Crack! Rip! Boom! Snap! Thump! Whether on a field of grass, a maple wood court, or an ice rink, athletes of all ages put themselves at a higher risk of serious injury as soon as they step – or skate – onto their chosen sports stage. Fortunately, because of technology and modern medicine, many injuries that were once considered career ending are now sources for comeback stories.
Here are four professional athletes who made an impact after suffering a major injury.
Adrian Peterson: Torn ACL (Football)
Regarded by many as the greatest comeback from an injury in sports, Adrian Peterson’s 2012 NFL season was one for the history books. The Minnesota Vikings running back suffered a torn ACL on Dec. 24, 2011, when Redskins safety DeJon Gomes tackled him and his left knee bent inward. Peterson tore his anterior cruciate ligament (ACL), medial collateral ligament (MCL) and damaged cartilage – injuries that would have sidelined him for good before the turn of the century.
Today, the average recovery time from a torn ACL is about nine months; Peterson recovered in six. Not only did he recover, but he also came back to have the best season of his career: He rushed for 2,097 yards on 348 carries and scored a total of 13 touchdowns. Although Peterson fell 8 yards short of Eric Dickerson’s single-season rushing record, he beat out Peyton Manning and Tom Brady to earn the NFL’s Most Valuable Player award.
Stephen Strasburg: Tommy John Surgery (Baseball)
The Washington Nationals had high hopes for Stephen Strasburg when the team drafted him first overall in the 2009 amateur draft. In his MLB debut against the Pittsburgh Pirates on June 8, 2010, Strasburg earned 14 strikeouts and only gave up 4 hits in 7 innings pitched. The seemingly great start to a professional career came crashing when Strasburg tore a ligament in his pitching elbow in August 2010.
Following Tommy John Surgery, which has evolved greatly over the years, Strasburg missed most of the 2011 season while rehabilitating. Strasburg’s comeback campaign during the 2012 season is arguably his best to date. He earned a 15-6 record with a 3.16 ERA. Three years later, Strasburg is still pitching for the Nationals, and he is now part of a select group of pitchers who share in having a Tommy John success story.
Sidney Crosby: Severe Concussion (Hockey)
The issue of concussions in sports has been a hot-button topic in recent years. This has been especially true in the National Football League, where extensive litigation and voiced concerns from the president have casted a shadow over the sport. Of all the players who have experienced a concussion, though, Sidney Crosby’s struggle to comeback from this injury is one of the most covered of its kind. The series of events started on Jan. 1, 2011, when he fell because of a blindside hit the head. A year later, after a long and extensive timeline of events that would hinder his recovery, he still wasn’t symptom free.
Crosby finally found his old form in the 2013 season; he played in 80 games and scored 104 points (his highest total since the 2006 season when he scored 120). To highlight his comeback story, he won the 2013 Hart Memorial Trophy (most valuable player award). In 2014, he played in 77 games and scored 84 points (third best in the NHL).
Paul George: Broken Leg (Basketball)
Via CBS Sports
Paul George’s broken leg is the most recent – and possibly the most gruesome – injury on this list. What’s worse, he suffered the injury during a U.S. national team scrimmage.
Fortunately, the Indiana Pacer point guard made a full and early recovery from one of the most painful injuries to watch; he returned to score 13 points against the Miami Heat on April 5, 2015 (eight months after his injury). According to George, it felt “almost like being drafted again.” Fans will have to wait until the 2015 season to see if George returns back to his All-Star status, though.
Athletes are as synonymous with competition as they are with injuries. With the advances in technology and modern medicine, though, they’re able to recover – and faster.