Saturday, June 11, 2011

Professional wrestlers with acromegaly

     Acromegaly is a condition that results from an excess of growth hormone.  The most common cause is a tumor located in the anterior pituitary gland that secretes growth hormone.  Rarely, acromegaly occurs due other conditions such as a tumor in the hypothalamus or  cancer.  The annual incidence is only about 3 to 4 per million. (1,2)  The progression of acromegaly is generally slow, and a diagnosis may not be made for over a decade after the initial onset of symptoms.  The mean age of diagnosis is usually around 40 to 45 years old.  Excess growth hormone as a child or adolescent is often referred to as gigantism.

     Symptoms of acromegaly can be due to local effects of the tumor or as a result of high circulating levels of growth hormone (see Table 1).

Table 1

Local effects of tumor
  • Change in vision
  • Headache
  • Decreased secretion of other pituitary hormones
Systemic effects of growth hormone
  • Increased thickness of soft tissue of hands/feet
  • Carpel tunnel syndrome
  • Arthritis
  • Enlargement of frontal bones of skull
  • Colon polyps    
  • Cardiomyopathy
  • Congestive heart failure
  • Hypertension
  • Sleep apnea
  • Enlarged internal organs (liver, spleen, thyroid gland)

     Acromegaly is associated with colon and other gastrointestinal cancers. (3)  Individuals are also at an increased risk of death due to cardiovascular disease.  Treatment with resultant cure can reduce the risk of early mortality. (1)  The primary treatment is surgery to remove the tumor.  For individuals who are not candidates for surgery, treatment options may include medical therapy and radiation.

The French Angel
     Big men have always been a part of professional wrestling.  While generally not great athletes due to their size,  the visual impact of a "giant" is undeniable.  Several wrestlers had acromegaly.  One of the earliest in wrestling was Maurice Tillet.  Born in France, Tillet moved to the United States and enjoyed success in professional wrestling during the 1940's as  The French Angel.

The Swedish Angel

     Tillet wasn't the only angel with acromegaly.  Phil Olafsson was known as the Swedish Angel and also wrestled in the 1940's.

     Of course, the most popular wrestler with acromegaly was Andre Roussimoff known worldwide as Andre the Giant.  Andre displayed symptoms of the disease at a young age, reaching a height of 6'3" and weight of 240 lbs before becoming a teenager.  He died at the age of 46 from congestive heart failure.

Andre the Giant

     Other professional wrestlers reported to have acromegaly include Max Palmer (Paul Bunyon), Shohei Baba (Giant Baba), Jorge Gonzalez (El Gigante), Dalip Singh Rana (The Great Khali), and Paul Wight (The Big Show).



  1. NEJM 2006; 355(24): 2558.
  2. Acta Med Scand 1988; 223(4): 327. 
  3. Cancer 1991; 38(8): 1673. 

The medical reference was used in the preparation of this blog.

Photographs are for illustrative purposes only.  Wrestling with Death does not claim ownership.


    1. Wow. Awesome article. Please do more articles like this in the future. Very informational and knowledgeable. I will expect more from you in the future. For now i will just bookmark your page and surely I'm gonna come back later to read more. Thank you to the writer!



    2. Life is a battle, if you don't know how to defend yourself then you'll end up being a loser. So, better take any challenges as your stepping stone to become a better person. Have fun, explore and make a lot of memories.

    3. You called something to my attention that did not occur before. I just posted it to my Maurice Tillet facebook page on 12/18/2015. Almost every last report say's Maurice was diagnosed at around age 17 with Acromegaly. There is, I would think, almost no chance of this. He had late onset acromegaly and the long bones of his body had stopped growing first, so it seems very unlikely it would have been diagnosed until he was further into college or Law School. Thanks for the article -