Special Report

25 Most Devastating Sports Injuries of 2017

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Perhaps no injury this year was as devastating to a team or demoralizing to a fanbase as the knee injury to Philadelphia Eagles quarterback Carson Wentz in a week 14 game against the Los Angeles Rams. The same game the second-year player helped the Eagles clinch a playoff berth, he tore his ACL. The knee injury brought a cruel end to what could have been an MVP season for Wentz.

Sports fans love to see what amazing feats the human body is capable of, but when athletes fully exert themselves, injuries are inevitable. Every fan is familiar with that gut-wrenching feeling of seeing one of your favorite players down on the ground in pain. And as players get bigger, stronger, and faster, collisions between athletes get more violent and potentially more dangerous.

2017 seems to be a particularly bad year for star players sustaining severe injuries, in some cases ending championship aspirations for their teams. The Miami Dolphins, Houston Texans, Green Bay Packers, and New York Giants made the 2016 NFL playoffs but all could easily miss the 2017 postseason after losing their franchise players for extended periods of time.

The NBA’s Boston Celtics looked poised to challenge the Cleveland Cavaliers for the Eastern Conference championship, but that will likely be much harder to accomplish after they had lost prized free agent signing Gordon Hayward, who suffered a gruesome broken ankle on opening night.

Several former MLB MVPs missed weeks of the season with injuries, and the Anaheim Ducks of the NHL are struggling to replicate the success of their 2016-2017 season with their two leading point-scorers from that season sidelined.

To determine the most devastating sports injuries of 2017, 24/7 Wall St. reviewed injury data from the NBA, NFL, NHL, and MLB and determined which players’ absences had the largest negative impact on their team both in terms of the skill level of the player and the time they have missed or will likely miss. These are the most devastating sports injuries we saw in 2017.

Click here to see the most devastating sports injuries of 2017.
Click here to see our detailed findings and methodology.

Source: Adam Bettcher / Getty Images

25. Dalvin Cook
> Position: Running back, Minnesota Vikings
> League: NFL
> Injury: Torn ACL
> Time missed: Season-ending

Minnesota Vikings rookie running back Dalvin Cook amassed an impressive 354 rushing yards in less than four weeks before going down with an ACL tear, which cut his first season short. Even without Cook, the Vikings have dominated the NFC North, going 10-2, putting them just one win away from clinching the division title.

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Source: Mike Stobe / Getty Images

24. Jeurys Familia
> Position: Closer, New York Mets
> League: MLB
> Injury: Blood clot
> Time missed: Three months

Jeurys Familia, closer for the New York Mets, had a dominant 2016. He had 51 saves for the Mets that year, the most in baseball. But he missed much of the 2017 season after developing a blood clot near his right shoulder that required surgery. Familia eventually returned, but not until the Mets’ season was too far gone to salvage.

Source: Joe Skipper / Getty Images

23. Ryan Tannehill
> Position: Quarterback, Miami Dolphins
> League: NFL
> Injury: Torn ACL
> Time missed: Season-ending

There may not be a position in all of sports that is as crucial to a team’s success as a quarterback. The Miami Dolphins learned that the hard way when Ryan Tannehill tore his ACL in August. In 2016, with Tannehill at the helm, the Fins went 10-6 and made the playoffs. Without Tannehill, the Dolphins have floundered, going 5-7 with replacement quarterbacks Jay Cutler and Matt Moore.

Source: Denis Poroy / Getty Images

22. Madison Bumgarner
> Position: Starting pitcher, San Francisco Giants
> League: MLB
> Injury: Sprained shoulder
> Time missed: Three months

The San Francisco Giants’ season took an unexpected turn early when All-Star pitcher Madison Bumgarner sprained his shoulder in April. Though most injuries are sustained during games or practice, Bumgarner hurt himself in a dirt bike accident. The sprained shoulder cost Bumgarner three months in 2017. By the time he returned in July, the Giants were more than 20 games below .500 and well out of the playoff race.

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Source: Christian Petersen / Getty Images

21. Richard Sherman
> Position: Cornerback, Seattle Seahawks
> League: NFL
> Injury: Ruptured achilles tendon
> Time missed: Season-ending

Richard Sherman, one of the best defensive players in the NFL, is a member of the Seahawks’ fearsome Legion of Boom secondary. Unfortunately, the Seahawks secondary isn’t as feared as it once was as both Sherman and safety Kam Chancellor are out for the year. Sherman ruptured his Achilles tendon, and Chancellor injured his neck in the same game. Even without Sherman and Chancellor, the Seahawks are a formidable opponent. They’ve compiled an 8-4 record, including a 2-1 mark since the injuries.

Source: Jason Miller / Getty Images

20. Isaiah Thomas
> Position: Point guard, Cleveland Cavaliers
> League: NBA
> Injury: Torn labrum in hip
> Time missed: Seven months (projected)

Isaiah Thomas’ injury is unique because it has actually affected two teams. Thomas initially hurt his hip as a member of the Boston Celtics in the Eastern Conference Finals against the Cleveland Cavaliers, cutting his playoff run short. In the offseason, he was part of a trade that sent him to the Cavs. Thomas has yet to suit up for his new team as the nagging hip injury has kept him on the sidelines. After a sluggish start, Cleveland is playing much better and the team hopes the point guard can return in mid-December to continue the team’s improvement.

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Source: Gregory Shamus / Getty Images

19. David Johnson
> Position: Running back, Arizona Cardinals
> League: NFL
> Injury: Dislocated wrist
> Time missed: Season-ending (projected)

Much to the dismay of fantasy football players everywhere, David Johnson’s 2017 season appears that it will last less than one game. The star running back dislocated his wrist in week one and hasn’t played since. Johnson said he’s optimistic he can come back late in the season, but the Cardinals have struggled without him with a record of 5-7 and the team may not risk bringing him back with its playoffs hopes fading.

Source: Maddie Meyer / Getty Images

18. Eric Berry
> Position: Safety, Kansas City Chiefs
> League: NFL
> Injury: Ruptured achilles tendon
> Time missed: Season-ending

The Kansas City Chiefs defense lost their leader in the first game of the year as Eric Berry ruptured his Achilles tendon in a victory over the New England Patriots. Berry is no stranger to overcoming adversity. In his pro career, Berry came back from a torn ACL in 2011 and won the NFL comeback player of the year in 2015 after treatment for lymphoma that limited playing time in 2014.

Source: Elsa / Getty Images

17. Blake Griffin
> Position: Power Forward, Los Angeles Clippers
> League: NBA
> Injury: Sprained MCL
> Time missed: Two months (projected)

Blake Griffin’s career has been beset with a number of injuries, but that doesn’t make it any less disappointing when a new one arises. The Clippers’ star forward sprained the MCL in his left knee during a game against the Lakers and his absence could be devastating. The Clippers were just 8-11 before the injury and Griffin was playing extremely well. The Clippers lost their first four games after Griffin’s injury.

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Source: Jim McIsaac / Getty Images

16. Noah Syndergaard
> Position: Starting Pitcher, New York Mets
> League: MLB
> Injury: Torn lat muscle
> Time missed: Five months

The New York Mets suffered through several injuries to star players such as Yoenis Cespedes and Matt Harvey but perhaps none were as impactful as the one to starting pitcher Noah Syndergaard. The righty made the National League All-Star team in 2016, but was limited to just 30.1 innings in 2017 because of a torn muscle in his back. Without Syndergaard for much of the season, the Mets had a forgettable 70-92 season.

Source: Ethan Miller / Getty Images

15. Marc-Andre Fleury
> Position: Goalkeeper, Las Vegas Golden Knights
> League: NHL
> Injury: Concussion
> Time missed: Two months (projected)

The expansion franchise Las Vegas Golden Knights have been surprisingly successful for a brand new team, fashioning a 17-9-1 record. But their start has been somewhat hampered by the injury to goalkeeper Marc-Andre Fleury. The former Pittsburgh Penguin suffered the third concussion of his career in October, but he may be able to return sometime in mid-December.

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Source: Stephen Dunn / Getty Images

14. Mike Trout
> Position: Outfielder, Los Angeles Angels
> League: MLB
> Injury: Torn thumb ligament
> Time missed: Seven weeks

A player as talented as Mike Trout is almost impossible to replace and the Angels certainly struggled without their MVP outfielder. Trout was batting an impressive .337 before a torn ligament in his thumb cost him 39 games and, potentially, another MVP award.

Source: Sean M. Haffey / Getty Images

13. Ryan Kesler
> Position: Center, Anaheim Ducks
> League: NHL
> Injury: Hip surgery
> Time missed: Four to five months

NHL teams are notoriously tight-lipped about injuries and players generally try to tough out any problems they’re facing and wait until the offseason to correct any issues. Anaheim Ducks center Ryan Kesler required offseason surgery to remove bone fragments from his hip, an injury he played with during the season. Kesler will miss several months of the season recovering.

Source: Kevin C. Cox / Getty Images

12. Jabari Parker
> Position: Power Forward, Milwaukee Bucks
> League: NBA
> Injury: Torn ACL
> Time missed: Season-ending

Jabari Parker was a crucial member of the Milwaukee Bucks last season. But his year was cut short when he tore his ACL for the second time in February. The second overall draft pick in 2014 may miss a full year of basketball because of the injury. It is likely too early to tell exactly when Parker will return, but Bucks head coach Jason Kidd hopes Parker can make it back by February 2018.

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Source: Gregory Shamus / Getty Images

11. Gordon Hayward
> Position: Shooting Guard, Boston Celtics
> League: NBA
> Injury: Broken ankle
> Time missed: Season-ending

Gordon Hayward’s injury took a lot of the fun out of the NBA’s opening night. The Boston Celtics’ prized free agent signing suffered a gruesome-looking broken ankle that ended his first season in Boston in a matter of minutes. Despite the injury, Boston is playing well. The Celtics boast a 22-4 record as of December 7, the best in the NBA.

Source: Greg Fiume / Getty Images

10. Bryce Harper
> Position: Outfielder, Washington Nationals
> League: MLB
> Injury: Bone bruise
> Time missed: Six weeks

Many Washington Nationals fans feared the worst when MVP outfielder Bryce Harper injured his knee stepping on a base awkwardly in 2017. Though Harper missed more than a month with a significant bone bruise, there was no ligament damage to the knee and he was able to return to the Nats’ lineup in time for the postseason. Even though Harper played in Washington’s playoff games, he acknowledged his knee wasn’t 100% healthy in October.

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Source: Jonathan Ferrey / Getty Images

9. Deshaun Watson
> Position: Quarterback, Houston Texans
> League: NFL
> Injury: Torn ACL
> Time missed: Season-ending

Injuries are never a good thing, but few injury announcements were as heavily lamented as the news that Houston Texans rookie quarterback Deshaun Watson tore his ACL in practice. Watson’s breakout year was one of the great stories of the 2017 football season. The quarterback, fresh off an NCAA national championship with Clemson, set a record for the most passing touchdowns in the first seven games of an NFL career with 19.

Source: Jonathan Ferrey / Getty Images

8. Andrew Luck
> Position: Quarterback, Indianapolis Colts
> League: NFL
> Injury: Shoulder
> Time missed: Season-ending

Andrew Luck’s shoulder injury is one of the stranger situations in the NFL. Luck reportedly first injured his shoulder in 2015. He played through the injury through 2015 and 2016, but the injury appears to have never healed properly. Colts owner Jim Irsay tweeted that Luck had surgery in 2017 to finally correct the nagging injury and that he would be ready for the season. However, Indianapolis’ franchise quarterback was placed on injured reserve and will miss the entire 2017 season.

Source: Sean M. Haffey / Getty Images

7. Ryan Getzlaf
> Position: Center, Anaheim Ducks
> League: NHL
> Injury: Broken zygomatic bone
> Time missed: Two months

Hockey players are known for their toughness, but some injuries are too severe to play through. Ryan Getzlaf of the Anaheim Ducks was struck in the face by a puck in October. The puck broke a bone in his cheek and kept him on the sidelines after just six games. The Ducks have struggled without Getzlaf, their 2016-2017 leading scorer and team captain. Anaheim is currently outside of the playoff picture after finishing third in the Western Conference the previous season.

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Source: Mitchell Leff / Getty Images

6. Markelle Fultz
> Position: Point Guard, Philadelphia 76ers
> League: NBA
> Injury: Scapular muscle imbalance
> Time missed: Unknown

Markelle Fultz, the top overall pick in the 2017 NBA Draft, was supposed to be the final step in the rebuilding process of the Philadelphia 76ers, going along with promising young stars like Joel Embiid and Ben Simmons. But much like Embiid and Simmons who missed their rookie years with injuries, Fultz hasn’t been able to play much in his rookie season. Fans were left scratching their heads when Fultz used a new, bizarre shooting motion to start out the season, which was later attributed to an issue in his right shoulder. He was officially diagnosed with Scapular muscle imbalance, meaning he will have to retrain his shoulder muscles to work correctly. It was initially unclear when Fultz would return, but Philadelphia is optimistic he can come back in December.

Source: Steven Ryan / Getty Images

5. Odell Beckham Jr.
> Position: Wide Receiver, New York Giants
> League: NFL
> Injury: Broken ankle
> Time missed: Season-ending

Odell Beckham Jr. has become one of the most recognizable faces in the NFL because of his spectacular one-handed catches and frequent commercial appearances. But Giants fans will have until 2018 to watch him play again after he suffered a broken ankle in a loss to the Los Angeles Chargers that required season-ending surgery. Beckham’s injury was perhaps the biggest disappointment in a season full of them for New York. Coming off an 11-5 season in 2016, the Giants started out this year 2-10 and fired head coach Ben McAdoo and general manager Jerry Rees.

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Source: Michael Reaves / Getty Images

4. Jeremy Lin
> Position: Point Guard, Brooklyn Nets
> League: NBA
> Injury: Ruptured patella tendon
> Time missed: Season-ending

Brooklyn basketball fans had high hopes for the return of “Linsanity” to the city where it started. But Lin’s second season with the Nets was just 25 minutes long. He suffered a ruptured patella tendon on a drive to the basket. He was projected to be a starter for the Nets, who are 10-14 as of December 8. Fans can only help but wonder how much better Brooklyn would be if Lin was able to contribute.

Source: Bob Levey / Getty Images

3. J.J. Watt
> Position: Defensive End, Houston Texans
> League: NFL
> Injury: Tibial plateau fracture
> Time missed: Season-ending

J.J. Watt is unquestionably one of the most dominant defensive players in the NFL — as long as he’s on the field. The three-time AP Defensive Player of the Year has been banged up over the last few years, missing time due to a herniated disc in his back. In 2017, Watt’s season was ended when the tibial plateau in his left leg, the area just below his knee. Doctors reportedly said they usually see that type of injury in motorcycle accidents.

The injury is especially devastating to Texans fans because of how much Watt means to the Houston community. The star defensive end organized a campaign to help Houston after the city was devastated by flooding caused by Hurricane Harvey. The campaign raised over $37 million.

Source: Adam Bettcher / Getty Images

2. Aaron Rodgers
> Position: Quarterback, Green Bay Packers
> League: NFL
> Injury: Broken collarbone
> Time missed: Two months (projected)

There may not be a player in the NFL that means as much to his team as Aaron Rodgers means to the Green Bay Packers. The two-time NFL MVP is crucial to the Packers’ success and the team has struggled mightily after Rodgers went out with a broken collarbone.

After a 4-1 start with Rodgers at the helm, the Packers have gone 2-5 since, including the game against the Minnesota Vikings in which Rodgers was injured. The only two wins came against the lowly Bears and Buccaneers. Rodgers could come back week 15 against the Panthers, but at 6-6 the injury to Rodgers may have set the Packers too far back to make the playoffs.

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Source: Sean M. Haffey / Getty Images

1. Carson Wentz
> Position: Quarterback, Philadelphia Eagles
> League: NFL
> Injury: Torn ACL
> Time missed: Season-ending

A year after being picked second overall in the NFL draft by the Philadelphia Eagles, Carson Wentz was a favorite to win the NFL MVP. He guided the Eagles to an NFC-best 11-2 record and an NFC East title. Unfortunately, Wentz will miss the Eagles’ playoff run after tearing his ACL. Philadelphia still has a stout defense and a solid running game, but the Eagles will have a much harder time winning a Super Bowl without their franchise quarterback running the offense.

 Detailed Findings & Methodology

Any injury suffered by an athlete isn’t just an issue for the team. The physical repercussions could linger long after the athlete’s playing days are over, particularly head injuries.

A wealth of research in the past two decades clearly shows how the long-term effects of injuries athletes sustain are even more devastating than previously thought. This is particularly true of the damage done to the brain by repeated head injuries. According to one 2017 study, 96% of NFL players had chronic traumatic encephalopathy, or CTE, a brain disease caused by repeated head trauma with symptoms such as memory loss, confusion, and and depression.

Due to medicine’s improved understanding of the long-term effects of concussions and the increased public awareness, parents have been avoiding enrolling their children in contact sports like football.

But even ignoring the revelations related to concussions and head trauma, sustaining a serious, potentially career-ending injury that can have long-term consequences on health is not uncommon. And new evidence is showing severe injuries are becoming more common.

NFL teams can place players on several lists, like the injured reserve list or the physically unable to perform list, if a player will likely miss a significant amount of time with an injury or other physical ailment. Sports Illustrated examined the number of NFL players included on severe injury lists each year. It found that 295 players were on those lists as of Nov. 1 2017, compared to 277 players listed on Nov. 1 2016, and 233 players listed Nov. 1 2015.

All sports carry some risk of injury, but football injuries are usually have the greatest impact on the team. The NFL regular season is just 16 games long, making each game crucial to a team’s playoff hopes.

A study that examined 1,794 NFL players found that 38% of them missed at least one game with injury during the 2015 season. Some 63% of NHL players missed time with an injury between 2009 and 2012, but there are 82 games in a hockey season to the NFL’s 16.

There were many different injuries that made the list of most devastating, but ACL tears were the most common, appearing on the list five times. They’re also the biggest concern for football players. A USA Today survey found that 46% of NFL players said they were most concerned about suffering a knee or leg injury like an ACL tear in a game, compared to 24% of players who were most concerned about a head or neck injury.

The ACL, or anterior cruciate ligament, connects the thigh bone to the shin bone and goes through the knee. The ligament is essential for lateral movement like sudden changes in direction, which is often required in football. Fixing an ACL tears requires long rehab time, and many star NFL players have had their seasons cut short with such an injury.

In order to determine the most devastating injuries, 24/7 Wall St. reviewed injuries to players from the four major U.S. sports leagues: the NFL, NHL, NBA, and MLB. Players were ranked based on the impact that their absence had on their team — both in terms of the quality of their play and their team’s dependence on them — and the amount of time the injury would keep them out. Injuries on this list either occurred in 2017 or required corrective surgery in 2017, causing players to miss more time.

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