Learn about the former and current Olympians that have competed amongst the fiercest athletes in the world—all while dealing with migraine.
The 2021 Summer Olympics will be held in Tokyo, Japan between July 23rd and August 8th. The long-awaited event will feature athletes from all around the world competing in 28 sports with 38 disciplines. Many athletes have experienced tough health-related issues to compete, including a chronic illness like migraine.
Migraine is one of the most common neurological disorders in the world, affecting 1 in 7 people. You can expect at least one of your favorite sports icons has dealt with symptoms of this disabling disease.
Migraine does not discriminate and can affect anyone at any time. So it’s important to raise awareness for this invisible illness that can cause disruptions for athletes on and off the field. In honor of the upcoming multi-sporting events starting this month, we are highlighting past Olympians who have endured living with migraine attacks while competing for the gold.
Athletes and Coaches With Migraine
Amanda Beard is a retired American swimmer and 7-time Olympic medalist. Beard entered her Olympics at age 14 and has competed in four consecutive Olympics from 1996 to 2008. Beard first broke the world record in 2003 for the 200-meter breaststroke and again in 2004 until 2005 . At the 2020 Migraine World Summit, she revealed that she was living with migraine. After decades of dealing with light sensitivity, nausea and head pain, she received a formal diagnosis of migraine with aura. Now Beard is an advocate for migraine education and treatment.
Steve Kerr is an American professional basketball coach and former professional basketball player. Kerr is an eight-time NBA champion with five titles as a player as well as three as a head coach. This year Kerr will serve as the assistant coach of the U.S. Men’s basketball team in the 2021 Summer Olympics. In 2015, Kerr missed coaching in 43 games in a season in 2016 due to migraine and complications from his back surgery. He has battled through common symptoms such as pressure and pain behind the eyes and in his head. Over the years, Kerr has taken more of a priority in his health with an active role in symptom management.
Ian Thorpe is a retired Australian competitive swimmer and 5-time Olympic gold medalist, specializing in freestyle along with backstroke and the individual medley. Thorpe was known best for dominating the 400-meter freestyle every year from 1998 until his break after the 2004 Olympics in Athens. In his 2012 autobiography titled, “This Is Me,” he revealed that he was living and competing in events with migraine. Today, he enjoys philanthropy and sports commentary.
Dwyane Wade is a retired professional basketball player and two-time Olympic medalist. In the 2008 Summer Olympics, Wade led the U.S. Men’s basketball team—known as the “Redeem Team”—in scoring and helped secure the gold medal for the team. Wade has been very open with the public about his migraine symptoms that began in childhood. During his time in the NBA, he wore tinted glasses to cut down on the glare inside the arenas. Despite dealing with sensitivity to loud sounds and bright lights, Wade only missed a few games due to migraine in his NBA career. That was thanks to help from doctors and prescribed medicine. Since retirement, Wade has adjusted to family life and more time at home, where he likes to keep it quiet and dark.
While public figures with migraine have long been private about their health challenges, these athletes proudly share their migraine stories and demonstrate that people living with migraine can live successful and fulfilling lives. We hope these stories inspire you to chase your dreams and share your own story with us and our community about living with migraine.
The American Migraine Foundation is committed to improving the lives of those living with this debilitating disease—but we can’t do it alone. Donate today to help support migraine research. Together, we are as relentless as migraine.