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Injuries Cost These 13 Athletes a Fortune

Mike Fiala / Getty Images

Mike Fiala / Getty Images

One upside of professional athletics is that huge paychecks are part of the package. For those who play long enough, however, so, too, are injuries. Some players get hurt and bounce back quickly. Others suffer injuries that end their careers. Others get hurt and come back, but never at 100% of their former glory.

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Using career statistics, award receptions and salary data from Spotrac where available, GOBankingRates created a list of athletes who were most affected by the injuries they suffered. It’s important to note that several athletes didn’t make the list who otherwise would have because reliable salary information before and after their injuries wasn’t available.

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Among them were basketball stars Bernard King, Larry Johnson, Maurice Stokes, Pete Maravich and Ralph Sampson. Hockey greats like Bobby Orr would have made the list, as would football stars like Chris Spielman, Darryl Stingley, Earl Campbell, Gale Sayers, Joe Theisman, Reggie Brown and Sterling Sharpe. Readers might notice that tennis legend Maureen Connolly is missing, and in baseball, there’s Tony Conigliaro, all of whom could have made the list if not for a lack of clear salary data.

Keep reading to see more about the major pay these athletes lost out on.

Last updated: May 14, 2021

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Bo Jackson

  • Sport: Football and baseball
  • Career length: 1987-90 (football), 1986-94 (baseball)
  • Injury year(s): 1990
  • Games before injury: 38 (football); 511 (baseball)
  • Money earned before injury: $4,218,544 (football); $2,660,000 (baseball)
  • Games after injury: 0 (football); 183 (baseball)
  • Money earned after injury: $0 (football); $4,614,833 (baseball)
  • Pre-injury accolades: Pro Bowl, All-Rookie (football); All-Star (baseball)
  • Post-injury accolades: N/A
  • Injuries: Hip-replacement surgery

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Brandon Roy

  • Sport: Basketball
  • Career length: 2006-11
  • Injury year(s): 2010-11
  • Games before injury: 321
  • Money earned before injury: $26,080,556
  • Games after injury: 5
  • Money earned after injury: $73,798,940
  • Pre-injury accolades: 3x All-Star, 2x All-NBA, All-Rookie, Rookie of the Year
  • Post-injury accolades: N/A
  • Injuries: Arthroscopic knee surgery on both knees, meniscus tear in right knee, lack of cartilage between bones in both knees

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Daunte Culpepper

  • Sport: Football
  • Career length: 1999-2009
  • Injury year(s): 2005
  • Games before injury: 81 
  • Money earned before injury: $18,060,000
  • Games after injury: 24
  • Money earned after injury: $16,930,000
  • Pre-injury accolades: 3x Pro Bowl, 2x All-Pro
  • Post-injury accolades: N/A
  • Injuries: Knee, damaged three of the four major ligaments

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Derrick Rose

  • Sport: Basketball
  • Career length: 2008-present
  • Injury year(s): 2012
  • Games before injury: 279
  • Money earned before injury: $21,182,522
  • Games after injury: 317
  • Money earned after injury: $133,869,091
  • Pre-injury accolades: MVP, 3x All-Star, All-NBA, All-Rookie
  • Post-injury accolades: N/A
  • Injuries: Knee injuries, torn ACL
©Susan Ragan/AP/Shutterstock

Grant Hill

  • Sport: Basketball
  • Career length: 1994-2013
  • Injury year(s): 2000
  • Games before injury: 435
  • Money earned before injury: $28,684,122
  • Games after injury: 591
  • Money earned after injury: $112,324,422
  • Pre-injury accolades: 5x All-Star, 5x All-NBA, Rookie of the Year, All-Rookie
  • Post-injury accolades: 2x All-Star
  • Injuries: Broken ankle

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Isaiah Thomas

  • Sport: Basketball
  • Career length: 2011-present
  • Injury year(s): 2017
  • Games before injury: 441
  • Money earned before injury: $23,914,451
  • Games after injury: 84
  • Money earned after injury: $10,610,902
  • Pre-injury accolades: 2x All-Star, All NBA, All-Rookie
  • Post-injury accolades: N/A
  • Injuries: Hip injury
©Michael Conroy/AP/Shutterstock

Jay Williams

  • Sport: Basketball
  • Career length: 2002-03
  • Injury year(s): 2003
  • Games before injury: 75
  • Money earned before injury: $3,451,920
  • Games after injury: 0
  • Money earned after injury: $5,261,431
  • Pre-injury accolades: All-Rookie Second Team
  • Post-injury accolades: N/A
  • Injuries: Broken pelvis, torn ACL

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Johnny Knox

  • Sport: Football
  • Career length: 2009-11
  • Injury year(s): 2011
  • Games before injury: 45
  • Money earned before injury: $1,954,000
  • Games after injury: 0
  • Money earned after injury: N/A
  • Pre-injury accolades: Pro Bowl
  • Post-injury accolades: N/A
  • Injuries: Spinal cord injury
©John Swart/AP/Shutterstock

Kirby Puckett

  • Sport: Baseball
  • Career length: 1984-95
  • Injury year(s): 1995
  • Games before injury: 1,783
  • Money earned before injury: $29,600,000
  • Games after injury: 0
  • Money earned after injury: $13,400,000
  • Pre-injury accolades: 10x All-Star, 2x World Series Champion, 6x Gold Glove, 6x Silver Slugger, ALCS MVP
  • Post-injury accolades: N/A
  • Injuries: Broken jaw, glaucoma

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Michael Irvin

  • Sport: Football
  • Career length: 1988-99
  • Injury year(s): 1999
  • Games before injury: 159
  • Money earned before injury: $17,951,400
  • Games after injury: 0
  • Money earned after injury: N/A
  • Pre-injury accolades: 5x Pro Bowl, All-Pro, 3x Super Bowl Champion
  • Post-injury accolades: N/A
  • Injuries: Cervical spinal cord injury
Mike Fiala / Getty Images

Anfernee ‘Penny’ Hardaway

  • Sport: Basketball
  • Career length: 1993-2007
  • Injury year(s): 1997 (first)
  • Games before injury: 319
  • Money earned before injury: $25,014,000
  • Games after injury: 385
  • Money earned after injury: $95,465,007
  • Pre-injury accolades: 3x All-Star, 3x All-NBA, All-Rookie
  • Post-injury accolades: 1 All-Star
  • Injuries: Four left knee surgeries, microfracture knee surgery

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Terrell Davis

  • Sport: Football
  • Career length: 1995-2001
  • Injury year(s): 1999
  • Games before injury: 65
  • Money earned before injury: $14,257,000
  • Games after injury: 13
  • Money earned after injury: $4,650,000
  • Pre-injury accolades: MVP, 2x Super Bowl Champ, Super Bowl MVP, 3x Pro Bowl, 3x All-Pro, 2x OPY
  • Post-injury accolades: N/A
  • Injuries: Torn right ACL and MCL, arthroscopic surgery on both knees, stress reaction in lower left leg
©Sipa/Shutterstock

Yao Ming

  • Sport: Basketball
  • Career length: 2003-11
  • Injury year(s): 2005-08
  • Games before injury: 404
  • Money earned before injury: $44,255,361
  • Games after injury: 82
  • Money earned after injury: $49,134,975
  • Pre-injury accolades: 6x All-Star, 4x All-NBA, All-Rookie
  • Post-injury accolades: 2x All-Star, All-NBA
  • Injuries: Stress fracture in left foot, hairline fracture in left foot, fractured left ankle

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Methodology: For this piece GOBankingRates used Complex Sports’ “The 25 Greatest Sports Careers Ruined by Injury” and Bleacher Report’s “25 of the Worst Career Ending Injuries in Sports” as a jumping off point to find 29 athletes whose careers were derailed by injury. For each athlete selected, GOBankingRates found the following factors: (1) sport played; (2) career length; (3) injury year(s); (4) games played before injury; (5) money earned before injury (when available); (6) games played after injury; (7) money earned after injury (when available); (8) pre-injury accolades/awards; (9) post-injury accolades/awards; and (10) type of injury. All factors were sourced from Spotrac, Basketball Reference, Baseball Reference, Hockey Reference, and Pro Football Reference. All data is up to date as of Nov. 2, 2020.