Six players to have successfully recovered from horror leg breaks

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Football News

Luke Shaw's terrible leg break against PSV Eindhoven on Tuesday night looks set to put him out for six months at least, and possibly the entire season as well as the Euros that commence in June.

There is still hope that this won't be the case, though. The Manchester United youngster is one in a long list of players to have suffered a horror break leg, with many from said list recovering and returning better than ever, sometimes even ahead of schedule.

Let's take a look at some of the worst looking leg injuries in football's recent history and see how long it took for those players to come back:


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Denis Irwin

Shaw's left-back counterpart and United legend Irwin didn't break his leg in the end, but it was still nasty and appeared a lot worse than the medial ligament injury that it ended up being, after Feyenoord's Paul Bosvelt put in an awful tackle on the Irishman in a Champions League match on November 5, 1997. It put him out for six weeks.

Irwin suffered another sickening-looking injury against Manchester City during his own testimonial in 2000 when George Weah slid and trod on his ankle. Thankfully, the outcome wasn't as bad as the encounter with Bosvelt.

Irwin, who was near the end of his career at this point, spent two more years with the Red Devils and ended his playing time with Wolverhampton Wanderers in 2004. 

Henrik Larsson

The Sweden international was the Scottish Premier League's hottest striker when he agonisingly broke his leg in a UEFA Cup tie against Lyon on October 22, 1999. He was out for eight months, returning on the final day of that season.

It was bad, but it could have been worse, as doctors first feared that he had suffered a compound leg fracture which would have left him on the sidelines for a lot longer. He was good before that, but he came back arguably better than ever, scoring 35 league goals in 38 league appearances. 

Having topped the SPL goalscoring charts for five out of five full seasons that he played for the club, Larsson left a year later for Barcelona where he played a substantial role despite not being a regular first-team starter, most notably coming as a substitute in the 2006 Champions League final against Arsenal, setting up two late goals to clinch victory for the Catalans.

After two successful spells with Helsingborg and Manchester United, Larsson retired in 2009.

Djibril Cisse

When Cisse got his foot stuck in the turf for Liverpool against Blackburn Rovers at Ewood Park on October 30, 2004 - breaking his tibia and fibula - most people, including doctors and fellow professionals, assumed the Frenchman would be out for at least six to nine months, or even 18 in the worst case scenario.

But against the odds, Cisse was up and running by April, coming on as a substitute against Juventus in a Champions League quarter-final on the 13th of that month, then scoring on the last day of the season against Aston Villa and a penalty the Reds' Champions League win over AC Milan.

Cisse went on to play for a number of clubs in the years afterwards, and continued to score goals at an impressive rate.

Alan Smith

Smith broke his leg and dislocated his ankle after blocking a John Arne Riise shot in an FA Cup tie for Manchester United against Liverpool on February 18, 2006.

He played for the reserves in August and made a return to the substitute bench on September 13 of that year in a Champions League clash against Celtic, then came on as a sub against Benfica two weeks later.

Smudger continued to play at the top level for six more years before joining MK Dons in the summer of 2012. He is currently plying his trade with Notts County. 


Eduardo's horrific misfortune culminated in a broken left fibula and an open dislocation of his left ankle following a late challenge from Birmingham's Matt Taylor on 23rd February 2008.

The Brazilian returned almost exactly a year later to score two goals against Cardiff City before joining Shakhtar Donetsk in 2010. Although Eduardo came back well, if Shaw was asked whether he would take having a year out, he probably wouldn't.  

Aaron Ramsey 

Ramsey's was one of the worst in living memory when he went in for a challenge with Ryan Shawcross on February 27, 2010 against Stoke City.

Like Cisse, he broke his tibia and fibula and made a return to first-team football on November 29 on-loan at Nottingham Forest. Since then - apart from a dip in form in between - he has managed to come back from it better than ever, turning into one of the most coveted midfielders in Europe.

Age and experience will have something do with that - or maybe that injury affected his game, which suited him and the team better - but to come back from it in the manner that he has done is a credit to the Welshman.

All these examples demonstrate to Shaw that it is more likely than not that a player can come back from his type of injury just as good, if not better than before. So, after having a blinding start to the season, don't cry, Luke, you'll be back and - going by the length of time it took those above to come back to first team football - should make those coveted Euros.

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