a male football player running across a football field as the sun goes down

For the average person, a joint injury can be frustrating and disruptive to everyday life, but this disruption can go even deeper for a professional athlete. For NFL players, joint injuries are not only common, but have at times resulted in complete career ends for various players across the United States. However, recovery is often possible with proper care, and some noteworthy players have accomplished truly inspiring turnarounds in their career after sustaining serious joint injuries. Read on to learn more! 

Tom Brady: ACL, MCL Tear

In 2008, New England Patriots quarterback Tom Brady tore both his anterior cruciate ligament, otherwise known as the ACL, and his medial collateral ligament, or MCL, during the first game of the season while playing against the Kansas City Chiefs. Though most ACL tears occur from non-contact injuries, Brady was unable to continue the game after being run down by Chiefs defender Bernard Pollard. He subsequently discovered that he could not participate in the remainder of the NFL season, and underwent surgical reconstruction of the ligament and physical therapy before he could return to his team. Despite this painful joint injury, Brady continues to serve as quarterback for the Patriots and has been recognized as the greatest quarterback of all time by numerous sports analysts, even the legendary Joe Namath. 

Peyton Manning: Herniated Disc

Former quarterback for the Indianapolis Colts and Denver Broncos Peyton Manning suffered from periodic cervical disc herniation throughout his NFL career. This specific ailment involves damage to the discs of the spine, causing pressure on the nerves surrounding the spinal cord. Symptoms of cervical disc herniation include arm pain, numbness, and weakness, as well as neck pain. While different surgical methods can treat this problem, Manning’s disc herniation was treated via several surgeries in 2011, cervical fusion being one method. After sustaining further nerve damage that caused complete numbness in his right hand, Manning was sadly released from the Colts. Despite these setbacks, he was signed to the Denver Broncos in 2012 and persevered through his condition, achieving 131 touchdowns in only three seasons with the Colorado team.

Wes Welker: ACL, MCL Tear

Beginning in 2004, Texas Tech University graduate Wes Welker served as the wide receiver for the San Diego Chargers, and would later play for teams including the Miami Dolphins, New England Patriots, Denver Broncos, and St. Louis Rams. During a 2010 game against the Houston Texans, in which Welker was playing for the Patriots, he sustained both an anterior cruciate and medial collateral ligament tear when he attempted to plant his left foot as he caught a pass from Tom Brady. Although this injury resulted in his absence for the remainder of the season, Welker recovered after experiencing reconstructive surgery and returned to the NFL, finally retiring in 2015. Today, Welker’s passion for football continues as he serves as an assistant coach for the San Francisco 49ers.

Willis McGahee: ACL, MCL Tear 

In 2003, former Cleveland Browns running back Willis McGahee sustained a torn anterior cruciate ligament and medial collateral ligament during an event known as the Fiesta Bowl, wherein the Ohio State Buckeyes and the Miami Hurricanes were facing off. Playing for Miami, McGahee’s knee bent incorrectly as he was tackled by Ohio State safety Will Allen, resulting in his season-ending injury. Although doctors initially thought he had also torn his posterior cruciate ligament, this injury was ruled out during surgery. Despite further leg and knee injuries during his career, McGahee was signed to the Denver Broncos for a period of time with a $9.5 million contract after playing for the Baltimore Ravens. All-American Willis McGahee’s inspirational recovery will be remembered as an integral part of NFL history.

Drew Brees: Torn Labrum and Rotator Cuff 

New Orleans Saints quarterback Drew Brees suffered a torn labrum and rotator cuff during the final game of the 2005 season while playing for the San Diego Chargers. While other teams were reluctant to elect Brees to their team during his recovery period, the Chargers stood by the NFL quarterback and welcomed him as a top player for the first five years of his career. After recovering from his shoulder injury and later moving on to sign on with the New Orleans Saints, Brees successfully led his team to a championship in Super Bowl XLIV, winning the MVP award for this event, and was recogniz