Stephen Strasburg and the Most Franchise Crippling Injuries in Sports
Stephen Strasburg's torn ulnar collateral ligament has put his career on hold and done serious damage to the hopes of the Washington Nationals franchise.
Strasburg is expected to undergo Tommy John surgery to repair the ligament damage to his elbow, making a return to the mound next season very unlikely.
While Strasburg rehabs, the Nationals will have no choice but to cross their fingers and hope for the best when he returns. Even before it begins, it appears that the 2011 season has already produced a "wait until next year" mantra.
The Nationals are hardly the first franchise to put its fortunes on hold while waiting for marquee players to recover. In some cases, injured stars were never able to play again. In other cases, the players returned but were never able to rediscover the pre-injury magic.
Here's a look at 10 franchise-crippling injuries in the history of sports.
No. 10: Penny Hardaway, Phoenix Suns
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The Magic weren't able to give Shaq the money he wanted, but they were confident that the other young superstar on the roster would make them competitive in the Eastern Conference for years to come.
Penny Hardway was one of the best players in the NBA before a knee injury started a chain of unfortunate events that eventually threw his career into a tailspin.
Hardaway was effective after recovering from the injury and was dealt to the Phoenix Suns for two first-round picks, Danny Manning and Pat Garrity.
After a productive first season in Phoenix, Hardaway needed microfracture surgery on his knee. He returned the following season and produced, but was part of a tumultuous backcourt with Stephon Marbury that divided the team and led to an extreme roster makeover.
He went to the Knicks before retiring after spending the 2007-2008 season with the Heat.
No. 9: Ken Griffey Jr., Cincinnati Reds
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Griffey's grace at the plate, on the bases, and in the field made him baseball's biggest superstar. His injuries began in Seattle and carried over to his days with the Reds.
His move to the National League in 2000 was a huge story. He enjoyed a respectable start to his Reds career. In 2001, his defense and power numbers began to decline. But the Reds continued to play him in an effort to help sustain attendance numbers.
Griffey's days in Cincinnati effectively came to an end when he tore his hamstring in 2004 attempting to make a sliding catch.
His power numbers enjoyed a resurgence in the following two seasons, but his all-around game had completely faded, making him a huge liability in the field.
He was traded to the White Sox in 2008 with the idea of becoming a full-time designated hitter, but still saw plenty of action in the field.
No. 8: Yao Ming and Tracy McGrady, Houston Rockets
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The Rockets have unloaded one injury prone player and are counting on the other to return to form in his last season under contract.
Tracy McGrady and Yao Ming were supposed to make the Rockets an NBA Championship contender by forming a lethal 1-2 punch. It never happened.
McGrady overcame nagging back issues to produce for the Rockets and helped carry the team in 2008 when Yao was sidelined. Still, his overall numbers gradually began to decline and his attitude began to worsen. He opted to end his 2009 and undergo surgery without informing the Rockets of his decision.
Yao's chronic foot problems have placed his future in the NBA in doubt. The millions Houston invested in both players has never quite paid off.
No. 7: Gale Sayers, Chicago Bears
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Sayers was a graceful runner with a deadly combination of speed and agility before a knee injury completely derailed his promising career.
Just before the start of the 1970 season, the charismatic runner blew out his left knee and underwent surgery. He made an amazing return at the end of the regular season, finishing with just 52 yards on 23 carries.
However, Sayers had attempted to come back much too soon. He was forced to undergo two more surgeries on his knee and played in just two games in 1971 before announcing his retirement prior to the start of the 1972 season.
No. 6: Greg Oden, Portland Trail Blazers
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Oden's dominance during his one year at Ohio State and Portland's need for a center convinced the Blazers to make him the top-overall pick of the 2007 NBA Draft.
Three years later, the team still has no idea what to expect from him in the upcoming season thanks to an onslaught of injury problems.
Oden missed his entire rookie season after undergoing microfracture surgery and missed two weeks early in the 2008-2009 season after suffering a foot injury in the first game of his NBA career. He returned and showed glimpses of talent, but a chipped knee-cap sidelined him for a month later that same season.
Last season, Oden suffered a fractured patella in December and missed the remainder of the campaign.
The Blazers haven't given up hope quite yet, but the franchise can't afford to wait much longer for Oden to overcome his track record of injury problems.
No. 5: Terrell Davis, Denver Broncos
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Terrell Davis came out of nowhere to help the Denver Broncos win two Super Bowls. Along the way, Davis became one of the most productive running backs in the NFL, rushing for 6,413 yards and 56 touchdowns during his first four seasons as a pro.
The Broncos believed they had found the player to help usher the franchise into life after John Elway.
Instead, Davis suffered a series of devastating knee injuries. He tore his ACL and MCL in 1999, suffered a stress reaction in the following season, and underwent surgery on both knees in 2001.
He retired prior to the 2002 season after playing just seven years in the NFL.
No. 4: Mark Prior, Chicago Cubs
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Cubs fans felt that they finally were ready to contend when Mark Prior arrived in the Big Leagues.
The idea of a 1-2 punch with Kerry Wood made the Cubs favorites to break through to the World Series, even after the heartbreaking loss to the Marlins in the 2003 National League Championship Series.
But it was not to be, thanks to a variety of injury problems shrouded in uncertainty.
Prior missed the beginning of the 2004 season while recovering from an Achilles injury, and rumors of an elbow problem began to circulate in the media.
He returned and showed flashes of brillance in the 2004 season and survived two stints on the DL in 2005 to finish 11-7.
The growing doubts about his future were capped off in 2006, when he suffered shoulder and oblique injuries and finished just 1-7 with a 7.21 ERA.
Prior dealt with a mysterious shoulder injury that kept him out of the 2007 season and signed with the Padres before eventually leaving baseball.
Meanwhile, the Cubs still haven't come close to winning a World Series.
No. 3: Stephen Strasburg, Washington Nationals
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Stephen Strasburg was a hero from the moment he took the mound at the Nationals Park. He was the face of the franchise before he threw his first pitch.
Even with his 2011 season in doubt, there is little doubt he will remain the face of the franchise. That's not good news for a Nats' team that needs an identity and more importantly, needs to fill the seats.
Unless Bryce Harper makes a quick rise to the Major Leagues, the Nationals fate will lie with the ability of Strasburg to rehab and be ready to go in 2012.
General manager Mike Rizzo must be wondering what else can possibly go wrong.
No. 2: Bill Walton, Portland Trail Blazers
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Bill Walton is widely regarded as one of the most tragic cases of injury misfortune in the history of sports.
A dominant college career had the Blazers convinced they could build a dynasty with Walton at center. But, the development of the team was put on hold as the big red head was hampered by a number of injuries during his first two seasons in the NBA.
He finally was healthy in the 1976-77 season, when he dominated the NBA and led to the Blazers to an NBA Championship over the favored and more flashy Philadelphia 76ers.
Things looked even better in the 1977-78 campaign, when the Blazers started 50-10 before Walton broke his foot. He won the NBA MVP Award and returned in the playoffs but re-injured his foot and never played another game for the Blazers again.
He demanded to be traded after clashing with Blazers' management, and opted to sit out the entire 1979-80 season after not being granted his wish before signing with the San Diego Clippers.
No. 1: Bo Jackson, Kansas City Royals and L.A. Raiders
Bo Jackson might just have been the greatest athlete ever in the history of professional sports.
Jackson suffered a hip injury in the 1991 AFC playoffs that impacted both the Kansas City Royals and the L.A. Raiders.
As a member of the Royals, he had a number of memorable moments, including a massive 450-foot home run in the 1989 All-Star game that helped him win MVP honors.
He had better success on the gridiron, where he rushed for 2,782 yards and 16 touchdowns in three and a half seasons while splitting duty with Marcus Allen.
The dynamic running back never played football again, but did manage to make a comeback and return to the diamond in 1993 with the Chicago White Sox.