There are some guys who are just born tougher than the rest of us. While they may not be impervious to severe pain, they can play through it, while concealing their discomfort to their opponents. Or unnerving them with their seemingly superhuman pain tolerance.
Below are five of the toughest sports stars to have ever walked (or limped) the Earth.
Wayne Shelford – Rugby Union
No question, we’ve gotta lead with Shelford. A New Zealand rugby star, Wayne Shelford suffered a fate no man would ever want to endure. During a match against France in 1986—a game that has since gone down in history as “The Battle of Nantes”—Shelford found himself victim to an errant boot to the groin. That’s enough to make most guys cringe by itself, but the boot did more damage than that. It actually ripped the Kiwi’s scrotum. (I’ll give you a minute to recover from that visual.) If that happened to you or me, we’d need general anaesthesia immediately, and months of strong meds. Not Shelford. In typical rugby fashion, Shelford asked the doc to stitch him back up before returning to the field to play on… where he then suffered a concussion. The man was an animal.
Duncan Ferguson – Soccer
Don’t tell me soccer players are soft. Big Dunc was one of the hardest footballers to have ever played in the Premier League. During his professional career it was like he thought he was playing Florentine Football—fighting the opposition was as normal to him as scoring goals. In fact, in 1992 Ferguson found himself sentenced to three months in jail for headbutting Raith Rovers’ John McStay. But it was 2001 when Ferguson really proved his tough-guy creds: A pair of burglars attempted to rob his house, one got away and the other was hospitalized for three days.
Triple H – Pro Wrestling
Before you start trolling me that pro wrestling is fake, yes it is. But that doesn’t make the guys who enter the ring any less athletes, or the injuries they suffer in there any less real or painful. “Fake” is an argument you’ll lose if you bring it up to Triple H. On May 21, 2001, during a WWE broadcast, he tore his left quad, detaching it. Think about that for a minute: One of the largest muscles in the body just ripped completely off the bone. I’ve pulled my quad before and needed a few days bed rest and a couple bottles of ibuprofen. For a tear, most of us would have been seeking immediate medical attention. But “Trips” is a machine. Despite not being able to put any weight on his leg he continued with his match. He even threw in a Walls of Jericho, a move that places a huge amount of stress on the quadriceps. The injury ended up needing eight months of rehab before Triple H was fit enough to compete inside a ring again.
Tyler Hamilton – Cycling
Tyler Hamilton is quite frankly nuts. Before entering the world of competitive cycling he had broken two vertebrae after a ski jump accident, which may have given him his taste for competing in pain. During the 2003 Tour De France, Hamilton cracked his collarbone in the first stage, meaning that he had to endure three weeks of racing with a broken bone. And if you’ve ever watched the Tour, you know that horrific wrecks are always a possibility, and the beating the riders’ bodies take on a daily basis is bad enough. Amazingly Hamilton actually won Stage 16.
Clint Malarchuk – Ice Hockey
Ice hockey is a sport with its fair share of tough guys and gruesome injuries—something fans willingly accept—but Clint Malarchuk’s injury in 1989 was enough to turn the stomach of every fan. The Buffalo Sabres ‘keeper was involved in a freak accident that ended with a St. Louis Blues player slicing his jugular vein with his blade. In a matter of seconds Malarchuk was fighting his life while lying in a pool of his own blood. The sight caused nine spectators to faint, two suffered heart attacks, and two of his teammates puked right on the ice. Thankfully quick acting doctors managed to stop the bleeding by pinching the vein. Amazingly, Malarchuk needed just one night in the hospital—and over 300 stitches—and was back in practice four days later before playing competitively again the week after.