The Walking Wounded: 9 Star Athletes Plagued By Injuries
After seeing the perennial week-one injury bloodbath in the NFL that has left fantasy owners reeling and fans cursing their luck, many wonder if players’ tendencies to get injured are the result of playing style, physical composition, or simply bad karma for not tipping their valet. While their doesn’t seem to be much rhyme or reason to the injury patterns in sport, it remains clear that certain players seem to spend their whole careers recovering from the DL when they should be hitting their stride. Here are nine sports stars that haven’t made the leap due to being dogged by injuries.
1. David Beckham
Beckham’s career and celebrity have both reached the point that soccer fans don’t know if he’s getting injured because he’s getting old and playing hard, or he’s getting “injured” because he doesn’t care about soccer anymore. During his wildly unsuccessful and expensive stint with the Los Angeles Galaxy, he was criticized by fans, teammates, and British media (American media didn’t seem to care) for his slow return to the pitch.
However, acrimony over Beckham’s injuries didn’t start there. In April 2002, he broke a bone in his foot following one of his best seasons, causing Manchester United to lose the Premier League title to rival Arsenal. That was the beginning of the end of Beckham’s time at Man U. After more spats with manager Alex Ferguson and further injury, he was off to Spain (and the downside of his career) 14 months later.
2. Tracy McGrady
Tracy McGrady had proven time and again that he had all the physical elements to be one of the NBA elite. His lanky frame, ability to score at will, and Houston complement in Yao Ming had even the most casual fans wondering when, not if, he would make the leap. It never happened. While injuries were the guiding force behind McGrady’s dissolution, he also never managed to develop the intensity of a Jordan, Kobe, or Reggie Miller.
That, however is a conversation for another day. Shoulder, knee, and most notably, back problems turned him into one of the best journeymen in the history of the NBA. At the age of 31, he has already had stints with the Raptors, Magic, Rockets and Knicks. The fall of 2010 has him suiting up as a Piston, who likely won’t hold him past their rebuilding phase.
3. Bob Sanders
This year, perennial tough guy Bob Sanders was able to make it ALMOST through the first defensive series before suffering the same injury (on the other arm) that helped keep him sidelined for all but two games last year. The year before, he was able to play a Cal Ripken-like six games uninjured.
He’s missed (49) more games than he’s played (48) and there’s a decent chance he could miss the rest of this season if his bicep injury is as bad as everyone thinks it could be.
Sadly, there’s no reason to believe Sanders has any ulterior motives here. He’s young and productive when he’s healthy, having put together two Pro Bowl seasons during his intermittent windows of good health. It seems like this guy is either suffering from some rotten luck or is built like a rag doll. Let’s hope it’s the former and his luck turns around soon.
4. Yao Ming
In his fourth season, Yao was finding his groove. The giant from the Shanghai Sharks was starting to live up to the hype and began establishing himself as the game’s dominant big man. The footwork was coming together, and Yao was developing the aggressive instinct that had evaded him his early years in the NBA.
However, with four games left in the season, Yao suffered a broken foot that would keep him sidelined well into his fifth season in fall of 2006. No sooner had his foot healed and Yao cleared to play than he broke his kneecap in December, waylaying a brief glimpse at an MVP-caliber season.
Fast forward to February 2008, when Yao suffers a stress fracture in his foot and is sidelined for the rest of the season. It appears that the injury still has not fully healed or has been aggravated. The Rockets recently got an injured player exemption to acquire a free agent, signaling that Yao might be a lost cause.
5. Jason Giambi
Like in so many other avenues of sport, I feel that Giambi’s inclusion here warrants an asterisk. He did some steroids (He did.) and then it appeared that he didn’t. The turning point appeared to be the removal of a benign tumor, which caused him to miss six weeks of the 2004 during treatment of the tumor. Despite a career renaissance in 2005, it appeared that, subsequent to both the removal of the tumor and rampant steroid accusations, Giambi was both less productive and more injury-prone than in years past.
For comedy’s sake, I feel obligated to mention that he also split his eyelid open after walking into a hotel door in Tampa Bay. He went 1-4 that night.
6. Michael Redd
Initially one of the leagues most dangerous offensive threats, Michael Redd has been flying under the radar recently for two reasons; a) he plays in Milwaukee, the red-headed stepchild of the NBA and b) he hasn’t played all that much.
While Redd hasn’t been able to crack the top tier of the NBA perhaps due to the market and quality of his teammates, the fact that he’s missed the peak of his career so far to repeated ACL and MCL injuries certainly doesn’t help. January has proven to be a cruel month for Michael, as he shredded his knee in both 2009 and again in 2010, leaving fans of Redd and the Bucks to wonder what’s left of their leader.
7. Grant Hill
After a promising first few years, Grant Hill spent more time at his “peak” on the training table or at home than on the court. A lot more. In a 5-year stretch from 2000-2005, Hill played in, respectively, 4 games, 14 games, 29 games, 67 games, and 21 games. This is largely attributed to a persistent ankle injury that would quickly become the one thing that was lying between Hill and his potential.
In recent years with the Magic and Suns, Hill has proven to be both durable and productive, even into his late-30’s. I guess sitting on the sideline during your prime can possibly extend your career a little longer than most. With no news about that pesky ankle, Hill is still an integral part of the Suns, having exercised his option to play with them next season.
8. Cadillac Williams
The NFL Offensive Rookie of the Year in 2005, already sported some injury baggage when he found his way to the NFL after suffering from two separate broken bones during his tenure at Auburn, but things were destined to get worse once he made it to the big leagues.
Cadillac was sidelined the bulk of the 2007 and 2008 seasons due to knee problems. Although he has been on the mend in recent years, given his past, the Bucs aren’t taking any chances with their backups. His recent health has proven promising, but a 6-year veteran running back with chronic knee problems is hardly a blue chip asset.
9. Chad Pennington
Here’s a helpful hint: if you’ve won comeback player of the year twice, you might want to reevaluate your regimen and playing style. Chad Pennington, the unlucky two-time recipient of that backhanded compliment, shoulder issues have been Pennington’s cross to bear for the latter half of his career after a promising start. Pennington’s biggest criticism has been his lack of arm strength, which can be attributed to almost annual shoulder issues stemming from a torn rotator cuff back in ’03. Throw in some hand fractures and ankle sprains and one questions the value of this leader when he can’t seem to find his way to the field for 16 games.