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The Five Most Amazing Injury Recoveries in Sports
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The Five Most Amazing Injury Recoveries in Sports

Mar 07, 2019
For any athlete, their body is their ultimate asset. Whether they’re a professional hockey player or a world-class gymnast, their career hinges on having a healthy body. Athletes spend hours refining their physical bodies in the weight room and building their endurance to become not only faster, better, and stronger than their competitors, but to also protect against injuries that might ruin a season or even destroy their career.

We’ve all heard tragic stories of promising athletes whose careers were dashed almost before they ever began thanks to broken bones or chronic knee issues. But what about those athletes who were able to overcome their injuries and further excel in their sports careers?

Here’s a quick look at five of those athletes and their amazing sports injury recoveries:

Mario Lemieux (NHL)

Hockey great Mario Lemieux earned nicknames like “The Magnificent One” and “Super Mario” for his speed and adeptness at creating plays and scoring goals. He’s widely regarded as one of the best hockey players of all time, yet at the height of his prowess a back injury nearly took him out for good.

At the onset of the 1990 season, Lemieux reported that at times the sports injury became so painful that he could not bend to tie his skates. This was a six-time All-Star in the National Hockey League that many thought might be out for good. But after surgery and an intensive physical therapy program that included swimming, golfing and cycling, Lemieux continued his excellent career.

Dwight Howard (NBA)

Dwight Howard has an extensive basketball history that includes being selected first overall by the Orlando Magic in the 2004 draft. He is a three-time winner of Defensive Player of the Year award and led the Magic to three division titles and one conference title. Yet, shortly after becoming the Magic’s all-time scoring leader, Howard suffered a severe back injury with lumbar radiculopathy.

During the spring of 2012, Howard underwent a lumbar microdisectomy to remove herniated disc material with the aim of relieving the pinched nerve pressure and relieving the pain he was suffering in his legs and lower back. While such surgery generally has positive results, it isn’t 100% successful when it comes to getting an athlete back to their previous levels of fitness and flexibility. 25% of NBA players who undergo this surgery never return to the professional league, and those that do often see a significant decline in their stats.

Howard’s intensive rehabilitation and dedication to his sports injury recovery made him the exception. Following the 2009-10 season, Howard became the first NBA player to ever lead the league in rebounds, blocks, and field goal percentage within a single season.

Stephen Strasburg (MLB)

Remember the aforementioned sentence about promising young athletes whose careers are killed before they ever begin thanks to a sports injury? Baseball player Stephen Strasburg was once considered another such tragic statistic.

During college, he became one of the best collegiate pitchers in the country. He then joined the United States national baseball team and helped bring home the bronze at the 2008 Summer Olympics. ESPN called Strasburg the “most-hyped pick in draft history.” He lived up to that hype bringing home a franchise record of 14 strikeouts in one game during his 2010 debut season with the Washington Nationals.

But then came a torn ulnar collateral ligament that knocked him out in July 2010. It took specialized Tommy John surgery and over a year of sports injury rehabilitation, but he came out strong in 2012. His recovery is widely hailed as an incredible success as he continues to make baseball history as the National League’s strikeout leader in 2014.

Peyton Manning (NFL)

Peyton Manning is football legend. He’s a son of a former NFL quarterback and brother to another. He’s the only quarterback to start and win a Super Bowl for two different teams. Even non-football aficionados recognize his name and his impact on the sport. But did you know a neck injury nearly cost him the game and his overall health?

At the start of 2011, Manning underwent several serious neck surgeries to alleviate neck pain and arm weakness that had been worsening over the last several seasons. When initial surgeries weren’t effective, Manning flew to Europe four times searching for the solution. The final straw was a level-one cervical fusion procedure that forced him to miss the entirety of the 2011 season. While this is an outpatient procedure that had him in and out within a day, a full recovery from such a sports injury takes considerable time and exercise. Eventually the rehabilitation took hold and Manning returned in 2012 to reclaim his place among the all-time greats of the game.

Kerri Strug (Olympics)

Kerri Strug was one of America’s strongest ever competing gymnasts on the global scene. She is a five-time World Championships team member and has won more than thirty medals in a variety of international competitions. The competition she is arguably best known for is also the one that caused her greatest sports injury.

In 1996, Strug represented the United States at the Atlanta Olympics. In the final round of the women’s team competition, the Russian team held a narrow lead. Strug was the last to vault and had two attempts for points to mount a team comeback. In her first attempt, she landed awkwardly and injured one of her ankles. Despite telling her coach that she couldn’t feel her leg, she went on to perfectly land her final vault and guarantee the team gold for her country.

While this feat propelled her to stardom, it also had a negative impact on her health. A 1997 Sports Illustrated article wrote of Strug, “A year after her Olympic vault to fame, Kerri Strug now carries herself stiffly and walks with a trace of a limp. Physical therapy took a backseat to making appearances.” Strug retired from gymnastics shortly thereafter.

Don’t make the same mistake Kerri Strug did. If you find yourself with a sports injury, whether minor or major, stop waiting for the pain to get worse and get the physical therapy you need. Please contact us at Multi-Care Medical to learn more about how we can help.
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