Elite athletes put their bodies through intense trauma to be the best. Many of these competitors even suffer health problems after their retirement because of the damage they’ve built up over the years. The most disturbing incident for fans and athletes is when career-threatening injuries happen to a sports star in the middle of the action.
Nobody wants to watch someone’s life changed by a career-threatening injury but sometimes it happens. All fans and teammates can do is pray that the medics intervene quickly and reduce the damage. Today, we will look at 25 incidents where players suffered career-threatening injuries in action. Check out the list below via Sportscasting and Bleacher Report.
25. Reggie Brown (1997)
The final game of the 1997 season saw Brown’s life change forever. After impressing for Texas A&M, he was a first-draft pick. Playing for the Detroit Lions isn’t much of a reward, but that’s where he ended up. But he didn’t get to make much of an impression on the franchise. His sophomore year concluded with a horrifying, life-threatening injury that stunned watching fans.
Linebackers put their bodies under ridiculous pressure. Brown was no different and suffered the consequences while making a tackle against the Giants. He suffered a devastating spinal injury and lay prone on the ground for almost 20 minutes. Luckily, emergency surgery meant that he didn’t suffer full paralysis as doctors feared. But the damage was still life-threatening and ended his career.
Eduardo was one of Arsenal’s most exciting young talents before his career went downhill. The Brazilian-born, Croatia international broke out in 2007. It looked like Arsenal had unearthed a future star, but fortune didn’t favor him. One game against Birmingham City changed his life. Birmingham’s Martin Taylor burst toward him with a clumsy tackle and broke his ankle.
This ankle break was so graphic and career-threatening that TV studios refused to show replays of the incident. Taylor received a red card for the brutal challenge. Meanwhile, it took Eduardo over a year to return to soccer. However, the injury robbed him of his pace and he was no longer as effective in the Premier League. Finally, the club sold him and he played for Ukrainian giants Shakhtar Donetsk.
Concussions are the main cause of health problems in the NHL because of the number of hits that players receive. Fights are common in hockey and collisions often happen on the ice. Sometimes injuries occur in freakish circumstances such as in the case of McCleary. He underwent life-saving surgery after a slapshot smacked the puck against his throat.
A slapshot is the most powerful type of shot in hockey. The Canadiens star played against the Philadelphia Flyers when the traumatic incident occurred. The injury was life-threatening and he almost died because it fractured his larynx and prevented him from breathing. Luckily, the fast response from the medical team saved him. However, health problems lingered from the career-threatening injury and he was unable to make a comeback despite his best efforts.
One NHL player’s selfishness had permanent effects on the health of another. Moore played for the Colorado Avalanche in a game against the Vancouver Canucks. Clashes between these two teams were full of fights. But the Canucks’ Todd Bertuzzi took this too far and crossed the line. He attempted to goad Moore into a fight but failed. Then, he skated after him and sucker-punched him in the back of the head.
First, he knocked Moore out with the punch. However, the contact with the hard ice caused even more damage. Moore broke three vertebrae and suffered a concussion. It was clearly a career-threatening injury and his career ended at that moment all because of Bertuzzi’s disgusting lack of sportsmanship. A nasty legal battle ran on but the effect on Moore’s health was irreversible. Hockey is full of fights but when the injuries become career or life-threatening, it’s obviously too much.
Watson was an exciting British boxer who saw his life change after one fateful fight. Both Chris Eubank Sr. and Jr. have ended the careers of opponents in a brutal fashion. The elder Eubank fought Watson in 1991 with the WBO middleweight title at stake. It was an opportunity for both men to change their lives. The fight did but not in the way that Watson expected.
One punch changed everything. Watson was ahead on the scorecards and he had Eubank in serious trouble. But then, Eubank connected with a savage uppercut and laid Watson out. He didn’t get up and everybody feared for his health. However, there was incredibly no ambulance or medic at the event. Watson didn’t receive the specialized treatment he needed for almost 30 minutes and the injury unfortunately became life-threatening. After 40 days in a coma, he finally woke up.
‘Big Nog’ was one of the first fighters to achieve success with both the PRIDE and UFC promotions. In 2008, Frank Mir defeated him in an upset to claim the interim heavyweight title. Almost three years later, ‘Minotauro’ had the opportunity to get revenge. Most people believed that the Brazilian was the better fighter and that Mir’s KO win was a freak result.
But Mir didn’t receive that memo. He put the series beyond doubt with an infamous win. Mir snapped Big Nog’s arm like a twig due to a vicious kimura. It hung by his side in the most horrifying, lopsided manner. The image permanently etched itself into the brains of watching fans. Luckily, the injury wasn’t life-threatening and there were no long-term health effects but it was such a nasty moment.
Mexican star Jimenez became one of the most prolific strikers in the Premier League with Wolves. He was his team’s fulcrum and main goal-getter before a career-threatening injury. The forward was playing against Arsenal when he crunched into David Luiz. Jimenez came off worse from the challenge because it left him with a fractured skull. Replays revealed the sickening thud of the impact.
Meanwhile, there were immediate concerns about Jimenez’s health. Fortunately, he underwent successful surgery and began the long road to recovery. Specialists also confirmed that he was able to return to soccer. Many feared that the head trauma would be life-threatening and prevent him from stepping onto the field again. But they said that he would be safe as long as the injury healed well.
Replacing all-time legend Joe Montana was a fool’s errand, but somehow Young rose to the task with surprising effectiveness. The quarterback became a Niners’ legend in his own right. However, he sustained significant health issues because of his dedication to football. Concussions are no joke but Young endured a lot of them. These took their toll upon his body and eventually became career-threatening.
Young knew that he had seven serious concussions before the 1999 season. The reality was that he probably received a lot more head trauma from games and practice. The long-term health effects are potentially ruinous and only career but life-threatening. In short, they increase the chances of dementia and CTE. Finally, after an eighth major concussion, Young hung up his cleats for his family’s sake.
Anderson Silva’s leg break against Weidman will always be one of the most notorious injuries in UFC history. Then, in a set of surreal circumstances, Weidman suffered a near-identical break against Uriah Hall. The injury was gruesome and difficult for fans to look at because of the angle of his leg. There’s clearly something horrible about bones pointing in the wrong direction.
Doctors informed Weidman that there was a genuine risk of infection spreading through his body. They told him that this was a serious health risk and there was a significant chance that amputation was necessary. In the end, it didn’t come to this and Weidman rehabbed the injury. There was still a long way to go and the injury is still career-threatening, but thankfully his life was secure.
Many football fans envy young players who make it through the draft. This is because they instantly become millionaires. However, the reality is that they are signing up to put their bodies through potentially devastating trauma. The consequences for their future health can be terrible. In 2007, Everett suffered one of the scariest injuries in NFL history.
The tight end played against the Denver Broncos when a collision damaged his spinal cord. Not only did it leave him paralyzed but it was also life-threatening because he couldn’t breathe. Miraculously he recovered the use of his body and was able to walk of his own volition. Furthermore, credit to the Bills because they kept him on their roster so that he could get his NFL pension. In the end, this became a feel-good story.
Philadelphia sports fans are some of the most notorious in the sports world. They have a reputation for being extremely tough on their own players. Then, they can be horribly threatening to opposing teams and players. Remember the time they threw snowballs at Santa? However, they sunk to a new low in 1999 when the Eagles hosted the Dallas Cowboys. In short, it was their most shameful display.
Irvin was a very effective receiver and enjoyed an 11-season career in the NFL. The Cowboys star was a three-time Super Bowl winner and made the Pro Bowl five times. His achievements didn’t endear him to the Eagles’ support because they cheered when medics stretchered him off. It was a disgusting reaction from the crowd. This got worse because the injury was career-threatening and he retired as the risk to his health was too great.
The late, great Puckett will always be a Minnesota Twins’ legend. He won two World Series titles with the Twins and was a 10-time All-Star. Meanwhile, he entered the Hall of Fame in 2001 after a glittering career. Puckett was a mainstay at center-field until a career-threatening incident in 2005 ended his time in MLB. A fastball pitch broke his jaw and brought his season to an early finish.
Later, Puckett rehabbed the injury and tried to continue his career in the Minor Leagues. However, he continued to have health issues. The veteran star had glaucoma and this affected his play. It was an unfortunate way for his career to end because he genuinely loved baseball. Puckett didn’t care what level he played at but in the end, he wasn’t efficient anymore.
Cech was one of the Premier League’s best keepers during his time with Chelsea. For many seasons he cut a distinctive figure on the playing field because he wore a rugby scrum cap to protect his head. Chelsea played Reading in 2006 when Cech’s life changed forever. As he went out to claim the ball, Reading’s Stephen Hunt came hurtling toward him.
The Irishman didn’t pull out of the tackle and collided with Cech. It wasn’t intentional, but it left the goalkeeper with a career-threatening injury due to a fractured skull. Afterward, medics confirmed that the injury was life-threatening. They also said Cech was lucky not to have suffered permanent brain damage. This was one of the worst health scares on a soccer field in recent history.
Concussions have received a lot of media attention in recent years. They occur in many sports from football to hockey. Nowadays, leagues are more responsible when it comes to dealing with player trauma. This is because they are afraid of the legal ramifications. However, it wasn’t always like this. LaFontaine played an entire season against doctor’s orders in 1998.
A Penguins enforcer left LaFontaine with a brutal concussion in 1997. The Buffalo Sabres refused to allow him to continue playing for the franchise because of the career and life-threatening risk to his health. However, the New York Rangers didn’t have any qualms about this and duly signed him up. He then smashed into a teammate and suffered another savage concussion. Finally, he retired from hockey forever.
Dadashev was the victim of one of boxing’s most recent tragedies. He was 13-0 and undefeated before he met Subriel Matias in Maryland. Then, he endured the worst adversity of his career. It was an IBF title eliminator and the Russian tried to push through. Finally, his trainer, the legendary Buddy McGirt, threw in the towel to save his fighter but it was too late.
Matias inflicted such a bad beating upon Dadashev that his brain began to swell. An ambulance rushed him to the hospital and an emergency response team placed him in a coma. Sadly, their efforts were in vain because Dadashev didn’t recover. After four days, Dadashev passed away in hospital at the age of 28. Boxing can be a brutal sport and this shocked the world.
The Minnesota Vikings drafted Culpepper in 1999. However, it wasn’t until 2004 that he enjoyed his breakout season in the NFL. This was the best year of his Vikings tenure but his career came to a cruel end. Culpepper broke the record for total yardage by a quarterback. He also led the league in most other QB rankings. Meanwhile, his contribution was crucial because the Vikings were very average.
After a rough start to the next season, Culpepper tore every ligament in his knee in a game against the Panthers. This was effectively a death sentence upon his career as a starting quarterback. It ended his tenure in Minnesota and he bounced from franchise to franchise before finally retiring. Ligament injuries were worse than many other health issues because they robbed players of mobility and pace and this one was more than career-threatening for Culpepper.
Blackwell was his own worst enemy. The British boxer became a professional despite having no amateur experience. Despite this, he achieved success and eventually met Chris Eubank Jr. in a British Middleweight boxing clash. However, Eubank got the better of the fight and inflicted severe swelling upon his opponent. The referee suffered the fight and an ambulance rushed Blackwell to the hospital.
Doctors diagnosed him with bleeding inside his skull and put him in a medically-induced coma. After a week, they brought him out of a coma but warned him never to fight or even spar again. But Blackwell didn’t listen and continued sparring in the gym. He received a stiff blow to the head and underwent an operation to reduce swelling on his brain. He didn’t respect the vulnerability of his health due to his life-threatening injuries, but luckily he recovered from this.
The Washington Football Team has had quarterback problems recently but Theismann was a good leader for 12 seasons. The QB was a two-time Pro Bowler and ensured franchise immortality with a Super Bowl win. But his career ended in a miserable fashion. He never played for the Redskins again after he broke his leg in a game against the New York Giants.
Lawrence Taylor and Harry Carson sacked the signal-caller in brutal fashion. As a result, Theismann endured one of the most gruesome breaks on a football field. This injury shocked the nation because it was so nasty. The consequences of the career and life-threatening injury left Theismann with one leg shorter than the other. His health problems prevented him from playing in the NFL again.
The human body is incredibly fragile. Utley found this out in the most horrible manner possible. He was playing for the Detroit Lions when the worst possible thing happened to his body. It was his third season with the Lions and he expected to enjoy several more years in the NFL. But nothing in life is guaranteed as Utley discovered after a game against the St. Louis Rams.
Utley damaged several vertebrae in his spine after a tough tackle. Medics stretchered him off the field but he raised his thumb to the crowd to signal that he was ok. However, he wasn’t. Doctors told him that the game had permanent life-threatening consequences on his health. The hit paralyzed him from the chest down and totally altered his future. It was a lesson for every NFL fan.
Denmark played Finland in their opening game of the European Championships. Many considered the Danes to be dark horses to win the entire competition. Eriksen was their star man after an excellent season with Italian giants Inter Milan. But things took a dark turn when he collapsed to the floor during the game. Nobody touched him and he lay prone. Immediately, Referee Anthony Taylor blew the whistle and called the medics,
This instant reaction proved crucial because it allowed the medics to save Eriksen’s life. He suffered a cardiac arrest on the field and almost died. But the quick response of the medics and the referee enabled him to survive. The Danes opted to continue the game but played in a daze and lost. While it was career-threatening Eriksen, he still had his future and his family. In the end, health is the most important thing.
Silva was electrifying in the UFC middleweight division. It appeared as though nobody could touch him, let alone beat him. His-16 fight unbeaten streak was the longest in UFC history and he defended his title a remarkable 10 times. But then he met Chris Weidman. The New Yorker stunned the world because he knocked Silva out. However, the promotion granted the Brazilian a rematch because he felt like he didn’t take the fight seriously.
Unfortunately, Silva lost the rematch in an even more brutal manner. He kicked Weidman’s leg and snapped his own leg in the process. It was one of the most horrifying injuries in the history of the sport because his leg bent at a gruesome angle. Many fans didn’t expect Silva to return after this career-threatening broken leg. But he rehabbed his injury and continued to fight. Ultimately, however, he was never the same again.
LeGrand had the world at his feet. The Rutgers defensive tackle was a highly-touted prospect and most analysts expected him to make it in the NFL. However, he never even got to the draft because of his health. The young man was essential to Rutger’s success. He had no idea a game against Army would change his life but that’s exactly what happened.
He made the crucial error of putting his head down in a tackle. After he drove headfirst into Malcolm Brown, he crumpled. Medics stretchered him off of the field as he was unable to move or even breathe properly. Soon it became clear that the injury was not only career-threatening but life-threatening as the collision paralyzed him from the neck down. LeGrand’s attitude is amazing and he is able to move his shoulders. Also, the Tampa Bay Buccaneers even signed him to a symbolic contract.
Day boxed because he loved the sport. It wasn’t that he had a pressing need for money because he had a university degree. However, he chose to compete instead of working in the health and wellness industry. This had tragic consequences because his last fight proved fatal. Day fought Charles Conwell in a title fight in Chicago. He lost the fight by way of knockout in round 10.
But the 27-year-old received major brain trauma from the KO. He slipped into a coma and sadly died from his injuries after four days. This story stunned the boxing world because it was a reminder of how brutal the sport can be. It is not only career-threatening but can clearly end a fighter’s life. Fighters literally risk their lives whenever they step into a ring. However, they still have a hunger to test themselves. In the end, Day went out doing what he loved.
In 2012, Tottenham Hotspurs hosted Bolton Wanderers in an F.A. Cup tie. Nobody could have expected the horrible scene that occurred on the night. Bolton midfielder Muamba lost consciousness and collapsed to the field. Immediately, referee Howard Webb beckoned medics to attend him. It was clear that something was seriously wrong with his health because he lay prone on the field.
Medics from both teams attempted to resuscitate the 23-year-old. A cardiologist named Dr. Andrew Deaner made his credentials known to stewards and assisted them in their efforts. Finally, an ambulance removed the player and took him to the hospital. Miraculously, after two hours, Muamba’s heart began to beat again by itself. The injury was career-threatening and he never played soccer again but he returned to the stadium to show his appreciation to the fans.
Smith joined the Washington Redskins on a massive contract. However, it all went wrong for the quarterback when he suffered a gruesome career-threatening leg break against the Houston Texans. A collision with JJ Watt shattered the tibia and fibula in his right leg. Unfortunately, things became worse for Smith because a flesh-eating bacteria infected the wound. Suddenly, the injury was not only career-threatening but his life was at risk.
Surgeons seriously considered amputating his leg because it was so serious. Finally, after 17 surgeries, Smith recovered from this shocking ordeal. He still wore a leg brace because he lost a lot of tissue during the surgeries. Eventually, doctors removed the brace and he somehow returned to practice. Incredibly, he played for Washington during the 2020 NFL season despite the career-threatening injury. Needless to say, he won the Comeback Player of the Year Award.