Express & Star

Charles’s sporting injuries and minor operations over the years

The prince, who suffers from a bad back, gave up playing polo in 2005.


The Prince of Wales has always generally enjoyed good health – with most of his injuries due to his sporting pursuits.

Charles, 71, keeps active with hill walking and gardening, but does suffer from back pain, attributed to numerous falls from horses over the years while playing polo.

In March last year, as Charles and the Duchess of Cornwall began an official tour to the Caribbean, they were photographed by the paparazzi relaxing on a beach in Barbados in their swimming costumes.

Royal visit to Cornwall
The Prince of Wales walking near Boscastle National Trust Visitor Centre in 2019 (Ben Birchall/PA)

The prince won praise for his lithe figure and his on-trend 12-year-old floral trunks.

In 2008, he had a non-cancerous growth removed from the bridge of his nose in a minor, routine procedure, and in 2003 had a hernia operation at the private King Edward VII’s Hospital in London, the medical institution favoured by the royals.

The prince joked “Hernia today, gone tomorrow” to waiting media after being discharged the next day.

The Prince of Wales with a small plaster on the side of his nose after a minor procedure in 2008 (Barry Batchelor/PA)

The heir to the throne never travels without a special cushion, usually a tartan one, for his back which he uses to ease the pain, and takes it with him on royals tours.

A red velvet one is always placed on the prince’s chair during state banquets at Buckingham Palace.

Royal cushions
The seat cushions belonging to Charles as they arrived for a traditional Japanese Kubuki performance, at the Keio University in central Tokyo in 2008 (John Stillwell/PA)

In 2003, on an engagement at a Sikh temple in Southall, he told the congregation that he may need a little of their expert care as he sat on the hard floor.

“I don’t think I have ever needed an osteopath so much as I have today,” he joked.

“My back is not altogether geared to sitting on the floor so I may need some help on my way out.”

Southall temple
The Prince of Wales joked he found it difficult to sit on the floor while visiting the Sri Guru Singh Sabha Gurdwara Sikh Temple, in Southall in 2003 (PA)

Charles, who also adheres to conventional medical treatment, has always been an advocate of alternative and complementary medicines, including homeopathy.

He is patron of the regulatory body the General Osteopathic Council.

In the past he has urged health ministers to adopt a more holistic approach to tackling health problems.

He retired after more than 40 years of playing polo in 2005, having notched up an impressive array of injuries.

Charles playing polo in 1984 (PA)

In 1980, the prince was thrown and kicked by his pony during a polo match at Windsor and needed six stitches.

A two-inch crescent scar on his left cheek bears witness to the narrow escape.

On another occasion, he was hit in the throat, causing him to lose his voice for 10 days.

Charles, with Harry in 1999, is also an accomplished skier (PA)

Charles resisted pressure to give up polo after he collapsed in 1980 at the end of a game in Florida and had to be put on a saline drip.

In 1986, skiing at Klosters on one of Europe’s most dangerous runs, he strayed off piste with his party and narrowly escaped the avalanche which killed a close friend, Major Hugh Lindsay, a former equerry to the Queen.

In 1990, he broke his right arm in a fall during a polo match.

The Prince and Princess of Wales leaving Cirencester Hospital after Charles broke his arm in 1990 (David Jones/PA)

A second operation was necessary three months after the tumble because one of the fractures failed to heal, causing him great pain.

In 1992, he had an operation to repair torn cartilage in his left knee – again after a polo injury.

In 1993 he was hurt again during a game of polo at Windsor, aggravating an old back injury.

He broke a rib when he tumbled from his horse in a hunting accident in 1998.

Charles hunting in 1995
The prince hunting with the Duke of Beaufort Hounds close to his home at Tetbury, Gloucestershire (Barry Batchelor/PA)

Despite the discomfort, the prince insisted on trekking in the Himalayas a few weeks afterwards during an official visit to Nepal and Bhutan.

Three months later in October 1998, he was back in hospital undergoing laser keyhole surgery on his right knee cartilage due to wear and tear from years of sport and exercise.

In June 2001, he fractured a small bone in his shoulder after falling off his horse during a fox hunt in 2001.

A few months later in August 2001, he was knocked unconscious and taken to hospital when his horse threw him during a polo match.

He was stretchered off and taken by ambulance to hospital as a precautionary measure.

Charles has also strained tendons in his wrist while salmon fishing in Scotland, and injured himself gardening.

Charles planting a tree
The Prince of Wales planting a tree on an engagement (Andrew Milligan/PA)

While tending to his gardens, he once accidentally hit his thumb with a mallet and broke his finger, almost severing the tip.

Charles has told how as a child was rushed to Great Ormond Street Hospital to stop his appendix “exploding”.

The prince declared: “I got here just in time before the thing exploded and was happily operated on and looked after by the nurses.”

Charles’s appendix procedure took place in February 1962 when he was 13 and studying at Cheam School, near Newbury, Berkshire.

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