Olympic athlete Lawrence Okoye recently posted a video to TikTok showing how his legs had basically turned to playdoh. People began commenting saying he had water retention and that perhaps his kidneys, heart or other organs were failing. It turns out he had a condition from a bacterial infection called cellulitis.
How An Olympian Contracted Cellulitis
Lawrence Okoye is a 31-year-old former Olympic discus thrower who competed in the 2012 summer games in London. He also worked as a trainer of sorts for several NFL teams. Essentially, this man is one that spends a lot of time in the gym. (1)
Recently, however, he posted a video to his TikTok showing that something was obviously up with his health. In the video, he showed himself pressing indents into a very swollen right lower leg. He commented saying that his leg looked like it had turned into PlayDoh. Naturally, the comments section filled up fast with people concerned for his well being. People were quick to point out that this was water retention. They then just as quickly jumped to many worst-case-scenario situations: Kidney failure, liver failure, heart failure, cancer, and the like.
Okoye did go and see the doctor, after which he updated his fans and followers. No, he was not experiencing any kind of organ failure. What he had was a condition called cellulitis.
“I had a leg injury a few days ago and the wound got infected with bacteria, which causes redness, swelling and that pitted edema that you saw, which was me basically making craters in my leg,” he said in the follow-up video. “It’s easily treatable, just a week’s worth of antibiotics and some rest and I should be back to normal.”
What is Cellulitis?
Cellulitis is an infection caused by bacteria leaking into the body through cuts or wounds in the skin. Though it is not immediately life-threatening, if left untreated, it can become that way. It can spread quickly through the bloodstream to affect other parts of the body, including the heart and lungs. Cellulitis is often caused by Strep A or B bacteria, but there are many other strains that can cause this condition as well. (2)
The infection is typically localized to the skin, but it can spread through the bloodstream to affect other parts of the body. It is commonly seen in people with weakened immune systems, such as those with diabetes and cancer. Cellulitis can be especially dangerous for pregnant women because it can cause premature labor or miscarriage if not treated quickly.
How do you get cellulitis?
Cellulitis is usually caused by an injury or cut that allows bacteria to enter your skin and start an infection under the surface of your skin (subcutaneous). You may not even know you have cellulitis until it becomes severe and starts spreading throughout your body via your bloodstream. The most common causes of cellulitis are:
- Contact with a cut or wound on another person’s skin that is infected with bacteria (such as strep)
- Skin breakdown caused by diabetes, pressure sores and infections
- Injuries to the limbs can lead to deep wounds where bacteria can enter your body
What Are The Symptoms of Cellulitis?
Cellulitis can be painful and cause an itchy sensation. You may also experience flu-like symptoms such as fever, chills and fatigue. Other symptoms include:
- Red streaks spreading from the original cut or wound
- Swollen lymph nodes in your armpits, groin, or neck
- Warmth in the area where you have cellulitis
- Edema, or swelling in the affected area
How Do Doctors Treat Cellulitis?
The best way to treat cellulitis is with antibiotics prescribed by your doctor. Along with those, plenty of rest will help your immune system fight off any lingering infections. If you have cellulitis in your legs, your doctor may prescribe a medication called ancrod. This works by decreasing blood flow to the affected area, which reduces swelling and inflammation. You can also help reduce the chance of developing cellulitis by keeping wounds clean and covered with a bandage until they heal properly.
The Bottom Line
Anytime you notice a change in your health or something about your body that doesn’t seem right, don’t wait. Go talk to your doctor right away. As was in Okoye’s case, the infection was not so advanced and was easily treatable with antibiotics. There was no long-term damage done and he will be back to his regular self in a few days. If he had let that infection go untreated, however, it could have been a very different story. Don’t wait – Keep tabs on your body and health and don’t let things go until it’s too late.
- “I’m an Olympian — a deadly infection made my legs like ‘Play-Doh’.” NY Post. Brooke Kato. February 14, 2023.
- “Cellulitis: All You Need to Know.” CDC