Recovering from injury can be a frustrating process, particularly for those who are used to an active lifestyle. These sports stars went beyond the realms of recovery to achieve high and win big. So if you're currently feeling frustrated by injury, use these stories for inspiration and a reminder that from recovery can come victory. Here are six athletes who defied the odds of injury to achieve astonishing acts of sporting success.
1. Tiger Woods (Golf)
When faced with his diagnosis of a double-stress fracture two weeks prior to the 2008 US Open, Tiger Woods was defiant in his pursuit of victory. Prescribed a rehabilitation programme of three weeks on crutches followed by 3 weeks of rest, Woods reportedly told his doctor: "I'm playing the US Open, and I'm going to win." In spite of being initially unable to walk across a room without resting, Woods pursued training with his swing coach Hank Haney. Woods' full injury entailed a double-stress fracture to his tibia and a torn anterior cruciate ligament, but he continued to ignore (sensible) medical advice to participate in the sporting event that was to later define his career. True to his word, Tiger Woods won the open. Despite enduring intense pain, clearly etched on his face during the tournament, and the impaired mobility of a leg injury that deteriorated each day on the course, Woods successfully went 91 holes finally defeating Rocco Mediate on the 19th hole of a playoff. Although Woods' personal life has seen him fall out of public favour in recent years, this astonishing feat of overcoming severe physical adversity to win a major sporting event certainly isn't to be overlooked.
2. Curt Schilling (Baseball)
Not only did Major League baseball pitcher Curt Schilling victoriously overcome a major sporting injury, he even had a treatment procedure named after him following the incident. Pitching for the Boston Red Sox, Schilling won Game 6 of the 2004 American League Championship Series, defeating the New York Yankees on October 19th 2004. Previously prone to ankle injuries and Achilles tendonitis, Schilling led this victory whilst enduring these severe injuries. Playing whilst battling a torn Achilles tendon and ankle eversion injury, Schilling's injuries were so severe that by the end of play his sock was soaked in blood. The sock - later referred to by fans as "the bloody sock" - became a symbol of competitive prowess and resolve despite adversity, and Schilling later sold the iconic sock at auction for the impressive sum of $92,613. The Red Sox's physician, William Morgan MD., created the Schilling Tendon Procedure in treating Schilling, and subsequently named the treatment after the athlete. The temporary surgical procedure stabilises the peroneus braves tendon to prevent anterior displacement during ankle eversion injuries. A major win, a highly profitable sock and a self-named medical procedure. By all accounts Schilling attained considerable victory when the odds were firmly stacked against him.
3. Willis Reed (Basketball)
A vintage feat of sporting prowess for NBA fans, in 1970 Willis Reed astonished New York Knicks fans when he entered the court at Madison Square Garden. Voted the greatest moment in Madison Square garden's sporting history, Reed entered the game in spite of suffering from a severe thigh injury, prompting widespread applause from the crowd. Overcoming the considerable pain and impairment caused by a torn thigh muscle, Reed scored the Knick's first two field goals on his first two attempts. Whilst these were his only points of the game, Walt Frazier continued to score a further 36 points, as the Knicks won 113-99. This pivotal win secured New York City its first NBA title.
4. Phillip Rivers (American Football)
A torn ACL would normally spell the end of the season for athletes. Chargers player Phillips Rivers was hit with a torn ACL during a divisional playoff in 2008. Electing for arthroscopic surgery, Rivers astonished fans by taking to the pitch for the AFC Championship game a mere week after surgery. Although the Chargers fell 21-12 to the undefeated Patriots, Rivers' resolve to play 37 passes for 211 yards in spite of a seriously damaged knee is undoubtedly astonishing, and an-awe-inspiring victory of sportsmanship.
5. Emmit Smith (American Football)
Now this feat of sporting prowess during injury is seriously impressive, and certainly not a tale for the faint-hearted. In 1993 Dallas Cowboys player Emmit Smith suffered a dislocated shoulder during the first half of the regular season finale against the New York Giants following a hard fall. The hit caused a separated shoulder and severe sprain. However to the astonishment of the crowd, Smith continued to play in spite of his explicit injury - his arm hanging limp. If this feat wasn't awe-inspiring enough, Smith led his team to victory, securing the Cowboys' pivotal 16-13 pivotal win over the Giants at Giants Stadium, accruing over 160 yards during the course of the game. Awe-inspiring yet grimace-inducing, watching Smith's incredible injured performance is a testament to defying the odds to achieve big. Smith's introduction to the Pro Football Hall of Fame in 2010 was undoubtedly a well earned accolade.
6. Kerri Strug (Gymnast)
Olympic gymnast Kerri Strug truly displayed her prowess as part of the Magnificent Seven woman's gymnastics team representing the USA at the 1996 Olympic games. In the team competition - previously dominated by Russian victory, and never previously won by America - the Russians secured a narrow lead. The outcome of the event and title came down to the final rotation. Following flawed performances by her teammates, Strug was the last US team gymnast to take to the vault. Due to under-rotating her first attempt, Strug endured a fall and damaged her ankle. If the US were to cinch the gold from the Russians, Strug had to land a second vault on her feet. With her chronic ankle injury causing her to limp to the end of the runway to participate in her second attempt, Strug managed to land the vault on both feet - albeit briefly, before hopping on to her uninjured foot, whilst saluting the judges. Following her successful landing, Strug almost instantly collapsed, requiring assistance to leave the vaulting platform. Nonetheless, her awe-inspiring feat of determination and sporting prowess was enough to secure the Olympic gold medal for the USA. Storage was carried to the award podium to receive her medal with her teammates, after which she was treated for a third-degree lateral sprain and tendon damage. Unsurprisingly Strug was recognised as a national sporting hero, meeting with President Bill Clinton, appearing on US talk shows and lauded as an icon for sporting prowess.