For a professional athlete, nothing is scarier than suffering a serious injury. The consequences of an injury can be anything from missing a few games to never stepping on the field again. However, throughout the history of sports, players have beaten the odds and come back from injury better than ever. While there are many stories of triumph over injury, here are a few of our favorites.
Drew Brees is one of the most well known quarterbacks in the NFL. But back in 2005, Brees suffered a torn labrum and a partially torn rotator cuff in his throwing shoulder in the final Chargers game of 2005.
The offseason was difficult for Brees; the Chargers’ offer rested heavily on performance incentives and many other teams were scared off by his shoulder injury. However, the New Orleans Saints took a chance on the proven QB and offered him a better deal.
Brees proved that his shoulder was in great shape from the start. During the 2006 season, he threw a league-leading 4,418 passing yards as well as 26 touchdowns, helping the Saints finish with a 10–6 regular season record and the NFC South division title. Then in 2010 Brees led the Saints to a Super Bowl XLIV victory over the Indianapolis Colts. Not too shabby.
The Boston Red Sox were the source of heartbreak from many New Englanders. Supposedly cursed by trading Babe Ruth to the New York Yankees, the “Curse of the Bambino” prevented the Sox from World Series glory for 86 years. Then in 2004, after being down 3 games to the Yankees in the AL Championship Series, the Sox rallied.
Pitcher Curt Schilling, an standout over the course of the season, injured his ankle in Game 1. With everything on the line, Schilling still started Game 6. Team doctors had stitched a tendon in his right ankle to keep it stabilized. During the game, a small pool of blood starting to form on Schilling’s sock. But despite the now famous “bloody sock” Schilling led the Sox to a Game 6 victory and helped send them to the 2004 World Series, which they ultimately won.
Like other Boston sports teams, the Celtics are often one of the top teams in their league. While on the Celtics, point guard Rajon Rondo was a standout player and one of the stars of the team.
Unfortunately, during Game 3 of the 2011 Eastern Conference Semifinals, Rondo dislocated his elbow after getting tangled up with the Miami Heat’s Dwayne Wade. A dislocated elbow would spell the end of the game for most people, but not Rondo. He returned to the court at the beginning of the 4th quarter and finished the game with 11 assists, helping lead Boston to a victory over the Heat.
In 2013, Rondo was voted the starting point guard spot for the NBA All-Star Game. However it was later revealed that Rondo had torn his ACL during the Celtics January clash with the Heat. He would have to sit out the rest of the season.
This past January, Rondo made his return. Despite being a “rebuilding year” for the Celtics, Rondo’s performance continues to improve. On February 2, 2014, in a 96-89 win over the Orlando Magic, Rondo recorded his first double-double since his injury with 19 points and 10 assists. Then in April, despite losing to the 76ers, Rondo recorded his first triple-double of the season with 11 points, 11 rebounds, and 16 assists.
Perhaps one the most famous moments in recent Olympic history, Kerry Strug of the US Women’s Gymnastic team wouldn’t let something like torn ankle ligaments keep her from going for the gold.
During the 1996 Summer Olympics in Atlanta, GA, the US Women’s’ Gymnastic team, aptly dubbed The Magnificent Seven, was on fire. However, on her first vault attempt, Strug injured her left ankle upon landing. Prior to her attempt, her teammate Dominique Moceanu fell twice on her vault attempts, registering a poor score. In order to win gold, Strug would have to not only attempt a second vault but stick the landing.
And stick it she did! Strug landed her second vault on one foot, securing enough points for the US to edge out Russia for the gold. For her inspirational performance, she was invited to meet with then-President Bill Clinton, made several talk show appearances and graced the covers of both Sports Illustrated and Wheaties cereal boxes.
Probably one of the most famous golfers of this generation, Tiger Woods stormed onto the scene in 1996 and has been a fixture of the sport ever since. He has won 14 major championships including the Masters and U.S. Open and received numerous awards.
During the 2008 U.S. Open, Woods suffered a double stress fracture and a ruptured ACL in his knee. Despite the injury, Woods was able to sink a 12 foot birdie and force an 18-hole playoff against Rocco Mediate. Woods prevailed and took home his third U.S. Open title.
Can you play football with a broken ankle? If you’re Donovan McNabb, you can. The now retired all-star quarterback spent 13 seasons in the NFL, most notably with the Philadelphia Eagles.
In 2002, in a regular season game against the Arizona Cardinals, McNabb broke his right ankle after being sacked. It was originally thought to be a bad sprain, however x-rays later showed he had broken his fibula in three places! After taping the injured ankle, he returned to the game and went 20-25 for 255 yards and threw 4 touchdowns. The Eagles won in 38-14 victory.
Sometimes, tragedy strikes and an injury becomes permanent disability. Bethany Hamilton was a 13 year old up-and-coming surf star when a tiger shark attack took her left arm. For a surfer, balance is everything but the loss of a limb wasn’t enough to keep Hamilton from the water. About a month after the injury, she was back surfing. By January of 2004, she entered her first competition since the attack and placed 5th. The following year, she was back to form placing 1st in the NSSA National Competition and O’Neill Island Girl Junior Pro tournament.
Besides regaining her status as a top competitor in the surfing world, Hamilton’s story of overcoming the odds made her a media sensation. She has appeared on numerous TV shows from The Biggest Loser to Oprah and in 2004, had her book Soul Surfer: A True Story of Faith, Family, and Fighting to Get Back on the Board published. In 2011, a movie version of Soul Surfer was released starring Dennis Quaid and Helen Hunt.
These are just a few stories of athletes finding the strength to push through injury but there are many more. Share some of your favorite moments in the comments.