7 Athletes Who Played Through Some of the Worst Injuries

Dilip Vishwanat/Getty Images
Dilip Vishwanat/Getty Images

Shortly after the Super Bowl was over, the Seattle Seahawks revealed that safety Kam Chancellor played Super Bowl XLIX with a torn medial collateral ligament (MCL). That is absolutely crazy to think about, but saying you were “surprised” by the news was hardly fair either. After all, If Chancellor and the Seahawks believed that he could play in the biggest game of the year with an injury of that magnitude, then of course he was going to try. That’s part of what makes him a world-class athlete, and that’s what world-class athletes do. They play through it.

It is true what they say: Pain is temporary, but glory lasts a forever. Here’s a list of seven athletes who felt the same way.

1. Willis Reed’s torn leg muscle

No one knew if New York Knick Willis Reed was going to be able to play in Game 7 of the 1970 NBA Finals against the Los Angeles Lakers. After all, he did have a muscle tear in his right leg. But, after receiving painkilling injections, Reed ignited his team and the New York faithful by taking the floor. His courageous effort, especially on defense against Wilt Chamberlain, inspired the Knicks, as they won the NBA title that night.

2. Kirk Gibson’s pulled hamstring

Los Angeles Dodger Kirk Gibson, hamstring injury and all, stepped up to the plate in the bottom of the ninth inning of Game 1 of the 1988 World Series. He wasn’t even supposed to play in the game; how did he expect to pinch-hit against dominant Oakland Athletics closer Dennis Eckersley? Don’t ask us. Just watch for yourself, as Gibson limps around the bases after hitting one of the greatest home runs in baseball history.

3. Curt Schilling’s damaged ankle

Curt Schilling managed to limit the New York Yankees to one run over the seven innings he pitched during Game 6 of the 2004 ALCS. This game was a huge win for the Boston Red Sox, who would go on to complete a 3-0 series comeback against their hated rivals. And Schilling, well, he somehow took the mound that night on a terribly injured ankle, in a performance that would come to be known as “the bloody sock game.”

4. Kerri Strug’s torn ankle ligaments

The U.S. Women’s Gymnastic Team’s hope of winning the team gold rested on the shoulders of Kerri Strug, as she prepared for her second, and final vault during the 1996 Summer Olympics. The only problem was that she had just torn two ligaments in her ankle on the previous attempt. In immense pain, she mustered up the courage and strength to go through with the vault, and somehow managed to stick the landing on one leg, ensuring gold for the United States.

5. Tiger Woods’s torn ACL

Tiger Woods put on one of the gutsiest performances in sports history during the 2008 U.S. Open, when he played and won the tournament with a torn anterior cruciate ligament (ACL) and a broken leg. How he managed this accomplish this feat is a mystery. Perhaps, he was just driven by pure desire. Unfortunately, he hasn’t won a major since. And, by the looks of it, may never again.

6. Byron Leftwich’s broken shin

It’s hard enough to play the quarterback position on two legs, imagine how difficult it must be to play it on one. Well, that’s exactly what Marshall QB Byron Leftwich did in a 2002 game against Akron, when he played on a broken tibia. While Leftwich wasn’t able to carry the Thundering Herd to a come-from-behind victory, his offensive line did choose to carry him down the field. We guess we weren’t the only ones who appreciated his iron man-like effort.

7. Michael Jordan’s (not-so) insurmountable flu

Michael Jordan showed the world his toughness during Game 5 of the 1997 NBA Finals. In what we now refer to as the “flu game,” Jordan managed to play through this intense virus and lead the Chicago Bulls to a victory against the Utah Jazz. Even with the sickness and the hostile Utah crowd working against him, Jordan finished the night with 38 points, 7 rebounds, and 5 assists. It was a legendary performance.