Strictly’s Ugo Monye admits ‘theres not a moment where I’m not in pain’ ahead of surgery

Ugo Monye reflects on his time on Strictly Come Dancing

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Ugo Monye has bravely chosen to speak out about the pain that he has endured during his career as a rugby player and about his health at present. The Strictly star, 38, has teamed up with Boots UK for the second series of the health and wellbeing podcast Taboo Talk, where he discusses the topic of chronic pain with host Vogue Williams. 

In an exclusive interview with, Ugo described the pain he feels on a daily basis, as well as addressing why pain is such a taboo subject in the sporting world.

When quizzed on the subject of pain, Ugo began: “I think we have almost a slight strained relationship with it. 

“Playing a physical contact sport you become adapted to pain, don’t you? But messages you get on the pitch… If you’ve been tackled hard in any sense, your competitive instinct is to get back up because you don’t want to let anyone down. 

“You want to be able to do your best for the team and just contribute as much as you can, and I only ever spent 80 minutes on a pitch – but those behaviours become part of your day to day.”

Ugo went on to reveal that he suffers from chronic back pain, a health issue that made his time on Strictly Come Dancing particularly difficult.

“Now I’ve been retired for six years, dealing with chronic back pain has just become part of my norm,” Ugo admitted. 

He went on to share that he would be undergoing surgery to try and lessen the pain, which he had at the start of this week.

“I’m actually having back surgery on Monday and my symptoms…” he began. “I mean, there’s not a moment of the day where I’m not in pain. 


“And because it’s been a number of months now, you just become used to it,” Ugo explained. 

He went on to discuss how athletes, and particularly men, struggle to open up about the pain they are experiencing.

“But then dealing with it: that’s the next hurdle. And I think as men, and especially sports people, you are almost disassociated with pain and are reluctant to do anything about it,” he said.

“Because, I guess, by taking an active stance and doing something, you’re perhaps admitting there’s something wrong and that there’s a problem to be fixed. 

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“And for some people, you don’t want to do that. You might not want to put the work into that. 

“You don’t want to worry about what that might mean for work, for kids, or just day to day life, and I think that’s probably at the root of it all.”

Nonetheless, when asked about whether he believed there should be an expectation for sportspeople to endure a certain amount of pain, Ugo agreed that it was necessary.

He answered: “If I was talking to a young boy or girl I would say no. But at elite sport? Absolutely. 

“In my industry, in a physical contact sport, if you can’t deal with pain and injuries… It is literally part and parcel of it. That’s not to say that sport shouldn’t be safe to play. Absolutely not. 

“If you go to the gym, if you want to get healthy, but you’re not willing for your heart to beat fast, then you’re not ready to go to the gym. 

“And in my world, if you’re not ready or willing to take bumps and bruises and soreness after matchday, then you’re probably in the wrong game. 

“It’s just an unfortunate part of the game, but it’s also what makes the game beautiful – that feeling of being tired or slightly sore after you’re done is your body’s way of telling you you’ve worked really hard.”

Ugo is kicking off the first episode in series two of the Boots health & wellbeing podcast Taboo Talk, where he discusses the topic of chronic pain with host Vogue Williams.

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