In Retirement, Olympian Missy Franklin Can Now Barely Swim

Nearly two years ago, five-time Olympic champ and eleven-time World champ Missy Franklin of the United States announced her retirement from competitive swimming at the age of 23.

Since then, Franklin has been active on the philanthropic front, as a USA Swimming Foundation ambassador and a Laureus Academy member, among other roles. However, her time in the pool is now characterized by merely short stints here and there, which is as much as her injured body can handle in retirement.

Speaking recently to People Magazine, Franklin says, “I mean, my shoulders are in so much pain that I can maybe hop in the pool and swim easy for 20, 30 minutes, but that’s about as much as my old broken shoulders can handle at this point.”

After unequivocally declaring “absolutely not” when asked if returning to competitive swimming was in her future, Franklin said, “I kind of feel like I’ve given everything I possibly could to the sport and now it’s to do good outside of the water.

“I never got the second shoulder surgery that I needed and I just — I don’t really see getting back in the water at this point in my life being the best thing for my physical or my mental health.”

During the years of 2012 to 2013, Franklin was one of the most dominant female swimmers in history, claiming four gold medals and a bronze at the 2012 Olympic Games. She followed that up with a record six gold medals in seven events at the 2013 World Championships.

However, back spasms threw her journey off course at the 2014 Pana Pacific Championships, with her 2015 World Championships performance slipping to an individual silver and bronze, with an additional three relay medals. Franklin made the 2016 U.S. Olympic team but didn’t medal individually. She took gold with the 4×200 free relay as a prelims swimmer.

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Cody Miller's dolphin kick(s)
9 months ago

This is so sad

Olympian
Reply to  Cody Miller's dolphin kick(s)
9 months ago

It is, was she faking back then when she used to repeat so many times that she was having so much fun racing??

Texas
Reply to  Olympian
9 months ago

She probably did like it when she was winning.

To olympian
Reply to  Texas
9 months ago

Olympian sounds bitter

Olympian
Reply to  To olympian
9 months ago

Not at all, just went through the same thing during my career…
And in my case, most times keeping a positive attitude for the sake of my teammates was the hardest part.

D2 Swammer
Reply to  Olympian
9 months ago

That’s why I had to stop. I wasn’t in physical pain but I was the upbeat guy on the team and I was at the point where I would be so anxious I felt like I was about to vomit for days before the meet and during meets. The emotional toil of hiding that for the sake of morale just got the better of me. Hopefully I’ll be able to do masters and not struggle with that in a few years.

Anonymous
Reply to  Olympian
9 months ago

It’s not so much fun when your body is in excruciating pain

Coach MM
Reply to  Olympian
9 months ago

I bet she was having fun racing but not training. You can go through a race without noticing much of pain. But you can’t escape the pain during training.

Greg
Reply to  Olympian
9 months ago

I don’t think her shoulders hurt like they do know at 2012 Olympics. I suspect that the shoulder issues came in the last couple of years of her career.

Ferb
Reply to  Greg
9 months ago

…Right around the time she started swimming for Cal.

Swim mom
Reply to  Olympian
9 months ago

She just grew up and is in a different place now?

Texas Tap Water
Reply to  Olympian
9 months ago

Yozhik, is that you

TheShortSwimmer
Reply to  Olympian
9 months ago

Maybe, I dont know. Personally, I dont think she wanted to stop, but she had no choice.

Anonymous
Reply to  Cody Miller's dolphin kick(s)
9 months ago

She could help the swim community a ton if she invested time into telling us how she thinks this happened. It’s so sad and I think parents would be interested in avoiding it. When my kids were younger, I always wondered if their shoulders or something else will be trashed by age 30. I would definitely appreciate a deep investigation of possible things that can be avoided by younger swimmers. Or if she thinks the problems may have happened later, what variety of things may have lead to this. We ❤️ you Missy!

50free
9 months ago

How did her shoulders get so bad? Over training or poor technique?

Swimmer A
Reply to  50free
9 months ago

It can also be physiology. I dealt with a lot of shoulder and hip problems during and after my swimming career. Just born with really loose labrums in my shoulders and hips. It probably gave me extended range while I was swimming, but also was my downfall.

NoFlyKick
Reply to  Swimmer A
9 months ago

Yup.

Eddie Rowe
Reply to  50free
9 months ago

Her technique was always pretty amazing. Most likely just overuse.

Coach Mike 1952
Reply to  Eddie Rowe
9 months ago

I recall the underwater streams of her 200y Free American record from NC2’s. She went out in 47.7, & watching her pull – it was amazing. Anyone else recall that?

meeeee
Reply to  50free
9 months ago

Maybe her coach needs to chime in? Our club has been very militant about shoulder pre-hab and has a pretty good track record. I know it isn’t a guarantee.

Coach
Reply to  meeeee
9 months ago

How does this get down voted?

Carly
Reply to  50free
9 months ago

And genetics/anatomy plays a big role, too. There were times I wondered if my own shoulder pain was all in my head, but then my younger brother (a rower) ended up needing the same surgeries at the same age. There are some things you just can’t escape!

Sean S
Reply to  Carly
9 months ago

Stress level can also contribute to pain and inflammation she was dealing with a ton of stress post London.

Captain Ahab
Reply to  50free
9 months ago

Over training and poor technique was not her problem. It could be the fact that she put on a lot of weight from high school to college, bad rotary breathing rotary while doing front crawl in practice, and not drinking at least 2 liters of water everyday. She needs to have a doctor take a close look at her anterior cervical spine, sternocleidomastoid muscles, scalene muscles, t5 spine, c7 spine, and L5 spine. For whatever reason (slip, fall, posture, alignment) sometimes vertebrate start to shift out of alignments and causes shoulder pain. That’s why I recommend swimmers to find a good chiropractor and get neck adjustments every 4 weeks.

Bruh
Reply to  Captain Ahab
9 months ago

c’mon. not cool man lets support her rather than making unsupported claims

Dudeman
Reply to  Captain Ahab
9 months ago

Did you really toss in not drinking water as to why her shoulders and back got injured on top of all that?

DawgTalk
Reply to  Captain Ahab
9 months ago

Totally disagree. Her 200 free at NC’s was, in my opinion, still one of the most dominant performances in the history of college swimming. She didn’t lose anything when she went to college.

Eastcoast
9 months ago

This is an incredibly sad article but I do not think it should overshadow the success Missy has had, and continues to have in her retirement. She has been an amazing role model for all swimmers.

Jason Zajonc
Reply to  Eastcoast
9 months ago

What an amazing swimmer and role model. She made it to the top as a athlete. I wish her nothing but the very best. I am 47 and i had shoulder pain from younger days swimming in the NCAA’s…miles and miles does that to certain people for a million reasons. I don’t blam her for not wanting to get another surgery…they are not fun…and she did what she did so let’s all let her enjoy retirement…HEY GREAT Job!!!!

Gator
9 months ago

This is all over the internet- clearly coordinated. Missy please support the sport. Blame yourself, not swimming.

No pools
Reply to  Gator
9 months ago

What in the world is she supposed to blame herself for? She is an injured athlete who gave all of herself to others for years to promote the sport. Now she’s just telling her own story. She’s not blaming the sport. She has been an ambassador for the sport. What you should simply say is thank you Missy and I wish you all the best. To Missy: I know how you feel. I went through a lot of what you are feeling now too. You are human. Please heal yourself in whatever way you can. ❤️

Gator
Reply to  No pools
9 months ago

Your monicker says it all….

John
Reply to  Gator
9 months ago

who hurt you my friend?

Ol' Longhorn
Reply to  John
9 months ago

Lesley Stahl.

6-Beat Kick
Reply to  Gator
9 months ago

Get out.

tea rex
Reply to  Gator
9 months ago

Blame herrself? For not having bionic shoulders?

seriously
Reply to  Gator
9 months ago

people need to stop taking this guy’s bait, he’s obviously not serious

SwimSam
Reply to  Gator
9 months ago

Tasteless take, she was and continues to be a great ambassador and role model for the sport, and I can’t imagine how she feels about being forced away from competition due to injuries. We don’t all get to end our careers the way we want, but considering how hers ended I’d say she took it in stride.

swimfan210_
Reply to  Gator
9 months ago

That was hurtful and disrespectful. She probably enjoyed swimming until she had struggles with injuries/depression. And according to the article she still gave back to swimming through charities/foundations. All in all she probably had a positive impact on the sport, she shouldn’t blame herself for this.

Walter
Reply to  Gator
9 months ago

It’s a People article picked up by news aggregators. Do you know how the Internet works?

hambone
Reply to  Gator
9 months ago

Gator be a hater

Kirk Nelson
Reply to  Gator
9 months ago

It all seems a bit overblown to me. She said she “never got the second shoulder surgery that I needed…”  It doesn’t really read to me like she’s blaming the sport. Injuries are a part of all sports and at some point many athletes realize they need to make a decision.

Mike
9 months ago

Sorry to hear this. She is a great champion and a wonderful ambassador for the sport. I wish her all the best!

Wondering
9 months ago

Likewise…

SwimPop
9 months ago

The price of greatness. Training at world class levels through puberty and beyond can’t be good on one’s body but I’m guessing she wouldn’t have changed that for the world.

A number of years back I was doing rehab and was going in early before work. Merlin Olson came in one day, had just come into town. After a few mornings we got to talking. He explained that for him to walk and lead a somewhat normal life he needed a full 45 minute routine on his knees, every morning. His knees looked like pitted cement. He also mentioned that he had no regrets and all of the opportunities he had came from his years on the field. … Read more »

Anonymous
Reply to  SwimPop
9 months ago

I remember stories like this about Jerome Bettis, and the stories they would show of the toll it took to get through a game week. Toward the end of his career, he was literally only doing a walkthrough once a week and just rehabbing his knees.
How much of this is from lifting weights at the younger ages? I see the jacked arms and have heard stories of swimmers lifting at 14/15/16 several times a week. Parents will say “You have to if you want to get recruited” and “it’s the only way to compete and get the times that colleges want”. Is it really though, and at what price?

Jay Ryan
Reply to  Anonymous
9 months ago

Or the great power running back for UT and the Houston Oilers, Earl Campbell. A total beast on the field, now hobbled by crippling arthritis.

swimgeek
Reply to  Jay Ryan
9 months ago

Folks, that’s like the third or fourth football comparison. Swimming certainly comes with its share of overuse injuries, which are unfortunate — but we’re not breaking bones, blowing out knees, and getting head injuries on a regular basis. That’s actually one of the big selling points of swimming is that it’s not a violent sport, and you can do it into old age.

PVSFree
Reply to  Anonymous
9 months ago

The incentive for a lot of swimmers in high school is to get as fast as possible as quickly as possible to secure a scholarship. There’s not much incentive to look at what’s best for long term development if it doesn’t seriously benefit you in the short term BECAUSE you might not even get the opportunity to continue your career.

I think that’s why you tend to see a lot of mid-tier swimmers plateau in college as opposed to other sports where there are a lot more opportunities to continue your career after college. I’m willing to bet the rate of plateaus in swimming is much higher than it is in football. Football players have a wealth of opportunities… Read more »

jim
9 months ago

I mean, the question becomes, “Was it all worth it?” The answer is probably yes, to have reached the top of the swimming mountain, but i always wonder, for every Missy who does reach the pinnacle, how many other swimmers, pushed as hard as they at younger ages were by coaches not considering their lives after swimming?? And wind up hating the sport because they blew out their shoulders trying to do what their coach asked of them. I think Todd Schmitz is a great coach, but by the time she did reach college, her shoulders were shot. Ive personally seen many swimmers who left the sport with a sour taste because they physically couldn’t keep up with what was… Read more »

Donald Spellman
Reply to  jim
9 months ago

Again, not 100% accurate statements.
Her back problems and shoulder issues started at Cal after she changed training programs and left what protocols Tood had in place at the STARS in Colorado.

Ol' Longhorn
Reply to  Donald Spellman
9 months ago

And then she went back to STARS and got worse. So what’s your point?

Coach
Reply to  Donald Spellman
9 months ago

What is a Tood?

Coach
Reply to  Donald Spellman
9 months ago

I mean…Can’t you spell man?

Hunter Wants His Laptop Back
Reply to  jim
9 months ago

@Steve Nolan: That’s a pretty solid comment that puts her maladies in perspective. Best wishes to Missy!

About Retta Race

Retta Race

Swim analyst, businesswoman.

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