Athletes are truly a different breed. Putting their bodies on the line through every moment of every game is a sacrifice made for success, and as fans, we can at times get caught up in the beauty of brutality. 

Whether it’s Patrice Bergeron playing through a punctured lung, among other injuries, trying to boost the Boston Bruins’ Stanley Cup odds, or Clay Matthews playing through half an NFL season with a broken leg, there’s virtually no limit an athlete won’t push to for the chance to become a champion. Here are some of the top “playing through the pain” moments in Sports.

Kerri Strug

In the 1996 Summer Olympics in Atlanta, the U.S. Women’s Gymnastics team had a slim lead over Russia for the Gold Medal. Kerri Strug was the last hope for the United States to win after teammate Dominique Moceanu fell on both of her vault attempts. However, on Strug’s first attempt on the fault, she fell and suffered an ankle injury. 

Determined to carry on, Strug went to the line for her second go. Amazingly, she stuck the landing on her routine before collapsing into her trainer’s arms. Strug suffered a grade three ankle sprain with tendon damage, but she earned a 9.712 from the judges, securing the Gold for Team USA.

Kirk Gibson

One of the most iconic moments in Dodgers history, Kirk Gibson was a fan favorite and one of L.A.’s best hitters, with an .860 OPS during the regular season, along with 157 hits and 76 RBI. However, injuries to both of his legs had kept him from starting Game One of the 1988 World Series. 

However, with the Dodgers trailing 4-3 in the bottom of the ninth, Gibson grabbed his bat and came in as a pinch hitter with a runner on first facing future Hall of Fame pitcher Dennis Eckersley of the Oakland Athletics and teammate Mike Davis on base. Somewhat limping his way into the batter’s box, Gibson battled through the at-bat and worked the count to 3-2 before slugging a slider over the right field fence to rally for a 5-4 win. 

Gibson’s injury kept him out for the rest of the series, but the triumphant moment spurred the Dodgers on, and they went on to win the World Series four games to one. 

Ronnie Lott

Warning in advance, this one isn’t for the faint of heart. 

Hall of Fame defensive back Ronnie Lott is one of the best to ever take to an NFL field. He was a four-time Super Bowl champion, a 10-time Pro Bowler, and was named to the NFL’s 100th Anniversary All-Time Team. 

However, his moment that led to inclusion on this list came in the 1985 season.

Lott was a punishing tackler, and late in the year, he tackled Dallas Cowboys running back Timmy Newsome, crunching his hand on the play. The tackle left Lott’s pinky finger mangled, and the L.A. Times reported there was a chance fragments of his skin and bone remained on the field after the play. 

A true gamer, Lott taped his finger up and played the rest of the year. Then after the season, Lott opted to have the tip of his finger amputated as settling for surgery would’ve resulted in missing time during the 1986 season. 


As you can see, it takes more than just athletic skill, instincts, and hard work to become a successful athlete. To become a true great, there are times you need to make sacrifices in order to accomplish your goals. That sacrifice often comes in the form of giving up personal comforts like sleep, time with family and friends, or just free time in general. However, the athletes above, and many more we didn’t have time to mention, gave even more of themselves and will be forever remembered for their sacrifices and achievements. 

The good news is that it’s unlikely anyone will ask you to amputate a finger to keep going at your job, and you can still be successful there too. 

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