Martial arts

Is this the same Jet Li we all know? Martial arts legend battles illness and injuries as fans express shock

The 55-year-old action star, who starred in Lethal Weapon 4 and Expendables 2, is suffering from hyperthyroidism and spinal problems, drawing concern from netizens

PUBLISHED : Saturday, 19 May, 2018, 10:41am
UPDATED : Wednesday, 17 October, 2018, 7:16pm

Fans of martial arts superstar Jet Li Lianjie are praying for his health after shocking recent photos revealed the extent of his hyperthyroidism and spinal problems.

The Hollywood icon, who starred in Lethal Weapon 4Romeo Must Die and more recently Expendables 2, revealed five years ago he has been suffering from hyperthyroidism.

A recent photo of him visiting a temple in Tibet has been widely circulated with many people taken aback by Li’s frail appearance. The photo also showed he had to be assisted while he walked.

Jet Li fans share their personal battles with hyperthyroidism, as martial arts icon’s health problems continue to shock

Last year, the 55-year-old Beijing-born actor spoke about his illness after a long absence from the public eye at One Foundation’s charity dinner in the Chinese capital. 

The actor then said he had been diagnosed with an overactive thyroid in 2010 and although he took medication that kept his illness in check, the condition kept coming back. 

Do you have the same illness haunting Jet Li? What you need to know

Hyperthyroidism causes changes in a person’s metabolism and heart rate and is usually treated through medication. Li says his strong belief in Buddhism as well as meditation and scripture reading help stabilise his condition.

The action star also said a few years ago that he was unable to perform stressful physical activities due to his condition. 

He revealed he had been warned by doctors in 2013 that he “would end up in a wheelchair” if he continued making physically-demanding action films. 

He said at the time: “I’m just a regular guy. I’m not Wong Fei-hung. I’m not Huo Yuanjia [kung fu heroes he has portrayed on film]. I’m just like you.”

Martial arts superstar Jet Li has been plagued by injuries since his teenage days: ‘I’m in pain but I’m not in a wheelchair yet’

The star of the breakout Chinese classic Once Upon a Time in China said he was also suffering from leg and spinal problems and that he was unable to stand straight for too long, his poor health the result of decades of demanding film roles, stunts and injuries. 

How actor Jet Li will overcome his devastating illness

He has been making films since he burst onto the scene as a former national wushu champion while in his teens in the late 1970s.

Li suffered his first major injury at 18 when he tore his knee that required seven-and-a-half hours of surgery. He also sustained a serious back injury at 23.

Netizens were shocked by his recent appearance in Tibet after the photo made the rounds on social media, drawing many comments, mostly of concern for his well-being.

“He was so active before and now he looks like an old man”, said one Chinese netizen. 

“His kung fu is real and his films were great. Pity he’s suffering from this illness”, said another.

“I couldn’t even recognise him”, added another netizen.

One social networker said ageing was a natural process and affects everybody but Li had aged far too much having lived a tough life as an action movie star.