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There’s no question Ronnie Coleman is one of the greatest bodybuilders in history. With eight consecutive Mr. Olympia victories to his name in the late 20th century and early 2000s (1998-2005), Coleman is tied for the most-ever titles with fellow legend Lee Haney. Retirement hasn’t always been kind to the 58-year-old Coleman, however. Since he formally stepped away from professional bodybuilding in 2007, the icon has undergone over a dozen surgeries on his neck and back. While Coleman’s been on the mend of late, there was a time when he couldn’t walk without assistance from crutches. He seems to be crediting a unique, still-developing treatment for some recent progress.
On Jan. 16, 2023, Coleman shared a video on his YouTube channel where he discusses aspects of his recent health improvements in an interview with former bodybuilder and current media personality Giles Thomas. The conversation sees Coleman note that he’s been leaning on stem cell treatment/injections, which has apparently given him a cleaner bill of health.
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Coleman did not mention specifically what kind of stem cells injections he received, but they may be similar to the Mesenchymal stem cells (MSCs) reigning four-time Classic Physique Olympia champion Chris Bumstead disclosed he was utilizing in 2022. According to NPJ Regenerative Medicine, MSCs “have broad anti-inflammatory and immune-modulatory properties … [which] interact with their immediate surroundings and neighboring cells to provide cell-based responses that can be therapeutic.” (1)
In regards to the potential benefits of stem cell treatments, it’s also vital to note research into their effectiveness is ongoing. While encouraging, stem cell procedures need further illumination to determine whether their benefits are valid. (2)
Coleman maintained that stem cell treatments help him manage the chronic pain in his neck and back. These initial injuries apparently occurred during his college football career with Grambling State University in the 1980s, before he morphed into one of the faces of bodybuilding.
“My injuries in my back came from me playing football,” Coleman said. “I hurt it [his back] really bad my sophomore year, then I hurt my neck really bad. I was doing a lot of chiropractic [treatments] in my sophomore year of college all the way until I started bodybuilding [in 1990].”
These days, Coleman said he maintains a relatively consistent schedule of stem cell injections, traveling across the United States border to Mexico a few times a year to help manage his back and neck problems.
“Right now I’m trying to do [stem cell injections] every four months, in Mexico,” Coleman said. “I started probably about a year ago and I went like twice every four months and then I took off about nine months, and the pain came back fierce. I went back and it was the last time I went. I was in a massive amount of pain. Three days later, the pain disappeared. Just that quick.”
In addition to his stem cell treatments, Coleman credits using experimental hyperbaric chambers to aid in his pain management and recovery, especially in sleeping well at night. According to Medicina, hyperbaric oxygen therapy “consists of using of pure oxygen at increased pressure (in general, 2–3 atmospheres) leading to augmented oxygen levels in the blood (Hyperoxemia) and tissue (Hyperoxia),” which can improve the body’s healing processes. The same medical journal maintains that “further research” might be necessary to determine the exact benefits and effects. (3)
When it comes to Coleman, hyperbaric chambers appear to be working wonders as a complement to his other treatments for the time being.
“We would also do hyperbaric chamber sessions,” Coleman explained about his coordinated treatment routine. “We were doing two 45-minute sessions a day for, like, five days.”
With his health in an improved place, it looks like Coleman is looking ahead to better, less painful retirement years. As a continued important influence in the bodybuilding community for stars and young risers alike, this update certainly won’t be the last anyone hears from the titan.
Pittenger, M. F., Discher, D. E., Péault, B. M., Phinney, D. G., Hare, J. M., & Caplan, A. I. (2019). Mesenchymal stem cell perspective: cell biology to clinical progress. NPJ Regenerative medicine, 4, 22. https://doi.org/10.1038/s41536-019-0083-6
Chen J, Wang H, Lu X, Yang K, Lu C. Safety and efficacy of stem cell therapy: an overview protocol on published meta-analyses and evidence mapping. Ann Transl Med. 2021 Feb;9(3):270. doi: 10.21037/atm-20-6892. PMID: 33708897; PMCID: PMC7940926.
Ortega, A.M. et al. (2021) A General Overview on Hyperbaric Oxygen Therapy: Applications, Mechanisms, and Translational Opportunities. Medicina. 2021 Sep; 57(9): 864. doi: 10.3390/medicina57090864. PMID: 34577787; PMCID: PMC8465921
Featured image: @ronniecoleman8 on Instagram
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