting heavier weights compared to bodybuilders such as Jay Cutler, who were known for high-volume training with moderately heavy weights.

Even though Ronnie lifted heavy weights that may not have been the reason why he got to the point of being unable to walk, Ronnie has shared in an interview that he knew when he damaged a disk in his back while working out many years ago.

Ronnie failed to get a proper medical examination and relied on chiropractors and other remedies to fix his back, that approach did not work in the long term as later on he had to pay the price with decreased health and multiple surgeries.

The Onset of Trouble

It all began with a herniated disk injury, which Ronnie initially brushed off, paying a mere visit to the chiropractor.

Little did he know, this seemingly insignificant injury was the precursor to a slew of medical interventions that would dominate his life after his bodybuilding career.

The condition exacerbated over time due to his relentless training and heavy lifting, a staple for maintaining his legendary physique, but a curse in disguise that eventually cost him his mobility.

The Initial Surgery: A Glimmer of Hope Dashed

Hoping to rectify the issue, Ronnie underwent his first surgery where four screws were implanted to stabilize his shifting disks.

However, fate had other plans.

The screws, unable to withstand the strain, broke, causing further damage by breaking bones in his back.

The ensuing pain was so excruciating that walking became an ordeal, propelling him towards a life bound to crutches and a wheelchair.

A Series of Unfortunate Surgeries

Undeterred, Ronnie sought further medical intervention to regain control over his life.

However, the subsequent surgery that aimed to fix the broken bones and replace the broken screws morphed into a 13-hour-long grueling procedure.

This ordeal left him with six screws, two cages, and 2-3 disk spacers in his back, a month-long hospital stay, and a body unable to walk or lift his legs.

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The horror of the situation was exacerbated as pain medications failed to provide solace, leaving Ronnie battling an invisible monster that threatened to overshadow his indomitable spirit.

The Ongoing Battle: Stem Cells to the Rescue?

As of now, Ronnie Coleman has braved 13 spine surgeries, each bringing a promise of alleviation but leaving behind a trail of persistent pain and limited mobility.

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However, amidst the rocky road, Ronnie chanced upon a ray of hope in the form of stem cell treatments.

In a video update, Ronnie shed light on how these treatments have significantly helped in mitigating his pain, allowing him brief moments of walking unaided, although he still largely relies on crutches for mobility, especially during outdoor ventures.

Thankfully Ronnie Coleman won the Mr. Olympia eight times and owns his own supplement company and it is likely he has the funds to go through every treatment he pleases to fix his health situation.

Reflections: The Unseen Cost of Glory

Ronnie Coleman’s tale exposes the often glossed-over aspect of professional bodybuilding – the severe toll it exerts on the body, a price that continues to demand payment long after the applause has faded, and the stage lights have dimmed.

The medical hardships endured by Coleman unravel the unseen facets of a sport that demands more than blood and sweat; it sometimes demands the very essence of mobility and a life free from the shackles of chronic pain.


The narrative of Ronnie Coleman’s spinal ailments and his relentless battle against them serves as both an inspiration and a cautionary tale.

His unwavering resolve to fight back against his physical adversities stands as a testimony to his legendary status, not just as a bodybuilder, but as a beacon of resilience and unyielding spirit in the face of life-altering challenges.

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