Sports players are known for earning extremely high salaries that many people feel are over-the-top. Others feel as if these athletes’ lofty pay-checks are justified due to the risk of injury and future complications associated with the “wear-and-tear” that comes with their job. For example, many athletes have been faced with severe, season-ending injuries that keep them out of the game for extended periods of time. This raises situations where sports stars are being paid huge amounts to “heal” as opposed to actually playing their game. In leagues where so much emphasis is placed on winning, serious injuries to key players can sometimes mean the difference between becoming champions and losing it all. Either way, injuries have become an important factor in professional sports and something that most players will have to deal with over the course of their career. With these factors in mind, here are ten of the highest-earning sports players to lose their season due to an injury:
10. Brien Taylor – $1.55 Million Per Year
Picked first overall by the New York Yankees in 1991, Brien Taylor signed a contract for $1.55 million. Taylor had his career shortened when he dislocated his shoulder and tore his labrum in a fistfight, an arm injury that prevented him from ever playing a major league game. Currently, Brien Taylor is incarcerated for charges of distributing crack-cocaine and is serving a 38-month sentence. After his prison time is served, Taylor will face 3 years of supervised probation.
9. Ed McCaffrey – $1.6 Million Per Year
Having played in the NFL for the New York Giants, San Francisco 49ers and Denver Broncos, Ed McCaffrey is a three-time Super Bowl winner. On September 10th, 2001, McCaffrey suffered a season-ending leg-break while playing a Monday Night Football game against the New York Giants (his previous team). At the time, McCaffrey was earning an average of $1.6 million per season. Most recently, Ed McCaffrey replaced 850 KOA’s analyst Brian Griese.
8. Rashard Mendenhall – $2.5 Million Per Year
Playing in the NFL for the Pittsburgh Steelers in 2011, Rashard Mendenhall tore his ACL in week 17. In July of 2008, Mendenhall signed a five-year contract worth $12.55 million with the Steelers; of which $7.125 million was guaranteed. That was an average base salary of $2.5 million per year. In 2011, the year of Rashard Mendenhall’s injury, the Pittsburgh Steelers lost the Super Bowl to the Green Bay Packers with a score of 31 to 25.
7. Michael Irvin – $2.5 Million Per Year
Playing in the NFL for the Dallas Cowboys, Michael Irvin won the Super Bowl in 1992 and 1993. During the 5th game of his 1999 season, Irvin was tackled by Philadelphia Eagle Tim Hauck and suffered a cervical spinal cord injury. This injury was career-ending and Irvin went on to be a broadcaster for ESPN. During his time as an NFL player, Michael Irvin was signed to a five-year contact with the Cowboys, earning an average of $2.5 million per year.
6. Heath Miller – $4.2+ Million Per Year
As tight-end for the Pittsburg Steelers, Heath Miller suffered severe damage to his knee during a losing game against the Cincinnati Bengals in December 2012. Miller tore his anterior cruciate and medial collateral ligaments, putting an abrupt end to his season. Miller’s recovery time extended well into the next season’s training camp. Miller was in contract for a base salary of $4,274,000 with an $850,000 bonus. The Steelers failed to make the playoffs in the 2012 season, finishing with a record of 8-8.
5. Willis McGahee – $2.5+ Million Per Year
Playing NCAA football for the Miami Hurricanes in 2003, Willis McGahee tore both his ACL (Anterior Cruciate Ligament) and his MCL (Medial Cruciate Ligament) during a game against Ohio State in the Fiesta Bowl. At the time, Willis McGahee was earning less than $1 million per season. Currently, Willis McGahee is signed to an NFL contract with the Cleveland Browns and makes more than $2.5 million per season.
4. Sidney Crosby – $8.7 Million Per Year
In January 2011, the Pittsburgh Penguins announced that Sidney Crosby would miss the remaining 42 games of the season due to do a concussion. In 2007 Sidney Crosby signed a five-year contracted worth $43.5 million; a base salary of $8.7 million per season. In the lockout-shortened 2013 season, Sidney Crosby was hit in the face with a puck which saw him sidelined for the last 12 games. Crosby returned for the playoffs but the Penguins were swept in 4 games by the Boston Bruins in the conference finals.
3. Adrian Peterson – $14.9 Million Per Year
As the star running back for the Minnesota Vikings in 2011, Adrian Peterson tore the ACL in his left knee. In the same year, Peterson signed a seven year contract with the Vikings, earning him over $100 million with a guaranteed $36 million . The contract comes out to$14.9 million per year plus $1 million for each time he rushes 1,250 yards in a season. The year after his injury, Peterson miraculously returned to lead the league with 2,097 rushing yards, only 8 yards shy of Erik Dickerson’s all-time record. Adrian Peterson’s contract is set to expire in 2018.
2. Derrick Rose – $17.6 Million Per Year
Playing in the NBA for the Chicago Bulls, Derrick Rose’s base salary for the 2013/2014 season is $17,632,688. During the 2011-2012 NBA Playoffs, Rose tore his ACL and underwent 18 months of rehabilitation. On May 12, 2012 Rose underwent knee surgery and it was announced in July of 2013 that he would be returning to the NBA this season. Rose took much fan and media criticism for missing an entire season due to the injury.
1. Johan Santana – $22 Million Per Year
Playing for the New York Mets, Johan Santana signed a six-year contract for a total of $137.5 million in 2008. The contract earns him nearly $22 million per year. On June 1, 2012, Santana pitched a no-hitter against the St. Louis Cardinals. Despite his success, Santana was injured during each of the 2008, 2009 and 2010 seasons. On April 3, 2013, he underwent surgery to repair a re-torn shoulder capsule. Santana missed the entire 2013 season and his injuries are likely to be career-ending.
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