English Premier League: The 10 Worst Injuries in History
The Premier League was established 20 years ago and has been home to many of the greatest players to walk this earth.
We've seen skillful players weave in and out of defences. We've seen set pieces experts rifle in precise free kicks. We've seen goal hunters prey on a vulnerable net.
Unfortunately, we've also seen some disturbing, sickening and horrific tackles end careers.
This list will, in no specific order, line up ten of the worst injuries ever suffered in the Premier League—the life-threatening, the career-ending and the gruesome.
Grab your doggy bags and brace yourself for what has to be the roughest ride down memory lane.
First up is the unforgettable injury dealt out to Petr Čech. The Czech goalkeeper suffered the injury on the 14 of October, 2006. His Chelsea team travelled to the Madejski Stadium to face off against Reading, and it all went downhill fast.
Čech ran out to collect a loose ball in the first 20 seconds of the match, but was challenged by Reading midfielder Stephen Hunt who was also after the ball. The two collided, and Hunt's knee crashed against Petr's head.
The keeper was left dazed for quite some time before being hauled off on a stretcher. Carlo Cudicini was subbed in to replace him, but he too ended up being knocked unconscious. Captain John Terry would have to leave his natural position as a defender to guard the net for the remainder of the match.
Following the match, Čech began to experience intense headaches and was initially unaware of the seriousness of his injury. After undergoing surgery for a depressed skull fracture, the doctors reported that the incident nearly cost him his life and that his head was in such a bad state that another impact would have been fatal, had he returned early.
It was then announced that he would be out for at least a year to recover.
However, the 24-year-old would soon report to the club for some light training and ended up returning in early 2007.
In his comeback, a 2-0 loss against Liverpool, he donned for the first time what would become his iconic headgear. The protective helmet is still required to this day, as his skull now has a weaker than normal bone structure.
The injury sparked a lot of media interest, with pundits and former players crying out for more protection for goalkeepers. José Mourinho criticised the challenge, calling it "a disgrace" and declaring Čech "lucky to still be alive."
He also denounced the South Central Ambulance Service and the referee Mike Riley.
Čech, for his part, has said that he has no recollection of the injury itself.
Unlike the majority of injuries as severe as Alf-Inge Haaland's, this wasn't a career-ender. In fact, Haaland went on to play for two more years before calling it a day.
He and Roy Keane were not the best of friends, never seeing eye-to-eye. Their feud started in earnest in 1997, when the Norwegian was a Leeds man.
Keane lunged in to snatch the ball away from Haaland, but instead damaged his anterior cruciate ligaments. Alf-Inge approached the downed Irishman and blasted him for his attempted foul and wrongly suggested he was feigning injury to avoid punishment.
Keane looked to seek revenge three and a half years later, as Haaland donned the blue kit of Manchester City to face Keane's Manchester United. Again, it was the former Norway international that was on the ball with Roy closing him down.
Unfortunately, the United icon wasn't looking to dispossess Alfie. His intentions were to take him out, hammering him with a high boot straight to the knee. Keane was instantly thrown off the field and handed a three-match ban. Taunting the crippled player was bad enough, but the aftermath was sickening, as he showed no remorse for the tackle, saying:
"I'd waited long enough. I f**king hit him hard. The ball was there, I think. Take that you c**t. And don't stand over me sneering about fake injuries."
Surprisingly, Haaland didn't hang up his boots until 2003, after failing to regain fitness following another injury to the same knee.
However, he has since said that this incident was the cause of the later injury and that the knee is still in pain today.
Liverpool and Manchester United went up against each other on the 18th of February, 2006.
John Arne Riise, known for having a really powerful pelt, lined up for a free kick. Alan Smith bravely ran forward, launching himself in the way of the fierce thunderbolt, but paid the price as he suffered two separate injuries.
The first was a break to the leg and the second was a dislocated ankle.
Despite the distress he was in, play continued for a little longer before teammates Edwin Van der Sar and Gary Neville rushed over. The physios were called over and Smith was assisted onto a stretcher.
Before he left the pitch, one of the Liverpool medics actually went and asked if there was anything he could do to help.
It's a shame that not everybody could follow after the doctor, as a group of rowdy Reds assaulted the ambulance as it tried to escort the former Leeds player to the hospital.
It was obviously a hard time for Smith, so his Man Utd colleagues celebrated a 4-0 Carling Cup victory over Wigan wearing shirts with "For You Smudge" (Alan's nickname) scrawled across them.
Smith showed a selfless display of commitment, but for him it was nothing out of the ordinary.
Gary Mabbutt is known for many things: a 16-year stint with Tottenham Hotspur, being a diabetes sufferer (and an icon for children with the condition), an MBE holder—but also for a terrible injury.
Contesting for the ball with John Fashanu, brother of the late Justin Fashanu, the Spurs defender was smashed in the face by John's elbow.
The Wimbledon striker received great criticism for the challenge, especially as the full details of Mabbutt's injury were revealed.
The clash almost cost Gary his eye and his career. The extent of the injuries were a damaged eye socket (which took two hours of surgery to piece together), three different breaks and four fractures in the cheekbone.
A metal plate had to be inserted beneath the skin and the Bristol-born defender spent many weeks under a plastic mask.
The injury to Luc Nilis, while not the worst in history, is definitely one of the most unfortunate.
He joined Aston Villa with high hopes, excited to begin a new challenge at a new club. However, disaster struck after only three matches.
Only four minutes into a match with Ipswich Town a horrible collision between the Belgian and Ipswich goalkeeper Richard Wright brought the game to a complete stop.
Nilis' right leg bent backwards just below the knee, curling straight back up towards the ankle. He was hit with a double fracture and was forced to retire just four months later.
Four days following the match, he had already gone under the knife twice. He was looking forward to recovering and coming back fresh within a few months, despite lingering rumours that he would have to call it quits.
The doctors, physios and surgeons all announced that things were going well for him, yet he still decided to leave the profession he loved so much.
I guess that not many people can fully recuperate from snapping their leg.
Cissé only played 19 matches for Liverpool before he was shot down with a broken leg. It was his first season at the club, and he had been there for only a few months.
The rainbow-haired striker got caught in a tangle in a match against Blackburn Rovers on the 30th of October, 2004.
As his boot got stuck in the turf, his calf bone was kicked in the other direction by Jay McEveley. A sign of a break was clear from impact, as his leg slouched like it had no bone at all. He screamed out from the excruciating pain.
Luckily, the French international received prompt attention, and he revealed that if it wasn't for this, he would of lost his leg altogether. Due to the severity of the injury, physio Daryl Martin announced that recovery could take from six months up to 18 months.
While many believed that Cissé would be back later rather than sooner, he made an swift and unexpected return to the team. He came on as a 75th minute substitute in a Champion's League match against Juventus on the 13th of April, 2005, and went on to score a few goals before the climax of the season.
Eduardo Da Silva
The Brazilian-born Croatian, Eduardo da Silva, was an exciting prospect for Arsenal. He was becoming a first-team player for the club, but he was struck with a horror tackle that has left him toiling in the Ukrainian Leagues.
The 23rd of February, 2008, has to have been the worst night of his life.
In a televised match, Arsenal were playing against Birmingham and had barely started when Martin Taylor slid in with a tough tackle. Too tough, actually, as Eduardo's left fibula was rendered broken and his ankle was openly dislocated.
The Arsenal forward hit the deck, and Taylor knelt next to him. A red card was dished out as players and physios rushed over.
A few players, including Cesc Fabregas, signalled towards the dugout, and the concern for the youngster's well-being was felt everywhere.
There were a couple of players on both sides who, upon seeing the injury, actually scampered to the opposite side of the pitch.
Later, images began to rise of the damage. One particular photo taken just as boot struck the knee pictures Eduardo's bone tearing through the sock.
Sky Sports, who were broadcasting the match, refused to show replays of the incident, as it was way too graphic. There were even reports that had the tackle gone in any stronger, his entire foot would have been cut off.
Almost two years after the grim injury to Eduardo da Silva, another Arsenal player was sent to the sidelines. Aaron Ramsey, a Welshman set for a bright future, was the victim of a brutal tackle.
He was cut down hard on the 27th of February, 2010, in a match against Stoke City. Ryan Shawcross, the perpetrator, was sent off for the tackle.
In the replays, it seems more of a tough tackle that had went in too late and in the process he managed to hurt himself too. Obviously that wasn't the main focus of attention, as all eyes were on Ramsey.
The young lad was in tears as he rolled around on the grass, his leg actually dangling and bent out of shape. Mirroring the events surrounding Eduardo, many Arsenal players were calling for medical help as players on each side cringed, evading the scene.
Shawcross was initially unaware of the damage he dealt to Ramsey, but, upon noticing the contorted leg, began to weep. He left the pitch visibly distraught as the injured player was rushed to hospital.
It was there that the doctor's announced he suffered a double fracture in his lower right leg.
Surprisingly, Ramsey began to make a quick recovery. He was walking on crutches before March finished and reported to training in October. On the 23rd of November, he began to play competitively again, albeit for the Arsenal reserves.
He was sent out on a loan to Cardiff, his previous club, and Nottingham Forest in an attempt to return to full fitness. The Welshman returned to senior action for the Gunners in February, and has only come back stronger since the injury.
Hatem Ben Arfa
There is little footage of this incident, nor is there much imagery either. This is likely because any videos have been taken down per request of the FA.
Hatem Ben Arfa, on loan to Newcastle from Olympique de Marseille, had only been three months into his tenure before he was brought down with a tackle from Nigel de Jong. It wasn't a dirty tackle, it was actually a fair and pretty good one, which, unfortunately, went sour upon impact.
His left leg suffered a double break, one in his tibia (shin bone) and one in his fibula (calf bone).
Ben Arfa then spent most of his time recuperating back home in Paris, where the injury was nursed at the Clairfontaine Academy.
In November, roughly a month following the incident, the French international underwent surgery to repair complications that were preventing his bones from properly healing.
OM and Newcastle agreed on a fee for Ben Arfa, who was still rehabilitating, in January 2011. He was officially signed on the 5th for an undisclosed amount, but would not be seen on a pitch until half a year later.
Hatem began to train with Newcastle in early April, but his practise was light and was mainly centred around him regaining fitness. Despite his training, he wouldn't play another match for Newcastle in the 2010-11 season.
He continued to recover throughout the summer as he looked forward to starting the new season fresh. On the 15th of July, 2011, the winger returned to action in a friendly against Darlington, and made his Premiership comeback in late September.
The injuries that he took to his leg are incredibly dangerous, and Hatem is lucky to still be an active player.
Similar breaks have cut careers short, and the most brutal example of this is over the next slide.
Be cautioned, though, even some of the toughest players couldn't hold their lunch.
Last, but definitely not least, is the injury considered by most to be the most horrific in the history of the Premier League.
David Busst, a Coventry player, had only been a professional for five years before this life-changing night. He was becoming a regular player for the Sky Blues, and was picked to face Manchester United on the 8th of April, 1996.
Two minutes into the match, the defender Busst found his way up field as his team looked to take a corner. As the ball swung in, Dennis Irwin and Brian McClair launched at the ball in a frantic attempt to clear it. Their endeavours, however, led to sever damage to David's leg.
Both his tibia and his fibula sustained extensive fractures, an infliction which looked like this in the midst of play.
United goalkeeper Peter Schmeichel, who garnered a reputation as a tough, no-fear player, instantly fled the scene with his eyes covered up.
According to some reports, he even threw up on the pitch and needed counselling for a couple of months as he recuperated. It was also not a nice sight for the fans, who had to watch blood get cleaned off the pitch as the game was halted for 12 minutes.
That wasn't the end of Busst's troubles, though.
His injuries were so severe that he amputation was a possibility. In fact, a specialist working with him announced that, if the injury occurred 20 years before, amputation would have been the only option.
While in hospital, he was hit with MRSA, an infection which led to further damage to the tissue and muscle. He went through 26 operations and remained a squad member for several months before declaring that he was retiring at the young age of 29.
That's the end of the line, ten injuries that are certain to leave you at least a bit queasy.
Snapped legs, swollen faces and shattered skulls, we've seen the whole kit and caboodle.
I actually had to cut this down from 25, due to facing difficulty of finding sufficient information, videos or footage of some of the injuries.
What I did manage to find, though, is surely enough to make this list viable.
If there is any injury you think I may have missed, leave a comment below or drop me a tweet on Twitter.
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