George's injury reminds DC sports fans of painful past

George's injury reminds DC sports fans of painful past
August 4, 2014, 11:15 am
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BY PETER HAILEY

The devastating leg injury that Paul George suffered over the weekend will carry a lot of consequences. 

For George, he will miss all of the 2014-15 NBA season, and will face questions during his rehab regarding whether he will ever be able to return to his star status. For the Pacers, they will have to deal with replacing their best player’s production on both sides of the floor, a task that may be too tough to overcome. And for USA Basketball, some owners will have second thoughts when deciding to let their franchise players suit up for their nation.  

Unfortunately, Washington sports fans are all too familiar with what Pacers fans are now going through. Just in the past few years, Wizards, Nationals, and Redskins fans have all seen their team’s best player go down with a significant, career changing injury.

The story is the same: a young player energizes his organization, elevates them to new heights, only to succumb to a serious injury and watch it affect the entire franchise and fan base. Here is a look back at what happened, how it affected each player's performance thereafter, and what their career looks like right now.

Washington Wizards - Gilbert Arenas' knee injury

Before the injury: Arenas, still young at 25, had become one of the NBA's most thrilling players. Agent Zero was unstoppable on offense, able to pull up from anywhere and finish in a variety of ways at the rim.

In his first year in Washington, the 2004-05 season, he led the team to the playoffs for the first time since 1997, and was even better in 2005-06, where he scored 29.3 points a game. However, 2006-07 may have been the peak of his career, as he was named an All-Star starter and scored a franchise record 60 points in a December game.

How it happened: The Wizards were playing the Charlotte Bobcats at home on April 4, 2007, ten games before the playoffs began. Bobcats forward Gerald Wallace drove baseline for a layup and fell, landing hard on Arenas' left leg, tearing the star guard's MCL.

Immediate implications: The Wizards were swept in the first round of the playoffs by the Cavaliers, a bitter end to a season that looked much brighter before the injury to Arenas. 

Long term effects: The Arizona product was simply never the same. He always seemed to be rehabbing or suffering setbacks, playing in only 13 games the next year and two the year after that. When the knee injury occurred, it derailed not only his career, but held the team back from reaching its full potential for the next few years, too.

Washington Nationals - Stephen Strasburg's elbow injury

Before the injury: Stephen Strasburg was about as hyped a prospect as there's ever been in the Majors, and when he made his debut in June of 2010, he did not disappoint. He struck out 14 Pirates in his debut, and set a ML record by recording 32 K's in his first three pro starts. 

How it happened: Strasburg returned from a brief stint on the disabled list on August 10th, but in his third start back, disaster struck. On the road against the Phillies, the phenom began to shake his elbow after a pitch, and was removed from the game. Six days later, it was announced that he would need Tommy John surgery after tearing his ulnar collateral ligament. 

Immediate implications: Just like that, the league's most exciting rookie was done; Strasburg's 12 game, 2.91 ERA year was over. The electric atmosphere he created whenever he pitched at Nats Park was no more.

Long term effects: No. 37 rehabbed and returned to the big leagues September 2011, making five starts at the end of the season. His first full season back was 2012, where he got off to a torrid start, striking out 34 batters in April. Yet the injury hung over his head all year, as he was on a pitch count, and the innings limit was always present in the back of everyone's minds.

Strasburg was eventually shutdown before the playoffs amid much debate, the Nationals were eliminated, and many felt that a precious opportunity to win a World Series was wasted. While Strasburg has looked good since the injury, recording a 3.16, 3.00, and 3.39 in the three seasons since, he hasn't looked elite, and fans will always be left wondering what could have been had he pitched all of 2012. 

Washington Redskins - Robert Griffin III's knee injury

Before the injury: Griffin took the NFL by storm, using the deadly combination of his strong arm and dazzling ability to scramble to put together a season that was later deemed worthy of 2012 NFL Offensive Rookie of the Year status. His 4:1 TD to INT ratio and passer rating of 102.4 were big reasons why the Redskins were NFC East Champions and in the playoffs for the first time since 2007.

How it happened: It's an image that'll be seared into the minds of Redskins fans for a long, long time. Griffin's already damaged right knee (he took a direct hit from Ravens lineman Haloti Ngata in a Week 14 game) buckled as he tried to pick up a mishandled snap in the fourth quarter of the team's home playoff game against Seattle.

Immediate implications: The Redskins went on to lose the game as players and fans alike were deflated by the image of Griffin crumpling in pain on the field. 

Long term effects: The injury affected many inside of the Redskins organization. The ensuing offseason and preseason were littered with questions surrounding Griffin's rehab and availability for the 2013 campaign. Griffin and head coach Mike Shanahan seemed to disagree on the issue from the start, while other players grew tired of the constant talk. Griffin's season, and the team's, was nowhere near the level of his rookie year, and he was held out of the final three games. Now with a new head coach and without a knee brace, many think RGIII will be ready to dominate the league once again.