Washington Redskins quarterback, Robert Griffin III's recovery from knee surgery is well ahead of schedule and is nothing short of “unbelievable,” according to Dr. James Andrews. Andrews performed surgery to repair the torn LCL and ACL that Griffin suffered to his right knee during a first round playoff game against the Seattle Seahawks.
Griffin is the latest athlete to make what is being described as a “superhuman” recovery after being operated on by Andrews. Minnesota Vikings running back, Adrian Peterson, another patient of Andrews, also made a “superhuman” recovery after having a season-ending knee surgery in the penultimate game of the 2011 season. Peterson returned in 2012 without missing a game and led the league in rushing with 2,097 yards. Peterson received the league MVP and came within nine yards of breaking the NFL all-time single-season rushing record held by Eric Dickerson.
Recovering from a severe knee injury is certainly impressive, but it is not as impressive as those athletes who play with other physical and mental disabilities. Here are five athletes who have also displayed “unbelievable” fortitude in playing with a disability at a professional athlete level.
1. Alonzo Mourning
Mourning is a former NBA player who spent most of his 15-year career with the Miami Heat. He was a 7-time NBA All-Star and 2-time NBA Defensive Player of the Year. He won a gold medal with the 2000 US Olympic Basketball team. In 2003, at the height of his career, he was diagnosed with focal segmental glomerulosclerosis, a life-threatening kidney disease. Mourning had just signed a multi-million dollar contract when he was diagnosed and announced his retirement in November of that year. Mourning received a kidney transplant in December 2003 and began recovery. Mourning returned to active duty the following season, and in 2006, helped the Miami Heat win their first NBA Championship.
2. Chris Wright
ESPN reports Wright is the only player in “NBA history known to have multiple sclerosis.” Wright was diagnosed while playing in a Turkish professional basketball team. Wright was a developmental league All-star for the Iowa Energy. This season, Wright was invited to the New Orleans Hornet training camp and played briefly for the Dallas Mavericks. Mavericks coach Rick Carlisle said, “He's been an inspirational figure to a lot of people.” Coincidentally, Wright attended Georgetown University, as did Alonzo Mourning.
3. Royce White
White is an advocate for mental illness. He suffers from extreme anxiety, including a fear of flying. White was drafted in the first round by the NBA Houston Rockets after a less-than-stellar career at Iowa State. White has Generalized Anxiety Disorder and went public with the disorder last year. White has become an outspoken advocate for mental illness. He has refused to play for Houston until they adapt a mental health protocol that is on par with physical injuries.
In a USA Today report, White explained, “Let's say Derrick Rose wanted to come back right now and his orthopedist said no. They wouldn't let him come back. They would fully listen to the doctor."
White has tried different treatments and medication for the disorder that includes “panic attacks, a fear of heights and traveling — especially by plane — and obsessive-compulsive disorder.”
White says the Rockets were aware of his condition when they drafted him. “This is my anxiety disorder and you're not respecting it the same as a physical health condition,” explained White. White is blazing a trail for defining mental health rights especially as it relates to professional athletes.
“Under ADA (Americans with Disabilities Act), if you have a disability, you can ask for the same things that I've asked for, no matter what job you have.”
White is currently playing for the Rio Grande Valley Vipers in the NBA Developmental League.
4. Jim Abbott
Abbot is a former major league baseball player. Abbott was born without a right hand. Despite that physical limitation, Abbot went on to be a pitcher for eleven years. Abbott won the James E. Sullivan Award as the nation's best amateur athlete in 1987, won a gold medal at the 1988 Summer Olympics, and was drafted in the first round of the 1988 Major League Baseball Draft. In 1993, Abbott pitched a no-hitter against the Cleveland Indians while playing for the New York Yankees.
5. David Garrard
NFL quarterback Garrard suffers from Crohn’s disease. The disease can cause abdominal pain, diarrhea, or weight loss. It can also cause complications such as such as skin rashes, arthritis, and inflammation of the eye, tiredness, and lack of concentration. The Crohn's and Colitis Foundation of America states, “Crohn's is a chronic disease, so this means patients will likely experience periods when the disease flares up and causes symptoms, followed by periods of remission when patients may not notices symptoms at all.”
Suffice to say, these symptoms would represent a significant challenge to an athlete playing a physical sport at its most demanding position. Garrard was drafted by the Jacksonville Jaguars in 2002 and was the team’s starting quarterback from 2007 to 2010. He is currently the backup quarterback of the New York Jets. Garrard has been fighting the disease since 2003 and has appeared in a number of public service announcements about the disease.