One of the most haunting things for athletes is having to wonder what their success as sports stars could have been if they didn’t get injured. Athletes are people too, which is what many fail to realize. These athletes work and train their bodies regularly, which increases their chances of breaking something down faster. Here are 11 examples of extraordinary athletes whose careers were shortened due to a life-changing injury.
1. Penny Hardaway
Playing alongside Shaquille O’Neal on the Orlando Magic, Penny Hardaway was what could’ve been a future Hall of Famer. He was a powerful point guard, and a superstar in advertisements off the court as well. In 1997-98, Hardaway seriously injured his left knee, which put him on the sidelines. It was so bad that he had to have four more surgeries on the same knee before his career was over. He never made another All-Star team since his injury.
2. Bo Jackson
Being the first athlete to be both an NFL and MLB star, Bo Jackson decided to focus on baseball. He won the Heisman Trophy in 1987 and played football during his baseball off-season. But even early in his NFL career, he was able to beat Marcus Allen, Hall of Fame running back, and got the starting spot.
During the 1990 NFL playoffs, Jackson dislocated his hip after being tackled from behind. He was never able to fully recover and only played two more seasons in the MLB.
3. Tony Conigliaro
Tony Conigliaro, a promising Red Sox baseball player, had 104 career home runs by the age of 22. In 1967, Conigliaro was hit just below his eye socket by a pitch and didn’t play again until 1969. However, his vision continued to deteriorate over time. He was forced to retire after the 1971 season due to his injury and made a short comeback in 1975. Conigliaro suffered a heart attack in 1982 and died at 45 years old in 1990.
4. Marc Savard
Savard averaged just under 90 points per season in hockey from 2005-06 through 2008-09. He sustained a severe concussion in 2010, which he returned from in the postseason, but then suffered another one in 2011. He hasn’t been able to play since and is still dealing with post-concussion syndrome.
5. Daunte Culpepper
Daunte Culpepper was a Pro Bowler in 2000 and 2003. His best season was in 2004, but a year later, he severely injured his right knee. He tore his ACL, MCL, and PCL. He was traded in 2006 to the Dolphins, where he played 24 games in 4 seasons – those being the last of his career due to his injury.