In a series of interviews with Danish paper Jyllands-Posten conducted over the course of two years, Daniel Agger has opened up about his dependency issues with anti-inflammatory medication and how it affected his career to such an extent that he was forced to retire from football at the age of 31.
Agger suffers from joint hypermobility syndrome, which means his joints get easily overextended. The defender also had a prolapsed disc in his back, as a result of which he had pain in his knees and toes.
In his determination to play at his very best, the Danish national resorted to taking anti-inflammatory medication often used to treat rheumatism. At times he exceeded the maximum recommended dosage, despite the possible negative effects on his health. Agger hopes that in revealing these details, he is able to help other players who may be going through a similar situation.
“I have taken too much anti-inflammatories in my career,” he said. “I know that full well, and it sucks, but I did stop it [in the end]. I am not gaining anything personally from saying this but I can only hope that other athletes do. It could be that others take a pill or two less,” said the former Liverpool defender.
In a game for Brondby against their Danish league rivals FC Copenhagen, Agger was able to play only 29 minutes before being substituted, and then subsequently collapsing. His body couldn’t handle any more abuse. That was the day he stopped taking the pills.
The Liverpool cult hero had picked up an injury in the prior week but was eager to play the game. As was his habit, he chose to self-medicate on anti-inflammatory pills. He took two pills thrice a day for the entire week, despite having been told by doctors that such a high dosage shouldn’t be taken for more than three days.
Just over a year after this incident, Agger announced his retirement from football. “I am in a place where I have had enough, mentally and physically,” he said. “And it also means something to me that I feel that I can still play at a good standard. The offers I have received [to carry on] say that too. And I don’t want to embark on a downward spiral. I want to quit somewhere near the top. I have always said that that was important for me and therefore I stop now.”
In the interview series, Agger spoke about a wide range of topics, including ex-Liverpool and England manager Roy Hodgson. “I completely lost my desire to come to work because his training sessions were really hard to get through. Not physically but mentally. It was the same and the same and the same. Day in and day out.
“Often we had eight forwards playing against me and Martin Skrtel [apparently to let Fernando Torres score to regain his confidence]. Skrtel and I had a really hard training session as we were defending against eight with two but the eight players attacking were just faffing around. They had hardly run a kilometre and it was so uninspiring.”