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Cody Miller overcomes pectus challenges to join Olympic team

It seems inconceivable that four years have passed since the Olympic and Paralympic Games in London and, yet, here we are with the Rio Games just around the corner. And, we’re thrilled to see that one athlete in particular is proving that conditions like pectus excavatum don’t have to stop you chasing your dream.

Cody Miller is a US swimmer who, on 27 June, came second in the men’s 100 metre breaststroke at the 2016 US Olympic swimming trials, which means he’s qualified for the Olympic team.

Shortly after, Cody took to imgur.com – a viral gif- and photo-sharing website – to thank fans and talk about his pectus.

“Like a lot of you,” he wrote, “I have struggled with body image problems throughout my life. I struggled with my appearance from a young age. I was a kid who was afraid to take off his shirt in gym class… people thought I was weird. At swim meets, I walked around the pool deck awkwardly while people stared and pointed at me. I was weird and abnormal.”

Cody was born with pectus excavatum – also known as sunken chest – although the condition did not manifest itself until he was around 10 years old. Pectus causes a deformity in the anterior chest wall that pushes the breast bone inward, making it look like there is a large hole in the middle of the chest. 

It also puts pressure on a pectus patient’s respiratory system and in Cody’s case it’s believed to have reduced his breathing capacity by 12-20%. He is also asthmatic, although the two conditions are not connected.

Swimming is excellent for respiratory issues and Cody’s career in the pool began as a way of being able to monitor his heart and breathing rates. It wasn’t long before he was breaking records, though – as a member of the Sandpipers of Nevada Swim Club, Cody broke the National Age Group records for the boys 15-16-year-old 100-yard and 200-yard breaststroke. He later swam for Indiana University and went on to compete in the World Championships.

Cody faces other challenges, in that he is smaller and lighter than the average swimmer – five foot 11 inches and 170 pounds, versus Olympic gold medallist Michael Phelps' measurements of six foot four inches and 194 pounds. But, he isn’t letting any of that stand in the way of his dreams and he has become one of two athletes to be selected for his event.

Writing on imgur, Cody says, “I’ve realised this: no one is 100% satisfied with the way they look. Everyone has something about themselves they dislike. And that’s OK! Professional athletes, models… everyone has their own insecurities! I’ve embraced the fact that I have a giant hole in my chest! It’s OK!”

Issues around body image can be a tough, especially in the young, but Cody’s positive message is a timely reminder that we’re all unique and can achieve more than we thought possible – even in the face of physical adversity.

If your ambitions are sports-related and you’re looking for some help with an injury or debilitative condition, then contact LOC. We have a lot of experience in treatment of sports injuries, as well as helping people with pectus.

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