Willis McGahee: 2003 Knee Injury Presents Career Challenges

On January 03, 2003 during the Fiesta Bowl between the Ohio State Buckeyes and the Miami Hurricanes, Miami running back Willis McGahee suffered a knee injury that would haunt him to the present day.

How It Happened

During the early fourth quarter stages of the battle for the National Championship, McGahee received a screen pass from quarterback Ken Dorsey. The third down and 10 play resulted in Ohio State safety Will Allen delivering a low tackle on McGahee that bent his left knee backwards. The play resulted in a loss of two yards and Miami ended up losing the game to the Buckeyes (31-24) in double overtime.

McGahee had to be assisted off the field and coaches reported he was in excruciating pain throughout the night. It was both initially suspected and reported that there was damage to McGahee’s ACL (anterior cruciate ligament), PCL (posterior cruciate ligament) and the MCL (medial collateral ligament).

Corrective Measures

McGahee had suffered a hit to the same knee while playing for Miami Central High School which had torn his ACL and resulted in seven months of rehabilitation. The high school injury didn’t prevent McGahee from receiving the All-American honor as a sophomore and becoming a finalist for the Heisman Trophy.

However, the Fiesta Bowl injury was significantly worse and required surgery. McGahee was admitted to HealthSouth Doctors Hospital where he underwent an operation lasting between four and five hours. The findings were less severe than originally expected. Although the ACL and the MCL were indeed torn, there was no tear found in his PCL.

McGahee eventually required more surgery and extensive rehabilitation before he was fit to play again.

Effect on Career

Before his Fiesta Bowl injury, McGahee was expected to easily be a top-five pick in the NFL draft. The injury and long rehabilitation risk, however, knocked projections down to a late third round pick. He ended up being selected by the Buffalo Bills as a 23rd overall draft pick where he sat out that entire season due to his injury.

McGahee was traded to the Baltimore Ravens after the 2006 season where quickly rose to being ranked in the top five for rushing in 2007. Towards the end of the season, however, he received several injuries which included the vulnerable knee. Despite his injuries, McGahee performed well due to his dedication to rehabilitation. In 2011, the Ravens released McGahee in order to free up money under the salary cap rule.

The Denver Broncos signed McGahee with a four-year, $9.5 million contract. McGahee produced strong performances for the Broncos which led people to hope that perhaps his injury problems were behind him. However, although he came back strong during the 2012 season, another hit to his knee- this time to his right side- caused a torn MCL and lower leg fracture.

McGahee was released by the Broncos and picked up by the Cleveland Browns where he rushed for disappointing career lows during the 2013 season.

This injury made it onto our worst sports injuries video database! Check out the rest of the entries here, and see how many you can get through without cringing!

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1. http://www.rotoworld.com/player/nfl/2265/willis-mcgahee

2. http://a.espncdn.com/ncf/bowls02/s/fiesta_mcgaheesurgery.html

3. http://bleacherreport.com/articles/1415658-willis-mcgahees-knee-injury-a-closer-look-at-his-leg-fracture-and-torn-mcl

See more of The Most Cringe-Worthy Sports Injuries of All Time

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