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From polo injuries to puffy digits: The King’s health over the years

From polo injuries to puffy digits: The King’s health over the years

The King, who is to be treated in hospital next week for an enlarged prostate, has generally enjoyed good health – although he has been injured during sporting pursuits.

It is hoped that Charles’s decision to share details of his diagnosis may encourage other men experiencing symptoms to get checked in line with public health advice.

In a statement on Wednesday, Buckingham Palace said that  “in common with thousands of men each year, the King has sought treatment for an enlarged prostate”.

His condition is benign and he is set to have a corrective procedure, the Palace said.

Previous health issues have included contracting coronavirus at the beginning of the pandemic and being knocked unconscious after being thrown from his horse at the polo, while he narrowly escaped an avalanche which killed a close friend.

Concern has been expressed over the years at his “sausage fingers” amid fears they might be due to fluid build-up or other conditions.

King Charles III coronation
The King waves to the crowd as he travels in the Diamond Jubilee State Coach on Coronation day (Mosa’ab Elshamy/PA)

But Charles had been aware of his puffy digits for decades.

“He really does look surprisingly appetising and has sausage fingers just like mine,” he wrote to a friend after the birth of his first-born William in 1982.

In March 2020, Charles, then 71, caught Covid-19 before vaccinations were available but only suffered mild symptoms.

He isolated at Birkhall in Scotland – away from the then-Duchess of Cornwall who tested negative for the disease – and carried on working at his desk.

He lost his sense of taste and smell for a time and later spoke of the “strange, frustrating and often distressing” experience of being without friends and relatives during lockdown.

He caught Covid for a second time in February 2022 but was triple-vaccinated.

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

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

A devotee of organic food, he launched his own food brand Duchy Originals in 1990, which is now run as Waitrose Duchy Organic.

In March 2019, as Charles and Camilla began an official tour to the Caribbean, they were photographed by the paparazzi relaxing on a beach in Barbados in their swimming costumes.

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

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

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.

He joked “hernia today, gone tomorrow” to waiting media after being discharged the next day.

Charles never travelled on royal tours without a special cushion, usually a tartan one, which he used to ease back pain.

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

Royal cushions
The seat cushions belonging to Charles as they arrive 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, west London, he told the congregation that he would 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 has been an advocate of alternative and complementary medicines, including homeopathy.

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

He urged health ministers to adopt a more holistic approach to tackling health problems.

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

Polo
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 bore witness to the incident.

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

Skiing
Charles, with Harry in 1999, is 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 1988, skiing off piste at Klosters on one of Europe’s most dangerous runs, he narrowly escaped the avalanche which killed his good friend, Major Hugh Lindsay, a former equerry to Queen Elizabeth II.

Charles managed to jump out of the way to reach a ledge and helped save the life of another friend – Patty Palmer-Tomkinson – by digging her out of the snow and talking to her to keep her conscious until the helicopter came.

He later recalled the horror of the avalanche, saying he had never seen anything so terrifying.

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

Charles
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 at Windsor, aggravating an old back injury.

He also 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.

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 plants 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 he was rushed to Great Ormond Street Hospital to stop his appendix “exploding”.

He declared on a later visit: “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.