Men's Health

YOU’RE GONNA FEEL SOME PAIN

SEAN STEPHENS, by his own admission, was an old man in a young man’s game.

In 2006, at 38, he enlisted in the Army National Guard, “a little bit older, a little bit used,” he says, but he didn’t let it get in the way of his duties in Afghanistan. He could still keep up with the 19-year-olds double-timing through the desert with 110-pound packs, still stand for 12 hours straight in the back of a Humvee manning the .50-cal. Sure, the pain at the end of the day didn’t wash away with some Advil and a good night’s sleep like it used to, but he could handle it.

By the time his fourth tour rolled around, though, his labors were catching up with him. He was 42, and the hours he was spending on quad bikes training Afghan police on the eastern frontier were taking their toll. What started as a weird clicking in his neck and a twinge in his back devolved into a searing, debilitating sensation, and soon his head no longer felt connected to his spine. His hands began to fail him, too, the result of 18 months of vice-gripping that machine gun. By 2011, when he was medically evacuated

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