Most Devastating Injuries in Chicago Sports History

The recent news that Brian Urlacher will be out for three weeks and could be out for the season is a potentially devastating blow. The Bears had already lost three of their last four after starting the season 7-1. Their defense had been playing on a historic pace for turnovers and defensive touchdowns before their recent slide began with a loss to Houston in in week ten.

Urlacher’s injury could potentially be one of the most devastating in the history of Chicago Sports.  Gale Sayers career altering knee injury, Michael Jordan’s foot that cost him the majority of his second NBA season and Derrick Rose’s Torn ACL in the opener of last year’s playoff ranks as some of the worst injuries in Chicago sports history. Where Urlacher falls on that list, is yet to be determined.

Gale Sayers 1968
Possibly the most famous injury in the history of Chicago Sports. Sayers was the NFL’s best player when according to Fred Mitchell of the Tribune “ Sayers took a pitch out  from quarterback Virgil Carter. Sayers planted his right leg to make a cut on the turf, but 49ers cornerback Kermit Alexander lunged ahead at the leg to make the tackle. Sayers’ knee buckled.” That ended his 1968 season prematurely. He was leading the NFL in rushing at the time of the injury.

Mitchell recounted Sayers injury and it’s aftermath at the time of Rose’s injury in April.

Although Sayers returned and led the NFL in rushing in 1968 he was never the same player. His speed and quickness that made him a Hall of Fame Player were not the same. After occurring a second knee injury in 1970, Sayers retired following the 1971 season. He played in only four games and had only 36 carries for 90 yards in his final two seasons.

Ben Wilson 1984
Wilson was the first player in the history of Chicago prep basketball to be ranked the number one player in the country. As a junior he led Simeon to their first state championship in 1984. The Wolverines defeated top ranked and undefeated Evanston in the finals.

Wilson was shot to death on November 20, 1984 while on a walk with his girlfriend. The thoughts of what might have been and the details of that night were detailed in the ESPN 30-for-30 film Benji.

Michael Jordan 1985-86 Jordan missed 64 games after breaking his foot in the third game of the 1985-86 season. He had put up 62 points, 13 rebounds and nine assists in the first two games of the season before the injury.

MJ returned in March just in time to get the Bulls in the playoffs for the second straight season. His 63 point game against the Celtics in game two in the opening round still stands as the NBA record.

Jim McMahon 1986 and 1987 NFL Playoffs
McMahon’s career was littered with what could have been. The most games he played in was 14 in his second season in 1983. McMahon missed only one of the first ten games to start the 1984 season. The Bears were 7-2 in those games before McMahon suffered a lacerated kidney and bruised ribs ending his season.

Steve Fuller started the remainder of the season as the Bears finished 10-6 and won their first division title of the Super Bowl era. They would advance to the NFC title game after upsetting the defending Superbowl Champion Washington Redskins. The Bears then lost to the eventual Superbowl champion San Francisco 49ers.

The following season, McMahon played in 13 games and the Bears won their only Superbowl. They continued as a dominant team for the next three seasons. McMahon played in only 22 games from 1986-88. He missed the 1986 playoff loss to Washington, but was able to play in the playoff in 1987 and 1988.

That Era is still highly regarded in Bears lore. Fans still wonder what might have been if McMahon had stayed healthy.

Ronnie Fields 1996
Nearly ten years after Wilson, Ronnie Fields wowed Chicago prep basketball fans as part of a superteam with Kevin Garnett and Michael Wright. As a junior Fields and Kevin Garnett led Farragut to the City championship and a trip downstate. The Admirals were upset by Thornton that boasted their own team of stars including future NFL stars Tai Streets and Antwan Randle-EL and NBA Center Melvin Ely.

After Garnett left the attention focused to Fields.  A week before the start of the Chicago Public League playoffs, Fields was in a car accident that fractured a bone in his neck. He never seemed to recover. A series of other off the court problems prevented Fields from ever enrolling at DePaul after signing a letter of intent with the Blue Demons. He played in league both domestically and internationally before retiring after the 2007 season. Fields concluded his high school career as the third all-time leading scorer in Chicago Public League history.

Kerry Wood 1999
Kerry Wood had one of the most promising rookie seasons in Cubs history. He pitched one of the most memorable games in baseball history when he struck out 20 Astros, and allowed just one hit with no walks in a complete game 2-0 victory.

In what many would say is typical Cubs fashion, Wood was sidelined for the entire 1999 season after having Tommy John surgery. He would again post productive seasons, but remained injury prone throughout his career and never reached the unrealistic expectations placed on him. He was apart of four Cubs playoff teams during his career, an achievement unmatched by anyone in the modern era

Frank Thomas and Magglio Ordonez 2004
The White Sox were in first place as late as July 24, a half game up on Minnesota. Their 242 Homeruns led the American League. As impressive as their power was, it could have been even more prodigious if Thomas and Ordonez had not missed the majority of the season.

Thomas broke his ankle on July 6th and missed the remainder of the season. He was hitting .271 with 18 homeruns and 49 rbis in 74 games at the time of the injury.

Ordonez spent the majority of the 2004 season on the disabled list in two separate stints. He first went on the DL on May 26th because of arthroscopic surgery on his left knee. After missing 36 games he returned on July 10th. He lasted just ten games when he went back on the DL on July 24th.His last game in a White Sox uniform was July 21st.

Ordonez finished the season hitting .292 with nine homeruns and 37 rbis. They were 52-42 at the time of his second stint on the DL. They finished 31-37, nine games behind Minnesota.
Carlos Quentin 2008 Three years after winning the world series, the White Sox were back in the playoff hunt in 2008. Quentin was acquired by the White Sox in the off-season from Arizona for minor league first baseman Chris Carter.

Quentin was a legitimate contender for the American League Most Valuable Player award when he slammed the bat on his wrist after swinging and missing on a pitch against Cleveland’s Cliff Lee. Quentin layer needed season ending surgery on his wrist. At the time of the injury, Quentin was hitting .288 with 36 home runs and 100 rbi’s in 130 games.

Carl Everett replaced Thomas and hit .266 with five homeruns and 21 rbis. Joe Borchard replaced Ordonez and finished the season hitting  .174 with nine homeruns and 20 rbis.

The White Sox eventually would advance to the postseason, losing in four games to the Tampa Bay Rays in the division series. Without Quentin in the lineup, the White Sox scored just 13 runs in the four games.

Brian Urlacher 2009 and 2012
For the second time in four years, Urlacher has suffered a potential season ending injury. In the 2009 season opener against Green Bay  he broke his wrist. That cost Urlacher the remainder of the season. After starting 3-1, the Bears lost eight of their next ten. They eventually finished 7-9. The defense clearly suffered without their all-pro linebacker finishing 21st in points allowed. With Urlacher back the next season, the Bears finished fourth in points allowed.

The Bears are only 7-15 without Urlacher since he was drafted in 2000. In addition to missing the final 15 games of the 2009 season, he also missed seven games in 2004. The Bears 5-11 overall that season, 5-4 with Urlacher in the lineup. In all but two of the games he played in 2004, the Bears allowed under 20 points. They allowed more than 20 points in five of the seven games he missed.

He ranks first on the Bears in career tackles and is in the top 15 in several other categories. With his contract expiring at the end of the year, there has been a lot of speculation this week on sportsradio whether or not Urlacher is coming back to the Bears or even if he’ll retire.

Jay Cutler 2011
The Bears were 7-3 and on their way to a likely wildcard playoff berth when Cutler tried to to tackle San Diego’s Antoine Cason on a interception return. Cutler broke his thumb, requiring surgery and sidelining him for the remainder of the season. The Bears lost their next four games under Caleb Hanie and then a fifth straight under Josh McCown.  They finally won their last game of the regular season over Minnesota to salvage a .500 record.

Jonathan Toews 2012
After suffering a concussion on February 19 he missed the final two months of the regular season. The Tribune’s Chris Kuc reported last month that Toews was still suffering from the concussion during the Hawks six game opening round loss to Phoenix. He had two goals and two assists in the series, but half of each came in their opening game loss in overtime. His other goal was a game five winner to keep the Hawks season alive.

The 57 games he played in in 2011-12 were the lowest of his five year NHL Career

Derrick Rose 2012-13
Behind Rose and Head Coach Tom Thibodeau the Bulls quickly became an Eastern Conference power during Thibs first two seasons in Chicago. For the second straight season the Bulls entered the playoffs as the number one seed.

With the Bulls up 12 and 1:20 left game one of their Eastern Conference Quarterfinal Series Against Philadelphia, Rose tore his anterior cruciate ligament when he attempted to come to a jump stop in the lane. The 76ers Lavoy Allen and Spencer Hawes rotated over causing Rose to change direction and pass off. He landed awkwardly causing the injury.

The Bulls held on to win game one, but lost the next three and were eventually ousted in six games in the opening round. The Bulls became only the fourth number one seed to lose in the first round of the NBA Playoffs.

Joakim Noah 2012
Derrick Rose wasn’t the only star player the Bulls lost in the 2012 NBA Playoffs. After Rose was lost with a torn ACL at the end of game one, Noah rolled his ankle in the second half of game three. The Bulls were unable to hold a double digit lead without their star big man. They lost game three and eventually lost the series in six games to Philadelphia. Noah was averaging 15 points and nine rebounds before being knocked out.

Leave a comment