14 Celebs Who Quit 'Dancing with the Stars' Due to Injury or Illness
Updated: Nov 3
Every season, Dancing with the Stars proves that the show isn't for the faint of heart. The competition lost its first contestant this season due to illness — Jeannie Mai. She was diagnosed with a rare inflammatory condition called epiglottitis. It caused an abscess that quickly spread and required emergency surgery, knocking her out of the competition with pro Brandon Armstrong.
DWTS continues to be one of the most physically and mentally strenuous reality shows to attempt. Celebrities might think it's sequins and glitter when they sign on to do the show, but they soon realize how hard it is.
These ailments aren't exclusive to Season 29, DWTS has a long history of injuries that celebs have danced through. Some injuries are so severe, they require a contestant to drop out.
Let's take a look at the stars who had to bow out early.
1. Romeo: Season 2
A family replacement on DWTS is more common than you think. Master P was the first family member to jump in to help his son. Romeo was injured before the first live show and his dad stepped in, partnered by Ashly DelGrosso Costa. Master P received the show's only "2" scores in the history of DWTS. Len Goodman and Bruno Tonioli hated his Pasodoble in Week 4. Romeo returned to dance on the series in Season 12.
2. Sara Evans: Season 3
While Sara did not have a physical injury, her heart was broken after she unexpectedly filed for divorce in the middle of the season. The move even surprised partner Tony Dovolani, who had no idea she was going through emotional turmoil. Sara left after Week 5 and the eliminated contestant that week, Willa Ford, was invited to return to the competition. She declined.
3. Misty May-Treanor: Season 7
As an Olympian, Misty should have made it to the end of Season 7. Unfortunately, she ruptured her Achilles tendon during rehearsal with pro Maks Chmerkovskiy and was forced to withdraw in Week 3. Misty had surgery the next day and Rocco DiSpirito, who should have gone home that week, was saved from elimination.
4. Nancy O'Dell: Season 8
Nancy was paired with Tony Dovolani, but she never made it to the live shows. She tore her meniscus in her knee and had to drop out to have arthroscopic surgery. Nancy was replaced by Melissa Rycroft, who only had two days to practice before the first live show.
5. Jewel: Season 8
Season 8 was a brutal one for contestants. Jewel and her then-husband, Ty Murray, would have been the first husband-wife duo on the show. She was partnered with pro Dmitry Chaplin and he was paired up with Chelsie Hightower. Jewel fractured the tibias in both legs during the rehearsal period and never made it to the ballroom. Holly Madison replaced her and Jewel later appeared as a musical guest that season.
6. Tom DeLay: Season 9
Cheryl Burke is not only going through this with Ray right now, but she also went through an injury withdrawal with Tom in Season 9. He came into the competition with a possible stress fracture, but continued to dance. By Week 4, the slight fracture in one foot became full fractures in both feet and he had to leave the show.
7. Dorothy Hamill: Season 16
This one still breaks our hearts because Dorothy's first two dances with pro Tristan MacManus were so lovely. Dorothy withdrew in Week 2 after dancing the Jive due to a severe back injury, which was disappointing because she had so much potential.
8. Bill Nye: Season 17
Bill Nye technically was eliminated in Week 3 of the season, but he was injured after a fall during his Week 2 Paso doble that his pro, Tyne Stecklein, danced around him in his final performance. They were eliminated that week, but his knee injury probably would have prevented him from continuing in the competition.
9. Billy Dee Williams: Season 18
Billy Dee was paired up with Emma Slater in Season 18, but his journey didn't last too long. He withdrew at the beginning of Week 3 due to a chronic back issue.
10. Kim Zolciak-Biermann: Season 21
Poor Tony Dovolani! He lost another contestant, but this time it was a medical emergency and Kim is lucky to be alive. She suffered a mini-stroke and was not cleared by her doctors to travel from Atlanta to Los Angeles for the Week 3 show. The withdrawal was so last minute that Jenna Johnson stepped in to dance their I Dream of Jeannie Samba with Tony.
11. Tamar Braxton: Season 21
This was the season of scary medical emergencies. Tamar, partnered by Val Chmerkovskiy, made it to Week 9. She fell ill during dress rehearsal and was taken to the hospital, where she was diagnosed with a pulmonary embolism in her lungs. The judges scored her dress rehearsal routine, but she returned to the live show to finish her team dance with Val, Nick Carter and Sharna Burgess. Even though she was safe that week, she later withdrew.
12. Christy Brinkley: Season 28
Now that the Wendy Williams’ conspiracy theories of a faked injury have been put to rest, it's clear that Christy's arm and wrist were seriously injured. Her daughter, Sailor Brinkley-Cook, stepped in to fill her shoes with Val before the live shows began.
13. Ray Lewis: Season 28
An old football injury reared its ugly head before Week 3 and it looks like Ray might need surgery on the ruptured tendons in his foot. Cheryl recruited Season 24 winner Rashad Jennings to tackle their Ferris Bueller's Day Off Cha-cha for the live show.
14. Jeannie Mai: Season 29
This wasn't how the season should have ended for Jeannie Mai, who came in with the energy of a tornado on the dance floor. Each week, she dove headfirst into a new style without a history of dance lessons behind her. Yet she naturally took to the demands of DWTS and the physical and emotional journey it offered. She also brought out the best in pro Brandon Armstrong, who is one of the strongest pros, but never gets the opportunity to stick around long enough to show it off. Their exit muffled DWTS' plans to have a double elimination on the eve of the presidential election, so there will always be a question mark as to where this couple would have landed in the final standings.
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