The worst DWTS injuries of all time
This might sound crazy, but Dancing with the Stars is one of the most grueling and gruesome competitions on television. The show, in which celebrities and professional dancers pair up and hit the dance floor, can get quite fierce, with injuries that rival those of the NFL or MMA. Stars and pros alike have fallen to the mighty, unforgiving ballroom.
After being a network TV staple since 2005, the reality series has given audiences a seemingly endless stream of shocking moments. Think of Master P’s understated paso doble from Season 2. Or when Sara Evans suddenly left the show in the middle of the third season to deal with her ongoing divorce. There was the scary moment when Marie Osmond fainted following a performance on Season 5. There was another big scare when Hines Ward accidentally dropped Kym Johnson on her neck during a Season 12 rehearsal. On a happier note, there was the time former host Tom Bergeron helped Sasha Farber propose to Emma Slater on live television. Hey, who doesn’t love a surprise engagement on a reality competition show?
Unfortunately, this list will be leaning towards moments of the Ward and Johnson variety, making us wince and pray for the well-being of those involved. Let’s take a look back at some of the worst bumps, bruises, breaks, and tears in Dancing wIth the Stars history.
Debi Mazar’s failed foxtrot
During the first dance of the ninth season of Dancing with the Stars, Entourage star Debi Mazar suffered a neck injury while performing the foxtrot with partner Maksim Chmerkovskiy. Following the episode, she tweeted, “Dwts!!after premiere.hospital.I’m ok.torn muscle in neck to chest!Foxtrot..cruel&sadistic. If only judges knew.” As Us Weekly reported, Mazar also shared a photo she took while wearing her neck brace. She ended up coming in twelfth place, scoring a 16 out of 30 for the injury-inducing performance.
Despite Mazar’s short stint, she still enjoyed the competition. During her exit interview (per Access), she told hosts Tom Bergeron and Samantha Harris, “Well, I definitely know a few more steps and I’ve had a great time. I’ve loved every moment of it. I have great, you know, new friends, and Maks, I’ve loved my time with Maks.” Yes, even with the neck injury, she loved every moment.
Bill Nye the injured knee guy
Bill Nye got hurt during a paso doble with his partner Tyne Stecklein. Following the episode, E! reported Nye was “seeking treatment and could potentially need surgery after hurting his knee.” The famed Science Guy posted a photo on Instagram of himself with a bandaged knee and Tyne by his side. “Here is the scoop: partially torn ligament,” he wrote. “Awaiting the doc’s orders with Tyne. We plan to dance! Stand by…”
In an interview with Good Morning American, Stecklein, who stood by Nye’s side the whole time, revealed, “The doctor told us, ‘No more, you’re done.'” She added that it was “awesome” that fans were keeping them in the show even though they had “the lowest scores in the competition” so far. “So, the last thing I want is to pull out early,” she said.
Regardless of how badly Nye’s pro wanted to stay in the mix, they were eliminated the following week, scoring a 16 with his robotic, jazzy performance to “Get Lucky.”
Karina Smirnoff’s not-so-sweet Season 16
Our first professional dancer injury on the list is quite a doozy!
Ukrainian dancing sensation Karina Smirnoff was a Dancing with the Stars staple from its third season to its twenty-second, and even took home the Mirrorball with her partner, actor J.R. Martinez, in Season 13. However, Season 16 was a different story. People reported Smirnoff suffered “possible whiplash and a dislocated jaw” after a botched flip during a rehearsal with her partner, retired NFL wide receiver Jacoby Jones. Smirnoff was determined to compete in the semi-finals, tweeting, “not dancing isn’t an option.” She powered through and they made it to the finale. They ended up in third place overall.
In an interview with Parade, Smirnoff said Jones was one of the best partners she’s ever been paired up with. “He’s funny, he’s got a great sense of humor, he’s been raised by all women, so he’s very sweet,” she shared. “We clicked right away and we have a blast. I think we have a special bond, and it shows.” This is a prime example of camaraderie taking you all the way… well, almost.
Jennifer Grey went from Dirty Dancing to injured dancing
Dirty Dancing‘s Jennifer Grey suffered a ruptured disc in her neck right before the first dance of Season 11. Grey, who has had a history of chronic neck pain ever since she was in a serious car accident in the ’80s, went to a neurological spine surgeon before Dancing with the Stars. As Grey recalled on the Disc Sport & Spine Center’s YouTube channel, the doctor told her she “shouldn’t be in a car,” let alone compete on the ballroom dancing show. Luckily, she was able to go in for surgery “two weeks later” and was cleared to dance in time for the competition.
The night before the final dance of the season, Grey ruptured a disc in her back and, as she said on The Doctors, her “neck had collapsed.” This didn’t slow her down much, as Grey and her partner, multi-time DWTS champion Derek Hough, ended up winning the Mirrorball. After the finale, People reported she underwent surgery to fix the ruptured disc in her back.
“The absolute destination for me was the journey. The journey was the gift,” Grey said of the victory, according to BBC. She was having the time of her life in more ways than one.
Maria Menounos’ multiple injuries
Two broken ribs. That’s how Extra host Maria Menounos’ Dancing with the Stars experience will forever be defined. She suffered the injury from falling on the knees of her partner, Derek Hough. Hough revealed to The Hollywood Reporter that the television personality “snapped two ribs prior to the season 14 premiere.” He was quoted saying, “We were trying to keep it under wraps because we didn’t want to be that couple coming out of the gate.” Hough noted that his partner was “dealing with a lot” but the two of them were determined to “smile and dance.”
She went on to suffer stress fractures on both feet, telling Us Weekly, “I can’t believe how dangerous dancing is! I told Derek, ‘I don’t understand! I played ice hockey, football, basketball — when did I get so fragile?” In an interview with Anderson Cooper on Anderson Live she said, “I had, on top of my full-time job at Extra and the dancing, I had a full-time job managing injuries. I was at the doctor constantly getting MRIs, managing how many fractures this week.”
After a tough season, Menounos and Hough made it to the semi-finals, where they were ultimately eliminated. According HuffPost, Menounos said “the competition taught her how strong she was and how to persevere.”
Maksim Chmerkovskiy’s triumphant but short-lived return
In the second week of Season 24, pro dancer Maksim Chmerkovskiy injured his ankle during a rehearsal with his partner, Glee star Heather Morris. He stopped mid-spin while they practiced their jive routine and yelled out in pain before saying, “It’s my calf muscle, f*** it just felt like something hit it.” A few days after he sustained the injury, Good Morning America announced the Ukrainian pro ended would be sitting out and had been replaced with dancer Alan Bersten. (Bersten and Morris were pretty good together, all things considered).
Chmerkovskiy went under the knife, getting regenerative surgery on his ankle. He came back four weeks later and gave the performance of a lifetime, dancing the rumba to a cover of TLC’s “Waterfalls” with Morris, and they garnered a perfect score. Unfortunately, his big return was also his swan song. They were eliminated the same night in what was one of the most controversial eliminations in Dancing With the Stars history. As Romper noted, this surprising result seemingly came down to votes. In a post-elimination interview with Access Hollywood, Chmerkovskiy said, “I’m sorry that this has happened but again, it goes to show how unpredictable the show is.”
The many injuries of Peta Murgatroyd
Not to be outdone by her husband, Maksim Chmerkovskiy’s wife and fellow dance pro Peta Murgatroyd has had her fair share of injuries in the ballroom. She suffered an ankle injury right before the start of Dancing with the Stars Season 21, forcing her to bow out. “I got my MRI results back and it was a really bad diagnosis,” Murgatroyd told People. “It showed I had 4 torn ligaments and a floating piece of bone at the back of my ankle.”
If that wasn’t bad enough, Murgatroyd revealed to ET that she pulled three of her ribs during her tango with retired football superstar Vernon Davis during Season 29 of DWTS. “I felt pain but I felt it in my neck, I think it’s because they pulled out from this [top right] side and the pain went up through my neck,” she told the outlet. “It was strange, I know.” The two were ultimately eliminated fifth overall, but the experience created a bond between the pair. Murgatroyd told Mr. Warburton, “I love him as my friend and always will.”
Amy Purdy’s displaced rib
Paralympian Amy Purdy suffered what seemed to be a back injury during a performance of the rumba during Season 18 of Dancing with the Stars. In a post-dance interview she said, “Right after judging I kinda turned my head and my back cracked and it just seized up and everything is really painful right now; it’s hard to breathe.”
It turns out the injury was a lot worse: a rib was not where it was supposed to be. In a guest blog for the Los Angeles Times, the snowboarder wrote, “I went to see a chiropractor in hopes of some relief and he found that a rib had moved a bit. He popped it back in place, which felt a lot better, but pretty quickly it popped out again.”
She managed to work through the pain, and Purdy and partner Derek Hough received perfect scores at least three times during the competition (for their Argentine tango, salsa, and Argentine tango/cha-cha fusion). The duo ended the season as the runners-up.
How tough is Derek Hough?
Speaking of Derek Hough, he’s seen his fair share of injuries.
E! reported the six-time Dancing With the Stars champion injured his right foot and left ankle while rehearsing during Season 20. He was diagnosed with a broken toe and ankle sprain and was unable to participate in the show’s 10th anniversary special. As Broadway.com reported, he also had to bow out of the Rockettes’ New York Spring Spectacular, in which he starred alongside Laura Benanti. Somehow, he still came back to DWTS and made it to the semi-finals, placing fourth overall.
Oh, but that’s not all for Hough. On Season 17, Hough reignited an existing back injury and it looked like he might have to sit out for a week watch his partner, Glee star Amber Riley, dance with pro Henry Byalikov. An insider told Us Weekly, “He hurt his back dancing with Shawn Johnson [during Season 15 in late 2012], and he re-injured it dancing with Amber. He is determined to push through but not sure he’ll be able to.” However, Hough did push through and didn’t miss a week, and he and Riley ended up winning the whole season.
Cristián de la Fuente pressed on with a ruptured tendon
If we take a trip all the way back to Season 6 of Dancing With the Stars, we will find yet another brutal injury. As ABC News reported, Chilean actor Cristián de la Fuente ruptured a tendon in his bicep during the samba and delayed surgery until he was done with the show. Trouble seemed to start for de la Fuente during his samba, where he can be spotted favoring his arm after the routine. He was seen in dances after the injury with a band around his left arm and simply not utilizing it as much.
“When we were dancing I fell back into his arms and I heard something crack, I am so worried,” his partner, two-time DWTS winner Cheryl Burke, told People. “He is not a wuss. He tried to finish the dance.” De la Fuente truly lived up to his word and worked harder with “one hand but two hearts,” fighting through the pain and placing third with Burke.