Athletes and cognition issues: how famous athletes have overcome dyslexia

professional athlete dyslexia

Dyslexia is a general term for disorders that involve difficulties in learning to read or interpret words, letters, and other symbols. Despite some cruel stereotypes, dyslexia does not affect general intelligence at all.professional athlete dyslexia

It is estimated that between 5% and 10% of the global population has some kind of dyslexia. Similarly, there are over 40 million American adults currently struggling with dyslexia, but only about 2 million are aware of these cognitive issues.

It can be difficult for someone who struggles with dyslexia to perform academic-related tasks, but other tasks can be quite taxing as well — especially when it comes to sports that involve intense planning, strategy, and perfect execution.

Golf is one of the only two sports that has ever been played on the moon, and millions of people around the world enjoy playing, but only a handful can actually make it to the top. For English golfer Tom Lewis, growing up with dyslexia caused him to struggle throughout his educational career. He dropped out of school at the age of 16. He wasn’t sure what to pursue after school, either.

“If golf doesn’t turn out to be my life, I’m going to struggle,” Lewis said as he broke onto the golf scene in 2011.

Surely he would have succeeded in all kinds of business ventures had he put his mind and effort into it, but golf certainly became his life and he became one of the most exciting golfers in the sport.

Though Tom Lewis is one of the most successful dyslexic athletes at the moment, there are, and have been, a lot more high-quality athletes who struggle with similar cognition issues.

From competitive two-sport athletes to hall of famers, dyslexia has been quite prevalent in sports throughout history. Here are some of the most successful athletes who have also performed with dyslexia during their careers:

  • Magic Johnson — From becoming one of the greatest Lakers of all-time to successfully owning the Los Angeles Dodgers MLB franchise, Magic has certainly proved the naysayers wrong, not only overcoming dyslexia but HIV as well. “The looks, the stares, the giggles… I wanted to show everybody that I could do better and also that I could read,” said Magic.
  • Tim Tebow — One of the greatest college football players of all-time was just named an all-star in AA baseball. Tebow has proved time and time again that anyone can achieve anything if they work hard enough at it.” You can be extremely bright and still have dyslexia,” said the 31-year-old Tebow. “You just have to understand how you learn and how you process information.”
  • Muhammad Ali — The greatest also struggled with dyslexia, despite being one of the most well-spoken athletes of the 1960s and 1970s. “Many of my teachers labeled me dumb,” Ali said. “I could barely read my textbooks.” Of course, his problems with dyslexia didn’t stop him from having one of the most prestigious careers not just in sports, but in human history.
  • Pete Rose — Though the MLB Hall of Fame has yet to invite Rose into the Hall amid his gambling scandal, Rose is without a doubt an incredible athlete. Dyslexia certainly didn’t hold him back as he won three World Series rings, a Most Valuable Player Award, two Gold Gloves, and a Rookie of the Year Award.
  • Greg Louganis — Olympic gold medalist and author, Louganis had to not only overcome dyslexia but the people who bullied him for it in school. He wasn’t aware of his medical condition until his freshman year of college — now, he’s learned to thrive. “When I do public speaking, I have an outline, a list of bullet points. That’s how I manage my public speaking,” he said.

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