Dancing With The Stars: Injuries And Exits No One Saw ComingPublished on September 23, 2019. Updated November 3, 2020
Since it began airing in 2005, Dancing With the Stars has proven it is much, much harder than it looks. Celebrities and pros alike have been pushed to their limits mentally, emotionally, and most of all physically in their quest for a Mirror Ball Trophy, and sometimes those limits come with injuries and sudden exits. From serious injuries to health issues to unexpected personal struggles, here are injuries and exits on Dancing With the Stars that no one saw coming:
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The “Kiss Me” singer was all signed up and ready to go for Dancing with the Stars in 2009 for season eight until she started experiencing severe pain in her knees from tendonitis during rehearsals. At first, she vowed to stay in the competition and work through it, but right before the season was about to premiere it was announced that Jewel was not suffering from tendonitis, but rather a fractured tibia in both legs. “When the doctors told me my injuries were so severe that I couldn’t walk, let alone compete, I was devastated that I couldn’t continue the show,” she said. Jewel was replaced with Girl Next Door star, Holly Madison.
Former Jackass star Steve-O suffered a back injury when he fell on his mic pack during dress rehearsal. He was forced to sit out during competition night, so the judges based their scores on his rehearsal performance. His score was so low that he was sent home.
32. Nancy O’Dell
Well known TV host, Nancy O’Dell was forced to leave season 8 of Dancing with the Stars just before the show was about to premiere after she tore her meniscus and required surgery. “Beyond disappointment doesn’t even begin to describe how I feel about not being able to continue on Dancing with the Stars. It has been one of my favorite shows since Season One! But I have torn the meniscus in my knee in two places, which requires surgery. Dancing with the Stars was a great experience. I’ll miss working with my partner, Tony Dovolani, and all the other wonderful people on the amazing production that is Dancing with the Stars,” said O’Dell. Producers were quick to fill her spot with Bachelor alum, Melissa Rycroft, who placed third.
31. Bobby Bones
Radio host Bobby Bones may have ended season 27 on a high note as the winner of the season with partner Sharna Burgess, but things didn’t start off so great for the pair. While preparing for the premiere, Burgess actually elbowed Bones in the mouth, twice! “I had to fill out a lot of paperwork, because I got hit really hard,” he told PEOPLE after one incident that required him to file a dental claim. “There was blood and a tooth. I still don’t know what I’m doing. [Partner Sharna Burgess] was doing her spin thing, and she was doing what she was supposed to do, and my face was not doing what it was supposed to do.” Of course, Bones didn’t let the injury slow him down or dampen his high-energy and spirit.
30. Misty May-Treanor
Three time Olympic gold medalist, Misty May-Treanor signed up to compete on Dancing with the Stars in 2008 for season seven, not long after she won a gold medal in the Beijing Olympics. She surprised fans on week three when she walked onto the stage with a cast on her left leg and delivered the upsetting news that she would have to withdraw from the competition. May-Treanor ruptured her Achilles tendon during a dance practice. “I heard a pop. I was doing the Lindy Hop. I thought I flew out of control and hit the judges’ stairs, or it felt like I got hit in the back with a baseball bat. Then, I just couldn’t put weight on it,” she said. The volleyball star underwent surgery and the injury was eventually fixed.
29. Maks Chmerkovskiy
Maksim Chmerkovskiy is one of the toughest pros Dancing With the Stars has ever had, but many were shocked in season 24 when an injury forced him to sit out for four weeks. During rehearsals with Heather Morris, Maks suffered a serious calf injury, which eventually required surgery. While he was recovering, Alan Bersten came from the dance troupe to compete with Morris for weeks two to five. Maks miraculously returned for week six and shocked everyone as the pair received a perfect score for their Rumba. Even more shocking was when they were eliminated that same week!
28. Ray Lewis
Former NFL player Ray Lewis has had some serious injuries in his career, and he surprised everyone when he was forced to quit Dancing With the Stars season 28 ahead of the week three dances due to a foot injury. Lewis explained he had to quit the season after re-injuring his foot while training for his cha-cha with pro partner Cheryl Burke. “In a game in 2010, I tore a tendon in my foot. And now, all of this dancing, all of this on your toes, I’m reliving a problem that I thought I’d never have to live again,” he said in his video package. “I am having so much fun when it comes to the dancing part. But the part behind the scenes, it’s just been painful. It’s bothered me a lot.” He revealed that after having an MRI, his doctor told him he tore three tendons and needed surgery and if he continued to dance, it would rupture. “His next words was: ‘You gotta let it go. You cannot do this.’ I gotta leave the competition,” a disappointed Lewis said. “This is probably one of the hardest decisions of my life. But right now, I gotta make sure that I don’t damage something enough to where I can’t walk.” To make matters worse, Lewis quit only one week after he was saved over Supremes singer Mary Wilson in the first elimination in the season.
27. Sara Evans
Sara Evans is the only former contestant on this list who didn’t withdraw from Dancing with the Stars due to an injury. She joined the cast in 2006 for season three and was the first country music singer to appear on the show. Unfortunately, she had to leave halfway through the season citing “personal reasons” which left many fans confused, but it all became clear when a few days later she filed for divorce from her then-husband, Craig Schelske. It was reported that she left the show so she could be with her kids during that time. She made an appearance at the season finale and returned to the show during season 12 to perform her single, “A Little Bit Stronger.”
26. Billy Dee Williams
Best known for his role as Lando Calrissian in the Star Wars franchise, Billy Dee Williams signed up for the competitive dance reality show back in 2014 for season 18. He was paired up with Emma Slater, but unfortunately had to withdraw from the competition in the third week due to chronic back pain.
25. Marie Osmond
One of the most shocking Dancing With the Stars moments in the series’ history belongs to Marie Osmond. Fans will remember that the singer competed in season five, and while in the middle of receiving feedback from the judges after one of her performances, Osmond fainted and remained on the ground for nearly a minute. Although she was urged to get medical attention, Osmond got back up, got her results from the judges and went on to place third in the season with her pro partner Jonathan Roberts.
24. Drew Scott
Drew Scott was an early favorite during season 25 of Dancing With the Stars but an injury surprised everyone. Scott injured his hamstring during a camera blocking rehearsal ahead of that night’s performances. He shocked everyone when he performed a full quickstep even with the injury, and ended up in fourth place on the season with Emma Slater.
23. Tom Delay
Former Republican House Majority Leader Tom Delay signed up to participate on Dancing with the Stars in season nine, but he suffered a stress fracture in his foot in the weeks leading up to the show’s premiere. He managed to still compete, but then suffered another stress fracture in his other foot and was forced to leave the show on advice of doctors and the show’s producers. He did perform one last time with his partner, Cheryl Burke, and was scored well by the judges but withdrew after the third week.
22. Terra Jole
Terra Jole was the first ever person with dwarfism to compete on Dancing With the Stars, and she made it known right away that she wasn’t going to let anything get her way of competing. Despite having existing hernias, Jole decided to wear a back brace and compete anyway. “I’m still pushing myself to the very limit,” she wrote in her blog for PEOPLE. “I know I’ll pay for it later, but it’s worth it.” Jole and her partner Sasha Farber were eliminated after week 10, placing fifth.
21. Cristian De la Fuente
Chilean-American actor Cristián de la Fuente ruptured a tendon in his bicep during a performance during season six of Dancing with the Stars. He was sent to the hospital where it was determined that he needed surgery and a sling. Instead of leaving, the actor decided to delay surgery and the following week he performed with his injured arm, but he was eliminated a few weeks later, finishing in third with Cheryl Burke.
20. Jeannie Mai
Season 29 of Dancing with the Stars saw its fair share of surprising injuries from Kaitlyn Bristowe’s ankle injury to Cheryl Burke’s hitting her head off the floor in rehearsals but it was The Real host Jeannie Mai who had to make a surprising exit. Eight weeks into the competition, the host revealed she was forced to exit the show after her doctors made a startling discovery about her health. “My doctors discovered a health concern with my throat which requires immediate attention and surgery,” the cohost said in a statement to Good Morning America on Monday, November 2. “I am heartbroken that my DWTS journey has to end here. I have pushed myself to new limits physically and mentally, and I am so proud of how far we’ve come.” Mai was diagnosed with epiglottis which causes swelling of the throat and blocks airflow to the lungs. The sudden health issue ended Mai’s run at the MirrorBall trophy with her pro partner Brandon Armstrong.
19. Julianne Hough
After winning seasons four and five in her first two seasons as a pro, Julianne Hough had a lot to live up to each season on the dance floor, but her season came close to ending in season seven. While rehearsing, Hough ended up with such severe stomach pains that she had to be rushed to the hospital where it was discovered the pains were due to her endometriosis. Determined to not let it slow her down, Hough returned to continue on with partner Cody Linley and the pair placed fourth.
Romeo Miller Jr., better known as Romeo, was set to join the cast of Dancing with the Stars in season two. Unfortunately, the rapper suffered an injury before the show even started! His father, Master P, stepped in to fill his spot in the casting, and Romeo returned in season 12 and was partnered with Chelsie Hightower
17. Dorothy Hamill
As an Olympic figure skater who is used to performing under pressure, Dorothy Hamill was more than ready for her stint on Dancing with the Stars in season 16. Sadly, she didn’t last very long. Viewers only got to see Hamill perform twice before she dropped out due to a severe back injury. She made the announcement on air and was visibly upset as she told the audience she had nerve damage that could be “irreparable” and was withdrawing from the show on the advice of her spine surgeon. Instead of eliminating the couple with the lowest score, Hamill and her partner, Tristan MacManus withdrew on their own accord.
16. Kim Zolciak-Biermann
The Don’t Be Tardy reality star was disqualified from Dancing with the Stars before she could even withdraw! She missed out on a performance when her doctor would not let her fly from Atlanta to Los Angeles after she suffered a mini-stroke. Many fans were shocked at the ruthless disqualification that clearly was out of the former Housewife’s hands, so much so that they started a campaign to get her back on the show. Sadly, it was unsuccessful which is probably for the best because a few weeks later she underwent heart surgery.
15. Bill Nye
Bill Nye “The Science Guy” was one of the most anticipated contestants of season 17, but an injury set him back almost immediately. After he tripped during his week one performance, Nye went to the hospital where an MRI confirmed he had torn a tendon. Although his doctor warned him against dancing, Nye decided to compete in week two anyway with his partner Tyne Stecklein. Unfortunately, the injury slowed him down and their low scores ended up sending the pair home that week anyway.
14. Peta Murgatroyd
This Dancing with the Stars pro injured herself during season 21 when she tore ligaments in her ankle during a rehearsal with her partner, Andy Grammer, before the series premiered. Murgatroyd was told she had four torn ligaments and a floating piece of bone in her ankle which required surgery and six to eight weeks of recovery. Luckily, Grammer was still able to move on in the competition as he was paired with a new pro, Allison Holker. Murgatroyd returned in the season’s semifinals and performed a salsa with Nick Carter and Sharna Burgess, and was back to full pro status by season 22 — and she won!
13. Gilles Marini
French actor Gilles Marini experienced two injuries during his season eight stint on Dancing with the Stars. First, he pulled his groin and then he fractured his shoulder, which required surgery. Despite the injuries, Marini ended up in second place with his pro partner Cheryl Burke.
12. Lindsey Stirling
Season 25 of Dancing With the Stars was so intense that multiple stars ended up with injuries, and viewers were very concerned after the video package revealed Lindsey Stirling was hospitalized. Sterling ended up suffering a rib injury during rehearsals and her whole season was in jeopardy. Instead of bowing out, Stirling returned from the hospital to compete the very next day and earned a near perfect score for her paso doble with Mark Ballas. “She’s doing better,” partner Mark Ballas told reporters after the show. “She wanted to be here tonight [to talk to press], but I told her she needed to go rest and put ice on her ribs … Her health comes first.” The pair ended up placing second on the season.
11. Mark Ballas
Fan favorite pro Mark Ballas suffered an injury in season twenty-two that didn’t end his season, but did sideline him. While rehearsing, Ballas’ old back injury resurfaced and was so bad that he couldn’t compete in week two with his pro partner, UFC fighter Paige VanZant. Luckily, troupe member Alan Bersten stepped up to the challenge and kept VanZant in the competition. After Ballas returned, the pair danced their way to second place after seriously scaring fans early on.
10. Kym Johnson
Professional dancer Kym Johnson found herself injured when her dancing partner, NFL pro Hines Ward, accidentally dropped her during rehearsal. Kym ended up landing on her neck and was rushed to the hospital. Lucky for her, she quickly recovered from the injury and went on to win season 12 of the show!
9. Derek Hough
Even the pro with the most wins in Dancing With the Stars history suffered on the show. During season 20 of Dancing With the Stars, Derek Hough’s entire season was in question after he hurt his foot while rehearsing with partner Nastia Liukin. Hough ended up having a broken toe on his right foot and a sprained left ankle. Sasha Farber ended up stepping in to partner with Nastia in weeks seven and eight. Nevertheless, Hough did choreograph the routines and performed a limited role in Liukin’s performances. During week 9, Sasha danced with Nastia during her quickstep routine, but Derek resumed his role as her partner for her Viennese Waltz. The pair ended up being eliminated right before the finals landing them in fourth place.
8. Katherine Jenkins
Singer Katherine Jenkins quickly took the competition by storm in season 14, until pain in her back threatened her performances. In the semi-finals, Jenkins’ back pain became so severe that it caused a mistake and she was crying by the time the dance ended. It was revealed she had suffered a reflectorial spasm in her lower back and had to visit a doctor. Instead of stepping away, Jenkins returned more determined than ever and placed second with Mark Ballas.
7. Pamela Anderson
After competing in both season 10 and season 15 of Dancing With the Stars, Pamela Anderson took her talents to Dancing With the Stars France, where she ended up with a scary leg injury. “I hurt my right calf muscle in rehearsal last night,” Anderson wrote on Instagram on Oct. 18, 2018. “We weren’t doing anything crazy just dancing. It felt like someone threw a baseball very hard at my lower leg- I screamed and turned around and no one was there. then realized it was my calf muscle that may have exploded?” Unfortunately for Anderson, it was her second injury of the season and the seriousness left her on crutches, and she was out after week seven.
6. Jennifer Grey
Jennifer Grey may have won the mirror ball trophy during season eleven of Dancing with the Stars, but she had to suffer for it. Shortly after the finale, she required back surgery for a ruptured disk and to remove the fragment left in her back.
5. Victoria Arlen
Victoria Arlen has pushed through physical limitations her entire life, but she still had quite the scare when she competed in season 25 with Val Chmerkovskiy. At only 11 years old, Arlen was diagnosed with a neurological condition and an autoimmune disease, which affected her spinal cord and left her in a vegetative state for four years, so she was understandably terrified when in rehearsals she experienced a total body spasm. Despite the situation, Arlen sought medical help and still went on to compete that night. “I definitely didn’t feel as strong as I felt in dress before the spasm,” Arlen explained. “But kind of overcoming that … getting out of that scared mindset really helped me kind of go out there. It wasn’t as good as it could have been, but given the circumstances, I’m very happy with it.” Arlen and Val ended up being eliminated ninth that season, landing them in fifth place.
4. Melissa Rycroft
After an impressive outing in season eight with partner Tony Dovolani where they placed third, Melissa Rycroft dominated the competition in season 15’s All-Stars season, but not without some setbacks. During rehearsals for a group dance, Rycroft suffered a severe injury that sent her to the hospital and threatened to jeopardize her incredible season. She was diagnosed with a disc herniation but decided to dance through the pain and ended up winning the season with Dovolani.
3. Ginger Zee
After an amazing season, it looked like Ginger Zee’s finale possibly wouldn’t happen in season 22 after the meteorologist suffered a pelvis injury during rehearsals. “I couldn’t even do two of my dress rehearsal runs today because, for one, I can’t even do some of the moves. I’m not allowed to,” she shared. “I’m not even close to where I need to be to perform.” Despite her injury, Ginger Zee visited a physiotherapist, competed in the finale and placed third with her partner Valentin Chmerkovskiy.
2. Tamar Braxton
Tamar Braxton was paired with reigning champion Valentin Chmerkovskiy in season 21 before serious health issues interfered. Braxton made sure never to miss a show in order to avoid being disqualified, even when she was being rushed to the hospital! Unfortunately, the next day she was forced to face the facts and The Real co-host and singer announced she would be withdrawing from the competition after she discovered pulmonary embolisms in her lungs. She shared the news on her Instagram account: “With a heavy heart I regret to inform you that my season of #dwts has to come to an end along with the rest of my tour dates with @musicbykem.”
1. Christie Brinkley
Supermodel Christie Brinkley was already been marked as “one to watch out for” when she was cast on season 28 of Dancing With the Stars, but hours before the season was set to premiere, she was forced to quit. During rehearsals with her pro partner Valentin Chmerkovskiy leading up to the premiere, Brinkley tripped and when she fell on her wrist, she broke her arm in multiple places. “I just broke my arm into a 1000 pieces requiring surgery with a metal plate and screws to hold my arm together,” Brinkley shared of her injury. It was then revealed that her daughter Sailor Brinkley-Cook would be taking her place in the competition!