If you follow the rapidly growing sport of disc golf, you certainly know the name Ricky Wysocki. One of the sport’s true superstars turned pro in 2010 and since that time has earned prize money well in excess of $500,000. However, a shock Lyme disease diagnosis in 2019 left him bedridden for months and his career on the sidelines. After navigating some greatly uncertain times, Wysocki returned to the disc golf circuit where he is once again the top-ranking athlete.
M&F sat down with the 29-year-old disc golf supremo to find out more about Lyme disease. Also, Wysocki discusses how he came back stronger than ever.
Ricky Wysocki competes on the Disc Golf Pro Tour, the largest professional disc golf tour in the world. The tour features the most elite disc athletes on the planet. As a busy competitor, he had no thoughts of slowing down until he was blindsided at the peak of his powers. “Not much of anything at all,” was Wysocki’s knowledge of Lyme disease before it became an ailment that he would come to understand more than most. In his case, the first symptoms presented themselves as weakness and fatigue. Unfortunately, Lyme disease can be difficult to diagnose without a blood test, since more than 100 symptoms have been known to present themselves and this often misleads people into thinking they are suffering from something else.
Ricky Wysocki was diagnosed with Lyme disease in 2019
Ricky Wysocki had been infected by a tick bite, but the telltale bullseye-shaped rash that often provides a clue to the disease didn’t show up until six weeks after the bite took place. “I took a blood test and tested positive for Lyme disease,” recalls the athlete, who now had to go on a steep learning curve. “I wasn’t sure what it actually meant.” Indeed, going into 2020, the pro entered a low point. “The mental battle had to be the worst part of the whole experience,” he shares. “Depression, and my mental health, was at an all-time low. Initially, I thought I’d never be able to play disc golf again… almost like my body was falling apart in front of my eyes.”
Like many other outdoor sports disc golf exposes athletes to ticks that inhabit grass and woodlands and so Wysocki now recommends Insect Shield for protection. While Lyme disease is talked about less than many other illnesses, there are ticks in every state of the U.S. and cases are on the up. In fact, around half-a-million Americans contract Lyme disease each year. The CDC identifies early signs as being fevers, chills, headaches, and fatigue, along with muscle and joint aches. While the resulting rash from the tick bite often appears to take the shape of the bullseye on a dart board, that isn’t always the case.
Several months after the tick has infected its host, individuals often suffer with facial palsy, arthritis, and heart palpitations. Wysocki’s own health declined rapidly, and he began struggling to walk until he found himself confined to his bed, scared that he’d never compete again. Fortunately, help was at hand. “My support system is second to none,” he says. “Even through the irritability I was suffering, everyone else kept a positive and uplifting outlook on things to come.”
Ricky Wysocki went back to the fundamentals to return as an elite athlete
Wysocki took Doxycycline, Zithromax, and Plaquenil to combat the Lyme disease, but returning as an elite pro disc golfer required our man to go further, completely rebuilding his relationship between body and mind. “I knew I had to do something for myself and dig deep if this was something I was going to overcome,” he shares. “When the world was falling apart around me, the only thing to do was rise to the occasion. I went back to the basics and fundamentals of disc golf. I trusted my knowledge and experience on and off the course to push through. Once my body felt normal, it was back to the everyday grind of disc golf mechanics; putting, field work, more putting and mental focus.”
As Wysocki practiced his technique, the magic returned. “For the most part, I feel like I have a renewed knowledge of my own body,” he says. “Although I do still have random flare ups, I’m confident in my team and people around me that we have this under control”
Now back on top as the official number one player for the last two years, Wysocki couldn’t be more excited for his future in the sport. “The ride has been absolutely amazing to say the least,” he says. “The growth of disc golf has been exponential in the last few years. I went from traveling and sleeping in a car to being one of the faces of the sport. There are so many new, young, and exciting faces on the scene that it’s getting harder and harder to stay at the top. This is one of the challenges that I enjoy the most!”
With his skills sharper than ever, Wysocki intends to rise to the challenge of fresh talent. He also wants to spread an important message. “I want to add a few more world titles and get a better understanding of Lyme disease and continue to spread awareness,” says the resilient athlete. And, for anyone else who us finding that ill health is threatening their ability to stay active or play sports, Wysocki has some words of encouragement. “As hard as things may seem, you have to find a way to stay positive not only mentally but physically as well,” he enthuses. “It’s easy to fall into the trap of depression and letting things that out of your control and consume you, but I promise you: it’s not the end by a long shot.”
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