What do you do when you have a disease called acromegaly that causes you to keep growing into a 7’1″, 346-pound force of nature? If you’re Dalip Singh Rana (aka The Great Khali), you become one of the greatest pro-wrestlers in the world.
Khali’s acromegaly (also referred to as “gigantism”), is an extremely rare condition caused by the excessive production of growth hormone (GH) which affects about 6 out of 100,000 people.
In 2012, after his diagnosis, Khali, 44, had the tumor responsible for the excess hormone removed from his pituitary gland. Although there is some speculation that the wrestler opted to allow the hormonal glitch to continue and thus secure his spot as one of — if not the — most intimidating athletes in the ring, most people who have acromegaly do not present symptoms of the disease until in their mid-40’s.
If left untreated, acromegaly can cause all sorts of complications, including carpal tunnel syndrome, hypertension, diabetes, sleep apnea, and heart disease. Even with the tumor removed, there are greater risks of developing these conditions than among people without the condition.
A former police officer in India, Khali joined the World Wrestling Entertainment (WWE) in 2006 and quickly ascended to World Heavy Weight Champ in 2007. After a hiatus, he recently stepped back into the ring for WWE’s Smackdown, assisting in a win.
Khali is not the only professional wrestler to have acromegaly.
The late Andre the Giant was diagnosed with the disease at age 24. Reportedly, Andre refused surgical intervention in order to continue his career. At 7’4″ and 520 pounds, Andre dwarfed even Khali. Unfortunately, by age 40 the great man had suffered lasting and deadly effects from his over-active pituitary tumor. He suffered congestive heart failure and died at age 46.
At least two other professional wrestlers, Paul Wight and Giant Gonzalez, were diagnosed with acromegaly.
Fortunately, there are effective treatments for this condition, including surgery to remove the tumor, radiation to shrink the tumor and medication to lower or block GH production.