Athletes Who Underwent Plastic Surgery

Aesthetic procedures have long been commonplace in the showbiz industry. As is often sadly the case, stars' insecurities manifest in plastic surgery and can thus have the opposite of the desired outcome, leaving their careers in tatters as they're left near unrecognizable. But plastic surgery is perhaps not as closely associated with the sporting world. For sportspersons, there is less emphasis on appearances and more on athletic ability. However, athletes are not immune to taking certain measures to modify their physical traits.

For female sportspersons in particular, media scrutiny can lead to increased anxiety, as there is pressure to not only succeed at performance, but to translate this excellence to marketing and promotional opportunities. And, as body dysmorphia among men is on the rise, an increasing number of male athletes have also sought to attain physical perfection. This is especially true of sportsmen who are expected to project a polished muscular physique; as The Guardian notes, "This ideal male – hyper-masculine, militaristic, strong above all else" has been promoted across the globe. And for those who feel their gym routine isn't enough to attain their final form, the idea of surgical enhancements may become more enticing.

Plastic surgery isn't always the result of insecurity, though. Reconstructive surgery is essential for many sportspersons, particularly those who find themselves frequently receiving knockout blows in the ring or body slams on the field. So, let's take a deep dive into athletes who underwent plastic surgery.

Chyna

Noted for her strength and physicality, the former-bodybuilder-turned-WWE-star Chyna was famed for bucking the trend for many women wrestlers. She was one of the few female wrestlers who competed with men, which, at a time of rampant hypersexualized women in the industry, made her an anomaly. The athlete even won the WWE Intercontinental title, becoming the only woman to date to have done so (per WWE). Despite her athletic achievements, Chyna was plagued by anxiety regarding her looks.

Sadly, the wrestling star struggled with body issues for the majority of her life. She was deeply insecure about what she deemed to be her masculine appearance and spent much of her time chasing a dream of a feminine ideal. According to The Washington Post, she underwent facial feminization surgery to soften her strong jawline. Still unhappy with her looks, she also had breast enhancement surgery, with her implants dubbed "Chyna 2000s," per Slam Sports. "I had the muscle, but I didn't have the cleavage," she told the outlet. "I wanted to be more feminine." In 2012, her appearance was once again drastically altered, with her jaw seemingly having been shaven down further (via Pro Wrestling Mania).

Shortly before her tragic and untimely death in 2016, Chyna appeared on the reality series "Botched" to receive more plastic surgery. According to TMZ, she was dissatisfied with her original implants and sought to correct them. The procedure, which was subsidized by the show, cost $80,000, per the New Zealand Herald.

Evander Holyfield

Of all the unforgettable boxing moments, nothing quite comes close to Mike Tyson biting off part of Evander Holyfield's ear. In 1997, the tough twosome were hyped for their big rematch. Following a headbutt from Holyfield, which was deemed accidental by the referee, an increasingly frustrated Tyson decided to bite his opponent's ear, tearing off a portion of cartilage (via The New York Times). ”He spit out his mouthpiece and bit me in the ear. I breathed deep, came back out and he bit me again,” Holyfield said at the time. The boxer was hospitalized and had to undergo reconstructive plastic surgery, as UPI reported. Unrelenting, Tyson said that he would do it again, despite having lost his boxing license due to the brutal attack (per BBC).

Reflecting on the incident in 2014, Holyfield told the Los Angeles Times that it took him a while to recover from the trauma of the attack. "All your nerves are in your ears," he said. "It's kind of shocking when you get bit in the ear. It ain't a good thing. Getting bit just ain't right." Although he underwent hours of surgery, doctors were never able to reattach the piece of missing ear, so his helix remains permanently scarred.

Despite years of bad blood, Holyfield and Tyson have since moved past the ear-biting debacle. In 2022, the pair launched a line of CBD products dubbed Holy Ears, which are shaped like — you guessed it — partially bitten ears (via CNBC).

Cristiano Ronaldo

Soccer star Cristiano Ronaldo is famed for his impossibly pristine looks. Despite steadily approaching 40, his skin is taut to an almost waxy finish, leading to much speculation that he has undergone plastic surgery. As The Sun points out, Ronaldo wasn't always the walking airbrushing ad that he is now. In his younger years, he sported crooked teeth (which the soccer player has reportedly admitted to rectifying with sparkling veneers), a broader nose, lower forehead, and — shock, horror — expression lines. According to surgeon Alex Karidis, Ronaldo likely underwent thousands of dollars' worth of plastic surgery and cosmetic procedures to perfect his famous visage. "Fillers plump up an area where time has deepened the lines, such as smile lines around the mouth," the doc explained regarding Ronaldo's unattainably flawless face. "Ronaldo's face is smooth there now which could be because of fillers which are injected in fluid form into the skin."

But it's not just his face that he's been enhancing with aesthetic treatments. The former Man United player has also been allegedly tending to his, ahem, man parts. According to Spanish newspaper Marca, Ronaldo had Botox injected into his genitals. Dr. Esteban Sarmentero told the publication that the procedure, dubbed Scrotox, is used to smooth out the natural lines present in the testicles, while also enhancing the size of the region. Unfortunately, however, the effects of the treatment are not permanent, so Ronaldo can expect to find himself back in the doctor's seat every six months.

Dwayne Johnson

From the age of 12, Dwayne "The Rock" Johnson has been hitting the gym. In a YouTube video posted on his official account, he explained that he sought to attain a muscular physique at a young age, inspired by his father's penchant for a hefty workout. The wrestler turned actor did achieve his goal, his form representing an idealized masculinity. However, there was one issue that no amount of working out could rectify.

Like so many men, Johnson has struggled with body insecurities. For many years, he lived with gynecomastia, colloquially referred to as "man boobs." According to a 2009 study, gynecomastia is a common condition caused by excessive fat in the male chest area. Although benign, the condition can lead to anxiety and insecurities for many men, namely due to societal stigma around perceived feminine attributes.

According to the podcast "Something To Wrestle With" (via Ringside News), Johnson had chest reduction surgery in 1999; this is why he famously wore a shirt in the ring during his first stint as WWE champion. Speaking to the Parker Center for Plastic Surgery, Johnson said that he decided to have the surgery since his work with both the WWE and the movie biz required him to be topless on a regular basis. "It was an aesthetic thing," he explained. "I went in and showed the doctor, and he said, 'Are you crazy?' I was walking around with my shirt off all the time, so I had it done."

Simona Halep

Romanian tennis star Simona Halep is a Wimbledon and French Open champ. But had she not undergone plastic surgery at a young age, her career may have panned out very differently. At 17, Halep decided to have breast reduction surgery, per the New York Post. She believed the procedure was vital for her future career prospects, since her large chest often proved troublesome on the court. "It's the weight that troubles me," she explained. "My ability to react quickly, my breasts make me uncomfortable when I play." Nevertheless, Halep said that she would have undergone the surgical procedure even if she hadn't pursued a career as a professional tennis player, as she found her chest too cumbersome.

However, speaking to Sports Illustrated, she admitted that the surgery was the biggest sacrifice of her career. "When I did it, I did it for tennis," she said. "Maybe doing that was really important to today be No. 1... But you know, I don't feel that I made sacrifices by being here or playing tennis because I really like this sport, and it's never tough to go and practice." As The Guardian points out, the tennis star has helped raise awareness of an issue that affects many women. Although large breasts are often fetishized in the media, they can also have negative repercussions, potentially causing back pain, headaches, and sleep disorders. Ultimately, Halep's experience is a reminder of the importance in taking ownership of your body and being comfortable in your own skin.

Wayne Rooney

Retired British soccer star Wayne Rooney first shot to fame as a teen, ranked in the top three highest Premier League goal scorers of all time. Since his early 20s, Rooney exhibited a receding hairline. Accordingly, he decided to have a hair transplant.

Rooney has been pretty open about his plastic surgery experience. In 2011, he confirmed on Twitter that he had undergone his first transplant procedure after feeling insecure about losing his locks at such a young age. "I was going bald at 25 why not?" he wrote. "I'm delighted with the result." The Guardian argued that Rooney's decision to have a transplant was reflective of pervasive stigma faced by men with receding hairlines.

Unfortunately, the transplant didn't take, and he had to undergo a second procedure two years later (via the Daily Mail). As the Belgravia Center points out, this can happen sometimes when hair follicles fail to regrow. And a decade after his first transplant, Rooney still appears to be balding. Hair specialist Spencer Stevenson explained to the Daily Star that the former soccer player will likely need further treatment in future to retain a lush hairline. "Wayne Rooney's hair transplant is very good but he's simply got fine hair and had a large area to cover," he said. "Over time he will have lost more native hair naturally, not the hair from his hair transplant." Whether he decides to undergo further transplants or not, it's Rooney's athletic talents, not his hair, that people will remember.

Nick Diaz

MMA is a notoriously brutal sport. From its early Wild West days, essentially entailing no rules, to its more controlled (albeit extremely violent) modern incarnation, MMA can take its toll on a competitor in any weight division. For Nick Diaz, being embroiled in one too many bouts of Brazilian jiu-jitsu had a devastating impact on his face. As such, he elected to have plastic surgery to mend the many lasting injuries inflicted upon his visage.

In 2008, Diaz had surgery to lessen the scar tissue that had built up considerably over his career, per Sports Illustrated. This propensity for scar tissue was caused by the fighter's distinctly sharp brow bones. Accordingly, surgery was vital not only for the MMA star's future career prospects, but also his overall wellbeing. "[The plastic surgeon] said that Nick's ocular bones are extremely sharp, and he's always going to cut and keep building up scar tissue," his trainer, Cesar Gracie, explained. "So, fortunately, the plastic surgeon was able to remedy that by filing it down and making it smooth like someone that doesn't cut." 

Subsequently, the battered tissue was replaced by cadaver tissue, giving Diaz a better chance in the ring against someone who isn't genetically predisposed to getting cut, per Wired. The procedure was a success, with Diaz later being hailed the Welterweight Strikeforce Champion. As Bleacher Report notes, the surgery was purely practical as opposed to aesthetic or vanity-based, since the MMA star left his famously broken nose intact.

Alexa Bliss

The WWE has an unfortunate history of sexism. Famously, the company's "divas" (female wrestlers) were often demeaned and reduced to their physical attributes. Understandably, there is immense pressure on female performers to conform to an idealized, if not impossible, avatar of beauty. Alexa Bliss arrived in the WWE at a time when the company was slowly starting to shift away from such restrictive roles for women. A two-time Women's Smackdown champ, Bliss nevertheless faced backlash for her looks, with many accusing her of having breast augmentation. But Bliss' plastic surgery story predates her time at the WWE.

In a "WWE 365" special (via Wrestle Talk), Bliss explained that she had breast enhancement surgery at the tender age of 17. At the time, she was recovering from an eating disorder, from which she almost died. But recovery resulted in her dealing with a different kind of insecurity: Bliss noticed that she had been left flat-chested. Feeling that her body was not womanly enough, she elected to undergo surgery, receiving the full support of her pediatrician, psychologist, and psychiatrist. "I will never regret doing that for myself because it helped me get over my eating disorder and my body image issues," she reflected. Bliss also had reconstructive surgery on her nose after a series of brutal bouts in the ring. "After six broken noses it finally collapsed," she told T95 The Rock Station.

If you need help with an eating disorder, or know someone who is, help is available. Visit the National Eating Disorders Association website or contact NEDA's Live Helpline at 1-800-931-2237. You can also receive 24/7 Crisis Support via text (send NEDA to 741-741).

René Higuita

Retired Colombian goalkeeper René Higuita was a force to reckon with in the '90s. With an incredible international track record, the soccer star was more than just a goalkeeper, per Bleacher Report. Never afraid to branch into an attacking role, he ranks as one of the most prolific goalies of all time. But he is perhaps most famous for inventing the scorpion kick, which he performed when clearing the ball off the goal line in an exhibition game against England in 1995, effortlessly using his heels to save the ball (via the BBC).

For all his athletic prowess, the soccer player has been open about his self-esteem issues, which were exacerbated by bullying from the public. For instance, he was once voted "Colombia's Ugliest Icon," which was the catalyst for him undergoing various plastic surgery procedures on live television in 2005, per The Guardian. "I am tired of being ugly René, I want to be handsome René," he said in a devastating admission.

His surgery was documented on the Colombian reality show "Cambio Extremo." His surgery included a rhinoplasty, "a silicon chin implant, skin peel, eyelid skin cut away, 'aggressive' liposuction and abdominal muscle enhancement" (via The Observer). As The Mirror points out, he now looks unrecognizable. However, Higuita wasn't entirely happy with his looks post-surgery. According to El Universal, he accused the surgeons who carried out the operations of leaving him with multiple facial scars.

Layshia Clarendon

Plastic surgery isn't always rooted in insecurity. For many transgender and nonbinary people, surgery as a form of gender affirmation is vital healthcare. For instance, a 2022 study found that top surgery significantly improved the lives and wellbeing of trans and nonbinary individuals. Basketball star Layshia Clarendon, who identifies as nonbinary, revealed that they had top surgery in 2022. 

On Instagram, Clarendon expressed their elation at having received gender affirming healthcare. "It's hard to put into words the feeling of seeing my chest for the first time free of breasts, seeing my chest the way I've always seen it, and feeling a sense of gender euphoria as opposed to gender ⁣dysphoria," they wrote. "Sighhhh... freedom... freedom at last." On Twitter, ⁣WNBA commissioner Cathy Engelbert praised Clarendon for raising awareness of trans healthcare and inspiring LGBT+ youth by going public with their surgery.

However, Clarendon has made it clear that surgery is not intrinsic to a trans or nonbinary person's value. Speaking to GQ, they explained that those who haven't yet had surgery — or simply don't want to — are no less valid in their gender identity. Subsequently, they said that the decision to undergo surgery should be a personal one rooted in how comfortable one is with their body. "Top surgery didn't make me any more validly trans and nonbinary," they stated. "It speaks to the way we view bodies and the way we view transition." Clarendon's story is a lesson — and celebration — in embracing one's authentic self.

Mike Tindall

Though he is best known as the husband of the erstwhile Zara Phillips and son-in-law of Princess Anne, Mike Tindall was an immensely talented rugby player. In his heyday, he won the Rugby World Cup for England in 2003, per Metro. Unfortunately, despite an illustrious career, he also suffered numerous blows while playing the notoriously boisterous sport. This resulted in his nose being damaged and lopsided, as is common with rugby players. Subsequently, he had plastic surgery. According to "Good Morning Britain," he got a new nose in time for Prince Harry and Meghan Markle's wedding.

During an appearance on "Loose Men," Tindall explained that plastic surgery on both his nose and teeth was necessary, as he was struggling to breathe. In fact, his nose had been so twisted from rugby tackles that it rested below his eye. "I was stopping breathing during sleep and stuff so it needed to be done," he explained. "I also had my teeth done, but I also needed that because they, like, crossed and they looked like a bag of chips." He warned against rugby players not using mouth shields as it was his reluctance to wear one that led to his teeth becoming mangled. However, since he was unable to breathe through his nose, wearing a mouth guard was out of the question. "One day in South Africa, Francois Steyn smashed me in the head, into my teeth," he recalled. "That's it. They're gone. Free medical. Perfect – get a new set!"

Rebecca Adlington

A powerhouse, British swimmer Rebecca Adlington has won multiple gold medals at the Olympics. Unfortunately, despite being a prolific and talented athlete, she has often been reduced to her looks. Scottish shock comedian Frankie Boyle famously targeted Adlington on a number of occasions, remarking that she resembles someone looking at their reflection in a spoon and expressing his astonishment that the swimmer was dating a handsome man (leading to a vulgar analogy). BBC execs admitted to being unhappy with the jibes, per The Guardian.

During an appearance on reality show "I'm A Celebrity Get Me Out Of Here!" in 2013, Adlington addressed the cruel bullying she faced. "I was an athlete. I wasn't trying to be a model," she explained. "Yet pretty much every single week on Twitter I get somebody comment on the way I look." Having faced such toxic public scrutiny, the swimmer decided to have plastic surgery. In 2014, she had a rhinoplasty at London's elite Harley Street to make her nose smaller, as The Mirror reports.

However, speaking to the Daily Mail following the procedure, she admitted that she was still feeling insecure about her looks. "I'm definitely happier with how I look now," she said. "But I wouldn't necessarily say happy. I think you still always see the same thing when you look in the mirror." Sadly, Adlington's experience is a lesson in the harmful ramifications of bullying.