The Flex Wheeler Leg Amputation- What Caused It?

The flex wheeler leg amputation is something that took the bodybuilding world by storm. It was so unexpected and sudden that the poster child of bodybuilding would have something so severe happen to him.

Let’s talk about it, and cover everything you need to know. (because to be honest, no other site has really done it).

What caused the flex wheeler leg amputation?
What caused the flex wheeler leg amputation?

What Caused The Flex Wheeler Leg Amputation?

Let’s jump straight into it. At first glance, it seems unknown why the flex wheeler leg amputation ever happened.

And many have the idea that it was a ‘sudden’ thing- like maybe he got in a bad car accident and had an emergency amputation.

But, this isn’t the case. This has been an on-going process for years. Let’s delve into this flex wheeler leg amputation and its’ true history.

1999 – Flex Wheeler is diagnosed with Focal Segmental Glomerulosclerosis

If you’ve read my blog before, you’ll know that I have a medical background. So luckily, I can look more in-depth to this than most news agencies.

Back in 1999, Flex Wheeler was diagnosed with Focal Segmental Glomerulosclerosis. But what does this mean?

Focal Segmental Glomerulosclerosis is a very rare kidney disease where scar tissue develops on the kidney’s glomeruli. The glomerulus or glomeruli are tiny things in your kidneys that filter blood.

At first glance, this doesn’t sound that bad. So what if scar tissue develops on the glomeruli? It’s just scar tissue, right?

(And for the record, some consider this the worst kidney disease known to mankind.)

Unfortunately, the scar tissue developing on the glomeruli actually results in that glomerulus not being able to filter blood anymore.

This means that ultimately, the renal system starts to fail.

The kidney is not able to filter blood as well, and without saying- this causes a ton of problems in the body.

Not all cases of focal segmental glomerulosclerosis (FSGS) are ‘lethal’ or ‘severe’- but it seems the flex wheeler leg amputation was almost directly related to this.

For patients diagnosed with this, they have to deal with a lot of painstaking treatment. And as someone that has seen patients on dialysis (automatic machine kidney filtering) first-hand- it is horrible, take a look.

How Did Flex Wheeler get Focal Segmental Glomeruli FSGS?

Focal Segmental Gloumeruli (FSGS) is something that can be caused by many things.

Some of causes for FSGS things include infections like HIV.

Flex Wheeler was placed under a lot of pressure because people thought that he had contracted a bad disease like AIDS and got FSGS because of it!

A stressed flex wheeler stated that his disease was actually in fact, Hereditary. While it is rare that FSGS is hereditarily caused, it is very possible.

Some have speculated that the steroids he used in bodybuilding accelerated his FSGS, but I personally take that with a grain of salt.

Overall, it just doesn’t really make sense. Sure, it may have been a part of it- but it was far from the central reason he developed FSGS.

Truth is, it probably just is hereditary- and if anything accelerated it- it’s going to be his bodybuilding career.

FSGS Sucks For Bodybuilders Especially

If you’re been bodybuilding for a while- you’ll know that you are encouraged to get 100-150g of protein a day.

Well, one of the worst features of having FSGS is that the protein spills into the urine. This is because the damaged Glomerulus cannot filter it out.

This means (direct variation) the more protein you consume, the faster your kidneys will wear out and die.

For a man like Flex Wheeler that relies on getting so much protein to keep his incredible physique, it quite literally was killing him to keep competing.

This was like putting a gun to his head and telling him to stop bodybuilding. Everytime he ate a ton of protein, it was just taking such a massive toll on him.

In fact, Flex Wheeler said he could FEEL his kidneys in pain while competing. Imagine having kidney pain so bad you can FEEL your kidneys.

This guy really is not only strong physically, but mentally.

And it wasn’t just the eating. When you work out in general protein breaks down in your muscles- flooding his kidneys and killing him more.

1994 – Almost Died in a Car Accident

Many people don’t link the flex wheeler leg amputation to the car accident he was in. However- I think it is a critical piece of the puzzle.

Flex Wheeler got into for lack of better terms- horrible car accident. I mean, just look at this picture of his Mercedes-Benz after the accident.

Is the flex wheeler leg amputation linked to his kidney disease?
Is the flex wheeler leg amputation linked to his kidney disease?

Injuries He Sustained

In a post on Facebook, Flex Wheeler discussed his horrible car accident.

He broke his C4 and C5 vertebrae on his spine. That means he was basically millimeters off from being permanently paralyzed as we know it today.

Flex Wheeler in a neck brace after his car accident.
Flex Wheeler in a neck brace after his car accident.

His collarbone was shattered, and he said ‘too other many injuries to mention’.

I mean- think about this. In a car accident like that, it’s not unlikely his leg was largely injured in all of this.

While it is clear that the car accident was not the single reason the leg amputation happened- I would not be surprised if it contributed.

Many news outlets have reported his leg was amputated after a ‘vein collapse’. If his leg was injured in this horrible car accident, the amount of scar tissue and vein damage may have been too much.

Especially considering that he has a kidney disease, his body is not capable of getting enough filtered blood to his legs.

This is actually a big problem for many people with renal system or vascular failures- they need to get extremities amputated due to the blood flow being lower than normal.

Flex Wheeler Injured His Leg Doing Martial Arts

Another thing that is brushed over on the topic of the flex wheeler leg amputation is how he has been suffering from leg pain for YEARS.

Look at this interview with Martial Arts Illustrated Magazine back in 2009.

“I got a serious knee injury when trying to make the Taekwondo team – I often get carried away with my competitive approach to sports! I” – Flex Wheeler did injure his leg while exploring his new interest in Olympic Taekwondo.

But that’s where it ends. Later on in the interview, Flex Wheeler is asked if his knee/leg injury affects him, and he never ‘directly’ answered the question. He instead talked about his recovery and how his shoulder injury impacted him.

While, again, this wasn’t the single reason behind the flex wheeler leg amputation, it’s important to note.

The human body is incredibly strong, but repeated injuries are almost like cracks in the foundation of a house. At one point, another injury may topple the entire building.

2003 – Kidney Transplant

Flex Wheeler really just has a difficult life. In 2003, Flex Wheeler underwent a kidney transplant.

A very kind woman at his church, The International Church of Christ in Los Angeles, donated Flex Wheeler the kidney.

Kidney transplants are very rare, and this demonstrated that essentially his renal (kidney) system was very close to failing. At this point, it’s very bad for Flex Wheeler.

Around this time in 2003, he announced his retirement from bodybuilding.

2017 – Flex Wheeler Gets Back Into Bodybuilding! (Wait, isn’t that HORRIBLE for his health?)

In 2017 Flex Wheeler got back into bodybuilding.

As we discussed earlier, isn’t this horrible for his health?

Yep. But if you’ve ever lifted- like can you blame him? Even right now as the gyms are reopening people are still flocking to them even if there is a HUGE risk of getting Coronavirus.

I can’t blame him for returning. There’s just something different about lifting weights and eating- seeing your body grow massively is just amazing.

But, this doesn’t mean his kidney disease went away. Unfortunately, we may be seeing a byproduct of it soon…

Generation Iron even created a video talking about how it’s a surprise flex wheeler is returning! Watch it here:

Without spoiling too much, in an interview flex wheeler did- he discussed how him getting back into bodybuilding at 2017 probably led to his leg being amputated.

2019 – A Collapsed Vein, and The Flex Wheeler Leg Amputation

In a shocking turn of events, rumors started to spread around many bodybuilding communities that flex wheeler had undergone an emergency leg amputation.

Many people didn’t believe it at first- and I truthfully didn’t either. I just thought it was a joke circulating around.

Turns out, it was very much true.

People started speculating theories, saying things, but let’s discuss what actually caused the flex wheeler leg amputation.

Did Steroid Use Cause The Flex Wheeler Leg Amputation?

It’s no secret that Flex Wheeler was on steroids. And I personally have nothing against anybody on steroids, so- call me unbiased about that.

Lethel Thurman is somewhat of a controversial guy in the bodybuilding community. But I respect it! He speaks his mind and is known for not holding back.

Lethel Thurman released a video talking about Flex Wheeler’s leg amputation here:

Lethel Thurman says that potentially he was injecting Synthol. He stated that the Synthol starts to strangle the blood vessels in the extremities.

This is important, as Flex Wheeler did state that he had a collapsed vein!

Was The Collapsed Vein From Kidney Surgery?

Something really important to be noted down is that it’s said the collapsed vein was caused from kidney surgery.

Now- this isn’t saying that the vein ruptured right after surgery. But, it’s saying that since his kidney surgery its’ been slowly deteriorating. (given it took 20 years to do it, not that bad)

And Shawn Ray did make comments about how much pain he was in- and said it was a long ongoing process before his vein was taken out.

But a key factor in all of this- shawn ray says it is a problem with his circulatory vascular system.

Fitness Feuds Analyzes Some Images

I discovered this channel- and boy will I say this off the bat: if you like scary videos, watch them.

They combine bodybuilding and horror into one genre.

Let me say, I do work a night-shift job. And watching his videos at 2 AM trying to write this article for you guys was really, to say the least- scary.

But he did an excellent write-up.

Fitness Feuds Analyzes Critical Limb Ischemia

Fitness Feuds made an interesting connection about critical limb ischemia.

So, as someone with a medical background, I’ll try to explain this as if you were a kindergartener. To make it simpler to understand.

Imagine you have a pipe in your house that isn’t working. But for some reason, you can’t really replace it. You might not have the materials, it’ll be super inconvenient, etc.

So you decide, to just basically connect that water pipe to a different water pipe. It’s getting the same water, although the path has changed.

This is the same thing they did with Flex Wheeler.

But the problem is, over time your arteries and veins become clogged. And when it becomes clogged, the blood flow becomes reduced. Naturally, as you’d expect, without blood things don’t go well.

This would be like a pipe getting junk like hair, sediment, build-up, salt, etc building up in it.

His Bodybuilding Photos SHOW His Critical Limb Ischemia

Fitness Feuds looks at a few pictures of Flex Wheeler’s bodybuilding, and just look at this!

Flex Wheelers legs in 1998, credit to the Fitness Feuds.
Flex Wheelers legs in 1998, credit to the Fitness Feuds.

So, those were his legs at his peak competition days. And nearly 8 years before his kidney transplant, and one year before his FSGS diagnosis.

If you saw these legs, you’d never guess in a million years you’d be reading a flex wheeler leg amputation post!

But look at his legs in 2017 when he went back to competing. This was nearly two decades after his kidney transplant and his diagnosis.

In 2017, Flex Wheeler's legs were significantly smaller. But notice how his right calf looks really unhealthy.
In 2017, Flex Wheeler’s legs were significantly smaller. But notice how his right calf looks really unhealthy.

Look at his right calf. It just looks way unhealthier. Plus, as Fitness Feuds pointed out, there is fluid retention in that image.

That means the vein is having a difficult time bringing blood back to the heart. That causes a nasty fluid buildup.

If your family has heart problems (see: me), you may know what an ‘edema’ is. Where your foot swells up because your heart isn’t strong enough to get some of the waste out.

Now edemas can come and go based on blood pressure, diet, etc. But when it comes to the vein or artery being clogged- there is unfortunately no going back.

Conclusion – What Caused The Flex Wheeler Leg Amputation?

While it isn’t exactly clear or defined what caused the flex wheeler leg amputation- let’s talk about what I think happened.

For starters, I think flex wheeler’s FSGS certainly caused his leg amputation- but it was not the only piece of the puzzle.

If Flex Wheeler had never gotten into the car accident, nor came back to bodybuilding, I doubt he would have lost his leg so fast.

The biggest problem here was his return to bodybuilding. He absolutely accelerated his FSGS related problems, flooding his kidneys with protein he could not filter out.

His car accident had damaged many parts of his body, reducing in damaged arteries and veins.

After his veins had sustained the damage, they started getting increasingly worse after his kidneys started to worsen with his return to bodybuilding.

Without ample blood flow, the vein/artery failed. His leg had to be amputated.

How is Flex Wheeler Doing Now?

I wish Flex Wheeler the best recovery. So far- it seems like he’s working with what he has right now. And that is AWESOME to hear.

Flex Wheeler uploads vlogs to his YouTube channel about his amputations, and I HIGHLY recommend you check them out!

For someone in his spot with FSGS and a new leg amputation, he seems really happy. He isn’t complaining or nothin’, he’s just staying postiive and that is incredibly respectable.

Stay positive Flex Wheeler. As Rich Piana said, you did what ever it takes!

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