In the following interview, professional skier Daniel Meier about his back problems, how he came across hemp and how this led to the founding of Hempions.
Daniel is currently a professional in the Alpine Ski World Cup and competes in his favourite discipline, the giant slalom.
- The origin of back pain
- Dealing with the pain
- The diagnosis of chronic back pain
- The mandatory break
- The recommendation of the doctors
- The solution
- The Hempions Foundation
Daniel, you had chronic back pain. How did it come about?
As so often, several factors were responsible for this:
- On the one hand, there was a misalignment in my back, developed through muscular imbalances. These had been bothering me for years.
- A diet that was relatively good, but not optimally suited to me. Optimal nutrition is indispensable, especially for the intense stresses of elite sport.
- On top of that, I had a serious fall while skiing in 2014, in which I bruised my heels and cracked the top plates of my vertebrae.
... and the back injury developed into chronic inflammation?
That's right, although I didn't even notice the vertebral injury at first. Only the heel contusion was diagnosed. I was used to regular back pain anyway and due to the injury-related ban on exertion, I only registered the back injury months later. Everything was already inflamed and the muscles had hardened.
In your everyday life as a top athlete, pain was your constant companion. How does a professional athlete deal with that?
That's right, I've had pain in my back all my life. I also had two herniated discs at the age of 18. In general, pain is part of everyday life and you learn to react to it. So I tried to get the misalignment in my back under control with what I thought was the right training. As is so often the case, I thought to myself: "It's only a little pinch, it could just as easily be a hardening of the muscles".
When were you diagnosed with chronic back pain?
After an intensive summer with consistent training build-up, I finally got back on my skis in autumn 2014. I soon noticed that my back reacted to every bump and that something was wrong.
I sought advice from therapists, none of whom could help. Only a detailed examination of the spine by a doctor provided clarity: the unnoticed vertebral injury had been chronically inflamed for more than half a year.
What was it like to have to take a compulsory break again?
That was hard, of course. On the one hand, because all my preparation was for nothing. On the other hand, the following months were a great mental and physical challenge. I was partly unable to move and even needed help putting on trousers. At times, I even no longer believed I could lead a normal life.
What did the doctors recommend in this situation?
Some of the doctors recommended that I have a spinal fusion. The affected vertebra is fixed to the neighbouring vertebrae with plates and screws after the disc is removed. This would have allowed me to do sports again after 12 months, but I would have continued to risk back problems in the long term. After consulting other experts, I finally decided against an operation. This would have been a classic treatment for the symptoms, but not a solution to the cause of my back problems.
And how did you finally arrive at the solution?
The solution consisted of the following main components:
- Optimally coordinated therapy
- Individual mental and hypnosis training
- A radical change in diet
In the process, I started to look intensively at nutrition and sought advice from Martin Rindereran expert in sports nutrition. Together with Martin, I thought about solutions and created a plan. In my search for the right foods, I kept coming across hemp seeds.
The small seeds fulfil the most important criteria: high content of omega-3 fats, many minerals, easily digestible, alkaline protein and much more.
So I incorporated hemp seeds more and more as a central source of nutrients in my everyday life.
After 8 months of unexceptional consistency, I was finally cured. I was pain-free again and could start with the rehabilitation training.
Daniel's success story was the impetus for the founding of Hempions
Has your healing awakened the enthusiasm for hemp in you?
Yes, among other things. During that time, I also got to know a hemp farmer who explained more about the cultivation and use of hemp. In addition, I dealt a lot with the sustainable applications of the hemp plant. I was particularly enthusiastic about the fact that the possibilities are almost unlimited: in addition to valuable food, clothing, medicine, building materials, paper and much more can be produced from the same plant. Theoretically, even petroleum could be completely replaced by hemp products.
That's why I already decided then that I would like to do something with hemp at some point.
How then did the foundation of Hempions come about?
In spring 2017, I sought a conversation with Fabian Braitschan old friend from my youth at the ski school. I told Fabian about my successes with hemp, the many potentials and my plans after my career.
At the time, Fabian was about to spend his semester abroad in Chile as part of his business studies. After returning, it wasn't long before we finally founded Hempions with friends in spring 2018.