Rutherford may go deaf in left ear in bid for Olympic repeat

Greg Rutherford in action during the long jump at the Birmingham Diamond League meet last month. He suffered a whiplash injury that caused a severe inner-ear condition, and would have taken time off if not for this being an Olympic year.
Greg Rutherford in action during the long jump at the Birmingham Diamond League meet last month. He suffered a whiplash injury that caused a severe inner-ear condition, and would have taken time off if not for this being an Olympic year.PHOTO: REUTERS

LONDON • Greg Rutherford, the Olympic long jump champion, has claimed that he is risking permanent hearing loss in his left ear by continuing to compete.

The 29-year-old Briton said the whiplash injury he suffered in his last competition - the Birmingham Diamond League meet a month ago - had caused a severe inner-ear condition.

And he admitted that, were it not an Olympic year, with the chance in Rio to retain the title he won at London 2012, he would probably be taking time away from the sport to get the problem fixed.

He said there was a 25 per cent chance the problem, called cochlear hydrops, would become a lifelong affliction.

The British athlete accepted that he did not know how the ear problem would affect his jumping as he prepared to make his comeback at the European Championships in Amsterdam yesterday.

According to the California Ear Institute website, the symptoms of cochlear hydrops include "the feeling of pressure or fullness in the ears, hearing loss, tinnitus, (ringing in the ears), hearing loss, and balance problems". It can arise "as a result of trauma such as a blow to the head, infection, degeneration of the inner ear, allergies, dehydration and loss of electrolytes or in rare circumstances a benign tumour".

"I knew I shouldn't have jumped in Birmingham because I felt really stiff," he said.

"If the room falls silent for a moment, all I hear is loud white noise, so it's been a struggle to sleep. I've gone from hearing in stereo to mono.

"It's odd because during your career, you work to put yourself in peak physical condition, but then you bear the brunt of it for the rest of your life, but I'll just have to take that risk.

"I don't think there are many long jumpers who can say they have jumped so hard that they have lost their hearing, so I've broken new ground there.

"Hopefully it will come back, but there's a chance it never will fully recover, according to the doctor.

"It's quite scary to hear that, because you always get told there's a one-in-20,000 chance or a one-in-a million chance.

"I hope it won't affect my jumping, but it's certainly not fun. It does bring you down.

"If it wasn't Olympic year, I would quite possibly be taking some time out to get it sorted. But I like winning medals."

THE GUARDIAN

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on July 07, 2016, with the headline 'Rutherford may go deaf in left ear in bid for Olympic repeat'. Print Edition | Subscribe