Messi is rightly considered the most talented soccer player of our time and one of the most gifted in soccer history. His game does have touches of magic, and his performance for most of his career has provoked comparisons with an alien. Leo’s soccer talent manifested itself at a very early age, when he first started kicking a ball. But at the age of 11 the boy stopped growing. Doctors diagnosed him with GHD, a growth hormone deficiency. This disease was not only challenging Messi’s career, but also his normal life in society.
What is GHD
Growth hormone deficiency is an extremely rare disorder that can be triggered either at the genetic level or by trauma during childhood. It is caused by the inability of the anterior pituitary gland of the brain to produce enough of this hormone. Consequently, the body has difficulty increasing body fat, muscle and bone. It affects not only the growth – a person may suffer from late puberty, problems with vision, skin, immunity and the formation of the bones of the skull. It is noteworthy that children with the congenital disease are born with normal size, so that the disease can be diagnosed only in the process of growing up. This is what happened to Messi as well.
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How Messi was treated
Lionel was diagnosed with GHD when he was 11 years old. From the age of 12 he began injecting himself with growth hormone. The problem was that the treatment cost $900 dollars a month, which was very expensive for Messi’s family – his father worked in a factory, and his mother worked part-time as a cleaner.
Lionel was already in the crosshairs of River Plate at that age, but they refused to pay for the boy’s treatment. So did Newell’s Old Boys, where Leo was playing at the time. Fortunately, Barcelona was contacted and brought the 13-year-old to Spain with his family and paid for the entire course.
“Every night I had injections in my legs,” Messi told me. – At first my parents gave them to me, then I learned how to give them myself. The needle was small, so it didn’t hurt. It was kind of routine for me and I did it automatically.
Hormonal treatment helped Messi grow to 169 centimeters. Leo is often poked fun at for his short stature, but his height is average for men in Argentina. And there have been players with much smaller sizes in the national team. For example, Diego Buononatte easily played at an adult level with his 157 cm, and Diego Maradona was only 165 cm.
Is growth hormone not considered doping?
It is. The use of growth hormone is banned in almost all sports, both amateur and professional. Why, then, was Messi not disqualified and allowed to become a professional?
First of all, because Messi probably stopped taking growth hormone after he came of age. True, no journalist has yet been able to confirm this information – Barcelona refuses to comment.
Second, according to the FIFA Anti-Doping Code, growth hormone treatment may be applied at the youth level if: a) it is clearly documented and an application for a therapeutic exemption is filed; b) the hormone is not used to enhance the body’s performance and the treatment is used exclusively to treat a disease. Both of these points were clearly met in Messi’s case.
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Probably because of the treatment, Messi has gained another advantage. He has an unusual body structure – short legs and low center of gravity, which helps him instantly shift the body weight from one leg to another and disorient his opponent during the dribble. However, there is still no scientific confirmation that Leo is so complex because of his childhood disease and its treatment.