The NFL is the most popular sports league in the United States. Its athletes are prime physical specimens similar to real-life superheroes and produce electrifying moments. But all of the love of the game aside, fans know this is a dangerous game. The players’ bodies take a brutal toll. And despite significant efforts to curb it, many of them leave the field on stretchers after suffering horrible concussions or other injuries.
In this article, we’ll recall some of the most traumatic moments in NFL history. All of these stars spent time in hospital and some of them even retired after savage hits. Check out the list below.
Burrow was a rare shining light for the Bengals as a rookie in 2020 but he took too many sacks. Their offensive line failed to protect him properly and an injury was inevitable. It was almost a blessing in disguise that he suffered an ACL tear rather than traumatic head damage (via Sky Sports).
The injury came against Washington as his knee buckled underneath him. He didn’t play for the rest of the season as he began his rehabilitation. But Burrow returned the following year and inspired the Bengals to a rare Super Bowl appearance. He is a brilliant player but Cincinnati must protect him better.
Aikman was the Cowboys’ starting quarterback during their most dominant era. He helped the team to the 1993 season’s NFC Championship game. But he admits that he has no recollection of the event as he suffered a horrible concussion. Aikman woke up in a hospital and asked why he was there because he didn’t know what happened.
It’s frightening that these phenomenal athletes constantly leave games on stretchers after brutal hits. Aikman knew that this concussion could change his life because it was so serious. Allegedly, he repeated the same conversation multiple times because the hit scrambled his brain (via Washington Post).
Broken legs usually require stretchers because the athlete is in agony. Smith was playing for the Redskins against the Texans when he broke two of the bones in his leg. Then, to make matters worse, an infection developed and he risked losing the entire limb (via ESPN).
It took years for Smith to recover but finally, he made his return against the odds. He won the NFL Comeback Player of the Year Award because his return was so unlikely. The broken leg was one of the worst that the NFL ever saw but fortunately, he recovered. Smith retired after his comeback season with Washington because he didn’t want any more injuries.
The Cardinals trailed the Rams late into the NFC Wild Card game. Safety Baker attempted to tackle L.A. running back Cam Akers. But his head connected with Akers’ elbow and he received a nasty concussion. He collapsed onto the grass in a compromised state.
Fortunately, Baker had movement and feeling in all of his extremities but it was a dangerous situation. Stretchers came onto the field and he went to the hospital for observation. Luckily, Baker made a full recovery after the harrowing moment. It could have changed his entire life but he came out on the right side of it (via New York Post).
Players forget what team they star for when they witness a serious injury. That’s what happened in Taylor’s situation after he went down for the Seahawks. The Steelers played Seattle in 2021 when Taylor suffered a frightening head injury. Stretchers came onto the field as the medics checked his condition.
Taylor’s CT scans passed muster and he didn’t lose the use of his extremities. But it served as a reminder to other NFL players that a serious injury can occur at any point. Taylor was having a decent career with Seattle until that point. It remains to be seen how the trauma affects him moving forward (via The Athletic).
Tre Sullivan landed a big hit on Dupre in 2017 as the Steelers played the Packers. Eagles players showed their class as they took a knee while the stricken rookie went down. Meanwhile, Green Bay’s stars had visible concern on their faces for their rookie teammate (via Bleacher Report).
Dupre had enough cognitive control to give the crowd the thumbs up on his way off the field. The Packers’ medical team stretchered him off the field and an ambulance took him to the hospital. No parent wants to see their child end up in this situation, but it’s a risk that every football player takes.
The Titans played the Rams in what should have been a momentous occasion for all of their players. However, it turned into a nightmare for Bishop after he suffered a frightening hit. The terrifying collision occurred in the third quarter of the game when the safety ran into St Louis’s Ernie Conwell.
Nobody likes seeing stretchers come onto the field because they know it means the situation is serious. This was a reminder that football is a dangerous game because Bishop caused his injury. The opposition player didn’t behave irresponsibly but he was unlucky (via Tampa Bay Times).
These days, Williams is known as one of Detroit’s most exciting players. But he endured some tough times with the Packers before he found his home with the Lions. The worst moment came when Philly’s Derek Barnett hit him savagely and illegally (via USA Today Sports).
Then the officials penalized Barnett but they failed to eject him from the game. We don’t like seeing players leave football games on stretchers but that’s what Williams experienced. He woke up in the hospital after medics completed their final evaluations. Fortunately, his career went from strength to strength after his recovery.
Many types of injuries result in players leaving the field on stretchers. Amukamara was an effective cornerback for the New York Giants but he had a nasty moment. In 2012 he tackled the Bears’ Brandon Marshall but twisted his ankle. The pain was excessive and he struggled to put weight on the foot.
In the end, New York’s medical team stretchered him off the field and brought him to the hospital. Football takes a tremendous toll on many athletes’ bodies because of the heavy contact. Luckily, Amukamara didn’t break his leg because this could have ended his career (via First Coast News)
Many players leave games on stretchers after heavy hits. But Seals-Jones makes this list for a strange reason his injury came from a different source. He suffered a collision with a cameraman during a game for Washington against the Eagles. Football is tough enough without the media taking players out.
To be fair the cameraman didn’t expect a gigantic NFL star to rush into him like a rhinoceros. He also went down hard but rose to his feet and walked away to the crowd’s applause. It was a nice moment because they showed him their appreciation. Nobody was a winner in this situation (via Saturday Down South).
Theismann was one of Washington’s greatest quarterbacks but his career came to an unceremonious end. It’s amazing how similar his injury was to that of Alex Smith’s many years later. Theismann went down after a gruesome broken leg following a Lawrence Taylor sack (via Washingtonian).
Taylor didn’t mean to cause devastating damage but instantly realized the seriousness of the moment. With tears in his eyes, he screamed for stretchers and medics. Theismann never played again because the rehabilitation would have taken too long at his age.
Unfortunately, he is very familiar with stretchers because he experienced some horrible incidents. There was a lot of hype surrounding the young quarterback before this event. However, several teams cooled their interest in the Alabama star because of the perceived risk. But Miami maintained that this was worth taking and they drafted him.
Football is a brutal sport and teammates must look out for each other. Nobody wants to receive an injury in practice because somebody didn’t take care. However, Kirkwood endured a concussion during training in the 2021 offseason. Rookie J.T. Ibe lost his place in the Panthers’ camp because of the crazy moment.
The youngster failed to secure a draft pick but Carolina checked him out. But he infuriated coach Matt Rhule with his behavior and the head coach gave him the boot. It also had a traumatic impact on Kirkwood’s career because he never managed to secure a place on the active roster (via Archy Sport).
The game doesn’t matter anymore after a player goes down with a neck injury. NFL fans experienced this when the Cowboys’ Irvin received a nasty hit between two Philadelphia players. Athletes from both teams kneeled around him as they showed their concern for his well-being.
Most decent people applaud athletes who leave the field on stretchers. But the Eagles fans disgraced themselves as they booed the stricken Irvin. Doctors from both teams tended to him but it wasn’t enough to save his career. A serious spinal cord injury made it too big of a risk to continue (via NBC News).
Williams was a tough individual but perhaps he played for too long in the NFL. Medics stretchered him off in 2015 after he suffered a neck injury in a terrifying incident. It would have been no surprise if he never played again but he made a comeback. However, it didn’t last for very long because he absorbed another hard hit.
Jarvis Landry slammed into him in 2016 and Williams never stepped onto an NFL again. This time he walked off the field even though medics brought on their stretchers. He refused to sit on one again and used his power to leave the place he loved most (via Bleacher Report).
Two frightening injuries occurred in the span of just 10 days in September 2022. Jackson left the stadium in an ambulance after he suffered a horrible collision. The hard-hit terrified fans who thought that he may have received permanent damage. But he was back in practice the following week.
There are always questions about the response to these types of incidents. Jackson didn’t engage in contact training for the first week but coaches put him through his paces. He claimed that he didn’t feel any ill effects but it should be left to a player to decide this (via NBC Sports).
Technically, Phillips isn’t a player but a defensive mastermind. The former Super Bowl winner played a key role in the Broncos’ success. However, he proved that the coaching staff isn’t safe from the dangers of gridiron football. He absorbed a massive hit on the sidelines and lost consciousness.
Usually, players leave the field on stretchers, not the coaches but Phillips was a rare exception. Onlookers feared for him because of his physical condition. It just goes to show that anybody can take a hard hit if they’re unlucky enough to stand in the wrong place at the wrong time (via Mile High Sports).
Usually, stretchers bear injured players off the field before they enter an ambulance. But in 2007, fans witnessed the rare and unwanted occasion where first responders drove onto the turf. Buffalo’s tight end suffered a cervical spine injury and lay unresponsive for 15 minutes on the ground (via Democrat and Chronicle).
The life-changing injuries immediately ended his career but this was the least of his worries. He suffered paralysis but battled bravely to overcome his limitations. Incredibly, Everett can walk and lives a relatively healthy life. It could have been much worse because this was one of the worst moments ever.
Bridgewater is a veteran quarterback who has been around the block. The Broncos used him as a stop-gap solution to their QB problem in 2021. He didn’t have the greatest season but the worst moment came exactly one week before Christmas Day. Bridgewater dived for a first down but landed on his head.
Video footage showed the Bengals and Broncos players surrounding him as they showed their concern. The badge on the uniform doesn’t matter when someone’s life could be in danger. Bridgewater stayed in the hospital for the night but he returned to action later that season (via NFL.com).
It’s a sad reality that stretchers enter NFL fields on an all-too-frequent basis. The Cleveland Browns played the Patriots in 2021 but the day took a dark turn. Hill tried to take New England’s backup quarterback Brian Hoyer but hurt himself in the process (via WKYC).
He lay prone on the field as players from both teams observed him. Medics recognized the seriousness of the situation and rushed to his side. Hill recovered and continues to play football but left the Browns. He knows that he’s risking his future every time he pulls on his helmet.
Floyd was another player who took a hard hit against the Eagles. Philip Rivers tried to pass to the wideout but it didn’t end well. Linebacker DeMeco Ryan collided with Floyd and wiped the Chargers’ player out. Silence filled the stadium because everybody knew that this was a serious situation.
The teams kneeled beside Floyd because it was such a terrifying moment. It was a wake-up call for the athletes on the field because they knew it could have been them. Floyd was unlucky because this was his turn but any player’s career can end in the blink of an eye (via Larry Brown Sports).
From a fan’s perspective, the worst part of a serious football injury is watching a replay. They slow down the footage so that we can see the damage in minute detail. Cannon’s neck bent at a horrible angle after he collided with one of his teammates in 2021 (via Bleacher Report).
He went for a tackle but he mistimed it and crashed into a fellow Niners player. The media reported that his arm was twitching after the crash in grim scenes. To San Francisco’s credit, they didn’t restore him to their active roster for over a month. Too many teams rush their players back into action.
The nature of the safety position is that players are susceptible to serious injuries. Riley joined the ranks of players who left the field on stretchers following a collision with Duke Johnson. The Jets star tried to tackle the Miami receiver and suffered a brutal hit in the process (via N.Y. Post).
Often, players accidentally hurt themselves when they drive forward without inhibition. These gigantic men hurtle forward at a lightning pace. It’s like a pair of cars smashing into each other because the reaction force can be devastating. Fortunately, Riley recovered and continues to play in the NFL.
Parham said that his life flashed before his eyes during the scariest incident of his life. The harrowing moment came when the Chargers played the Chiefs in 2021. Unlike other players on this list, Parham didn’t collide with another player. Instead, he jumped and mistimed the landing to his detriment.
He fell hard and smashed his head off the ground. The horrible concussion saw him lie in the fencing position as he lay twitching. It was traumatic for his fellow players and watching fans because they felt powerless. They could only hope that he recovered and didn’t receive life-changing symptoms (via Fansided).
In 2022, Tagavailoa suffered the second traumatic injury of his career. This one was more devastating than the first because a hip injury doesn’t affect someone’s mental faculties. There was controversy about Tagavailoa’s inclusion against the Bengals because he received a hard late hit against the Buffalo Bills the previous week (via Sky Sports).
However, Miami insisted that he passed all of their concussion protocols and they included him. Then fans witnessed one of the most disturbing scenes in NFL history. Joshua Topau sacked the quarterback who then lay on the ground for seven minutes. He also lost control of his body as his fingers spasmed disturbingly.