A group of rare genetic connective-tissue disorders. The Ehlers-Danlos Syndromes (EDS) occur due to variations of more than 19 different genes that are present at birth, inherited in an autosomal (dominant or recessive) manner or during early development. The specific gene affected determines the type of EDS and results in defects in the structure or processing of the protein collagen. As the disorders weaken the body’s connective tissue, symptoms may include skin elasticity and joint hypermobility.
People who are exceptionally flexible are often affected by EDS, such as sideshow performers, gymnasts, dancers and contortionists, earning them nicknames like the Elastic Skin Man, the India Rubber Man and Frog Boy. EDS may also have contributed to the virtuoso Italian violinist Niccolò Paganini’s skill of being able to play wider fingerings than a typical violinist.
Two performers with EDS currently hold world records. American contortionist Daniel Browning Smith, also known as The Rubberboy, has hypermobile EDS and holds the current Guinness World Record for the most flexible man as of 2018. Gary “Stretch” Turner, a British sideshow performer, has held the current Guinness World Record for the most elastic skin since 1999, for his ability to stretch the skin on his stomach 15.24cm (6.25in).