He was billed as “The 8th Wonder of the World,” and this month a new documentary on the legendary WWE wrestler, André the Giant, premiered on cable outlet HBO. According to an article on the website Rare Disease Report, the film examines the wrestler/actor’s life in and out of the arena. It also details his struggle with acromegaly, the disease responsible for his extreme size, fame, and his early death.
You can see a trailer for HBO’s “Andre the Giant” right here.
Acromegaly is a rare hormonal disorder affecting less than 20,000 patients in the United States each year. Middle-aged adults are the most likely to develop acromegaly, which is usually caused by a non-cancerous tumor. The tumor produces too much growth hormone, which is especially problematic for an adult, whose growth had reached its pique.
For André René Roussimoff (AKA Andre the Giant), the disease acromegaly was both his blessing and his curse. Andre was diagnosed with acromegaly in his 20s, but had been showing symptoms of the disorder for some time before his diagnosis.
“Everyone who ever crossed paths with him has an Andre story — and usually four or five, I’m delighted to join forces with [director] Jason Hehir and WWE so we can capture Andre’s amazing story once and for all.” — Executive Producer Bill Simmons
In the 1970’s he joined what eventually grew into World Wrestling Entertainment (WWE) and became the rival to wrestler Hulk Hogan. His rivalry with Hulk catapulted both of them into the spotlight outside of wrestling. Andre was also a film star, his most famous role was playing Fezzik the giant in “The Princess Bride.” He was arguably one of the very first “sports entertainers” and was both literally and figuratively larger than life.
Andre travelled the world wrestling and self-promoting. Finally, in 1986 he left wrestling to focus on his medical issues and the damage caused by acromegaly. He endured medical procedures and surgeries, but his condition continued to deteriorate. Andre used alcohol and drugs to combat the effects of acromegaly on his body and became dependent on both.
By the early 90’s, Andre’s time on WWE programs was very limited and his last match on WWE was in December of 1992. Within a few short weeks, he would pass away in his sleep at the age of 46, from congestive hear failure.
Acromegaly doesn’t have a cure. Currently there are 4 approved drugs for the treatment of acromegaly, none of which were available during Andre’s lifetime. Now, treatments available include surgery, radiotherapy and hormone therapy. While we’re grateful that more treatment options are available, it is unfortunate that the condition wasn’t managed sooner.