John Elway says his hands are back to normal after a debilitating medical condition left him unable to pick up or hold a football.
The Hall of Fame quarterback said he was diagnosed with the condition 15 years ago — well after he retired following the 1998 season — and that his ring fingers on both hands were constricted into a bent position.
Elway initially opted against having surgery to treat the issue, but more recently underwent a non-surgical treatment to attempt to straighten his fingers.
“When I saw my hand doctor, the only option was surgery,” Elway said. “I wasn’t interested in more surgeries. I’ve had so many surgeries during my playing career. At that point in time I didn’t want to have another one.”
Though his hands are now back in their normal state, Elway said they could constrict again in the future.
“It’s a rather common condition, and a lot of people do have it, but they don’t get it diagnosed,” said Elway, who is involved with a campaign to raise awareness for the condition that may affect 16 million Americans.
“If anyone is concerned they might have it, they should go see a hand specialist. If you’re diagnosed with it, I want people to realize that there are options to treat it.”
Elway said he wasn’t certain if his 16-year football career led to his condition. The full cause of condition is unknown, but according to the Mayo Clinic, “there’s no evidence that hand injuries or occupations that involve vibrations to the hands cause the condition.”
“It is hereditary and it also called the ‘Viking Disease,'” Elway said. “If you have a Norwegian background, you have a higher chance of developing it. That’s a possibility for me, but nobody else in my family has had it. I’m not sure if me playing football has played a part too.”