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06th Feb 2023

England’s strongest man told he can’t pick up toddler son as it might leave him paralysed for life

Steve Hopkins

Smith went from lifting weights up to 340kg to not being able to pick up his 8kg son

England’s strongest man can’t even pick up his own two-year-old son anymore –  after doctors warned him it could leave him paralysed for life.

Leeroi Smith – crowned England’s strongest man in the under 90kg category last year – regularly lifted weights of up to 340kg in his career, but now he’s been warned not to lift his son, Lincoln who weighs just 8kgs.

Because of a mystery injury, hoisting his boy, could result in him being permanently paralysed from the neck down.

Doctors gave him the warning after discovering he had a prolapsed disk in his spine.

The 30-year-old said hearing the word ‘paralysis’ was “worrying”, as the prospect of not being able to compete was “heartbreaking”.

“It was a bitter pill to swallow- I’m one of the best in the world,” the strongman from from Norwich, Norfolk, said.

“Last week I picked my boy up and gave him a kiss and then my whole arm went dead.

“I thought, ‘have I just done it and lost the use of my arm forever?’

“Luckily it came back but it’s a daunting prospect.”

Leeroi finished fifth in the Official Strongman Games World Championships in Florida in 2022.

What started as a “niggle” in his shoulder in June became worse after returning from the competition in November.

After massage, physiotherapy and acupuncture hadn’t fixed the issue, Leeroi sought medical help.

An MRI scan revealed he had multilevel degenerative syndrome and nerve root compression.

The doctor told Leeroi he had damage across four vertebrae, and one disk is pressing against the nerve channel running from the spinal cord to the left arm.

The self-employed digger and ground worker was told that if the disk pressed on his spinal cord anymore it could sever the cord and trigger lifelong paralysis from the neck down.

Though he can still use his arm Leeroi now suffers from pain and numbness daily.

He doesn’t know when or where the injury first occurred but says it was likely done during his training to become England’s strongest man which involved 18 hours of training per week, with the injury slowly getting worse over time.

He faces a year-long wait for spinal surgery to correct the issue and is now trying to raise £15,000 to have the surgery done privately, and sooner.

The surgery, which also has a risk of paralysis, would remove the disk and fuse the two vertebrae on either side.

Leeroi said: “I’m still at work but I probably shouldn’t be. I’m self-employed so I don’t get paid for time off.

“For me to not be able to continue my passion and dreams was heartbreaking.

“But on the flip side, I had to look at the bigger picture.

“Would my son rather have a dad who carried on competing and became paralysed, or would he prefer a dad who could do things with him? “For the first time in my life, I had to think sensibly.”

The weightlifter has set up a Gofundme page and as of Monday afternoon had raised £2,500 of his £15,000 goal.

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