Athletes who retire young may disappoint many fans, but how they move forward can be inspirational. Unfortunately, injuries are inevitable when it comes to sports, and for some of the athletes we shall be talking about in this review, it was just plain bad luck to have been injured way too early. Playing aggressively and at the same time protecting your body from injuries seems to be almost impossible, and even the slightest injuries can end one’s career immediately.
Most athletes usually stick around for as long as they can, for financial as well as competitive reasons, while others decide to retire when they get an injury, but as much as they had no choice, they mostly leave their fans craving for more and wishing they got to share a little more time with their idols.
Now, this is common on all fronts, which means that almost all sports have suffered losses in the form of great athletes from injuries, but the NFL has taken the brunt of it all. In fact, in our list below of athletes who have retired young due to injuries, almost every one of them was playing for the NFL. The most recent loss in the NFL was from Andrew Luck, who retired and left most of his fans in complete and utter shock. Needless to say, they are yet to recover from it. He said that he was just tired of constantly rehabilitating from injuries.
Our List Of Athletes Who Retired Early Due to Injuries
Gale Sayers – 1965 – 1971 NFL player: Running Back
He is arguably one of the best football players of all time, and he even landed in the Pro Football Hall of Fame despite having only played for just seven NFL seasons. He was a monster on the field and played for the Chicago Bears from the 60s, and had also been named in the first-team for the All-pro selection in five full campaigns, and had led the league twice in rushing yards. Unfortunately for him, in 1968, he injured his knee severely and although he tried to come back after that, but only ended up being dominant, and when his other knee got hurt in 1970, it effectively ended his brilliant career. If he would have had a 10-15 year career, it is predicted that he would have likely gone down in history as one of the greatest NFL players of all time.
Bobby Orr – 1966 -1978 NFL player: Defenseman
This is yet another great legend who can blame his knee injuries to ultimately ending his career. He played for the Boston Bruins and shattered records in the position of a defenseman. He won a record 8 consecutive Norris Trophies and was honored as the best defenseman by the league. His repeated knee injuries, however, left him unable to continue punishing himself in the career and was forced to retire in 1978 at the young age of 30. He was inducted in the hockey hall of fame and was hailed as the all-time NFL greats and there is no telling just how great he would have been if his knees hadn’t given out.
Earl Campbell – 1978 – 1985: NFL Running Back
Earl Campbell landed in the Hall of Fame, despite having his career shorted when he took a beating. He was a legendary running back who played for only eight seasons in the NFL before he called it quits. He was sidelined during most of the games in the second half of his career, and he would rush for 1300 yards in five out of six seasons. In his last three seasons, he totaled 1,000 yards. Nowadays, he can barely walk, after he had both of his knees replaced and four surgeries on his back.
Daunte Culpepper – 1999 – 2009: NFL Quarterback
Unlike other positions, quarterbacks in the NFL can play for around 15 plus years, provided they are always winning. However, Daunte Culpepper was not that lucky. In the five seasons he played as a full-time starter, he was pure magic and was even named in two All-Pro teams and three Pro-Bowls, he also took the Minnesota Vikings twice to the playoffs. A severe knee injury that occurred in 2005, unfortunately, ended his career as a rising NFL star which led to him bouncing around several other teams but never playing in more than eight games at a time during a season. He retired at 31 in 2008.
Kerry Wood – 1998 – 2012: MLB Pitcher
13 seasons was the length of Kerry Wood’s career in the MLB, which is way longer than the other stars in our list. When he was at his best and healthy, he was nothing short of brilliant on the mound and racked up more than 1,000 career strikeouts in his career as a pitcher in the history of the MLB. He, however, had a hard-throw style that seemed to have eventually cost him. He spent plenty of his time battling injuries and this caused him to even miss an entire season while in recovery.
Athletes Who Retired Young after Injuries Conclusion
It’s always sad when an athlete has to retire way too early as a result of an injury, and this list is sure to cause some people to have bad memories of how great the above athletes were. But, the truth is that once a player is injured, continuing to play with an injury makes it much worse. If you think about athletes such as Earl Campbell who can barely walk, you will understand why they need to let go of their careers after an injury.