Fact Check

Is this Weightlifter with a Prolapsed Rectum Real?

This fact check is not safe for anywhere.

Published April 2, 2003

Mid adult manager and his younger colleagues reading a shocking e-mail on a computer in the office. (Getty Images/skynesher)
Mid adult manager and his younger colleagues reading a shocking e-mail on a computer in the office. (Image courtesy of Getty Images/skynesher)
Photograph shows a weightlifter who suffered a prolapsed rectum during a powerlifting match.

This email from the dawn of the millennium made its way to our inbox in 2003:

This rather shocking photo was snapped in November 16th by a spectator at the collegiate power lifting championships at Pennsylvania State. The unfortunate competitor, who expressed a plea to remain anonymous, remembered to surgeons that he was "stuck" at the bottom of a personal best attempt in the squat lift when he "sort of pulled his stomach in and pushed extra hard, at the same time as trying to complete the lift." He remembers a loud popping, splattering noise then a fierce stabbing pain and then not being able to move from the squat position. He remained in this position for about half an hour, since trying to stand caused him overwhelming agonizing pain.

Paramedics arrived and applied anaesthesia on the spot and carried him to an ambulance. He was rushed to surgery, where surgeons described the trauma as an "explosive and aggravated prolapse of the bowel". Meanwhile it was revealed that the weight was removed from his shoulders at the time of the incident by two "spotters" on either side of the lifter. The third spotter who was standing behind the lifter was unfortunately sprayed with fecal matter at the time of the incident. This spotter promptly fainted when he realized the extent of the injury to the lifter, who was a personal friend. This compounded the task of first aid officers who were at a loss as to how to treat the injury to the lifter in any case, who remained in the squatting position moaning in pain much to the consternation of the helpless audience.

The hapless lifter had successful surgery to relieve the prolapse, but remained immobilized with his feet elevated in stirrups for 2 weeks to ensure "internal compliance with the surgery and that the organs retracted successfully". To add insult to injury, the ex-lifter required rectal stitching to partially occlude the anal orifice and stitch the rectal passage (which had significantly expanded and torn during the prolapse) and also was put on a low fibre low residue diet to combat flatulence to avoid any possibility of a recurrence. CBS news spoke to his wife and asked if she thought he would resume his power lifting career. "Not if I have anything to say about it, would you like to risk something like that again?"

We agreed!!

CBS news

This item is "false" in the sense that the accompanying text does not correspond to the image:

  • The message reproduced above was not written or published by CBS news or any other news agency. (The poor writing, non-news format, and focus on "gross out" details mark it as a fabrication.)
  • The annual USAPL Pennsylvania State Powerlifting Championship contests are held early in the year (February or March), not in November.
  • No such injury as the one described occurred to any weightlifter at the Pennsylvania State Powerlifting Championships in the last several years.
  • The "weightlifter" in the photograph is posed squatting immediately in front of a doorway or wall, which would not be the case if had suffered an injury in the midst of a powerlifting match and then found himself "not able to move from the squat position." (He'd be in the middle of an arena or gymnasium floor with plenty of room on all sides.)

Although a prolapsed rectum or bowel is a real medical condition, the text cited here is an obvious attempt at a "gross out" piece involving all the familiar aspects of potty humor (e.g., rectums, sprayed fecal matter, farts). How and why the image accompanying the text was produced (and by whom) is still unknown to us.


Canadian Press.   "Is It a Cactus or a Rude Gesture?"     canada.com.   25 August 2006.

David Mikkelson founded the site now known as snopes.com back in 1994.

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