25 of the Worst Career Ending Injuries in Sports
Player safety and the long-term consequences of their injuries has been one of the biggest issues in sports for a while now—particularly in recent months. The Saints 'Bountygate' scandal, concussions in the NHL and NFL and a number of athlete deaths in the last year have all contributed to the discussion.
But that discussion has been focused on the long-term implications of player health. It was a problem that was easily ignored for decades—out of sight, out of mind. We're finally starting to get a better understanding of the consequences of improper treatment of head injuries.
The ramifications of viscous on-the-field hits are something we're more aware of. Seeing an athlete carted off by paramedics is always a poignant moment that is hard to forget. Let's take a look at 25 of the worst career ending injuries in sports.
25. Nick Kypreos, New York Rangers
Former New York Ranger winger Nick Kypreos played professional hockey for just over a decade before being forced into retirement with post-concussion syndrome.
The final concussion of Kypreos career was sustained as a result of his Rangers teammate, Ryan VandenBussche.
24. Daunte Culpepper, Minnesota Vikings
After his breakout season in 2004, Vikings quarterback Duante Culpepper sustained a major knee injury during a game against the Panthers in 2005. Culpepper damaged three of the four major ligaments in his knee and was placed on IR.
He was released by the Vikes in 2006 and attempted a comeback with the Dolphins, but he never even got close to his pre-injury form and only started 24 games in his last four seasons in the league.
23. Alvin Williams, Toronto Raptors
Former Raptors guard Alvin Williams played just over five seasons in the NBA, most of which were spent on the injury list, thanks to a serious knee injury he sustained in his third season.
Williams tried to come back from the injury twice, but he was never able to get back to form.
22. Dean Ashton, West Ham United
Dean Ashton is an English footballer who played for England's national team and last played for West Ham United. Ashton sustained a broken ankle in 2006, that he managed to recover from and play just over one more season.
But the ankle injury lingered and is the reason he had to retire at age 26. He's currently suing the FA and/or Chelsea for their liability in the incident.
21. Jeff Beukeboom, Edmonton Oilers
Defenseman Jeff Beukeboom played just under 15 years in the NHL, but it could have been a lot more had it not been for a sucker punch by the Kings Matt Johnson in 1998.
After the incident, Beukeboom attempted to play again but he was plagued by headaches, memory loss, nausea and confusion. He was diagnosed with post-concussion syndrome and forced into retirement.
20. Chris Spielman, Cleveland Browns
Former linebacker Chris Spielman played about about 10 years in the NFL, but the last three years were hampered by neck injuries. He was limited in 1997 because of a neck injury that resulted in spinal surgery.
Spielman was determined to make a comeback and signed with the Browns in 199. Unfortunately, he suffered another neck injury before the regular season even began and was forced to retire.
19. Scott Stevens, New Jersey Devils
Long-time Devils defenseman Scott Stevens was one of the most intimidating forces in the NHL for over 20 years. But, like many players in the NHL, he had sustained a number of concussions over his career which took their toll on him.
Stevens announced he would retire following the 2003-04 season, but he was diagnosed with post-concussion syndrome that November and didn't even finish the year.
18. Steve Young, San Francisco 49ers
Niners great Steve Young did the unthinkable during his NFL career—he managed to fill the very sizable shoes of one Joe Montana. Unfortunately, his Hall of Fame career was plagued by concussions.
Prior to the 1999 season, Young had seven confirmed head injuries and when he incurred the eighth in the third week of the regular season, he decided that was the end of the line.
17. Cam Neely, Boston Bruins
Bruins great Cam Neely played all 13 seasons of his NHL career and retired in 1996. Unfortunately Neely's career wasn't nearly as long as fans would have hoped, but probably about four seasons longer than it could have been.
Neely sustained a devastating knee injury on a check from Penguins defenseman Ulf Samuelsson during Game 3 of the Wales Conference Finals. He tried to come back from the injury, but he only played 162 games in the final five years of his career and he was never the same.
16. Keith Primeau, Philadelphia Flyers
Like many others on this list, former Flyers center Keith Primeau dealt with head injuries over the course of his 16-year career in the NHL.
Just nine games into the 2005-06 season, the Flyers captain sustained the final concussion of his career. Primeau was diagnosed with post-concussion syndrome and retired within days.
15. Joe Theisman, Washington Redskins
Former NFL quarterback Joe Theismann played his entire 11-year career in the NFL with the Redskins. The career of the two-time Super Bowl winner came to an abrupt end during a Monday night game in 1985 when sustained a brutal break in both bones of his lower right leg.
The hit on Theismann came courtesy of Giants linebackers Lawrence Taylor and Harry Carson—a going away present for a quarterback who would never play again.
14. Sterling Sharpe, Green Bay Packers
Former Packers receiver Sterling Sharpe was on pace for a Hall of Fame career, but it was cut short after just six seasons by a neck injury he sustained during 1994 season.
13. Michael Irvin, Dallas Cowboys
Former Cowboys wide receiver Michael Irvin was one of the most well known players in the game during his 11-year career in the NFL. The flashy wideout knew how to make noise on and off the field.
Unfortunately, when he suffered a career-ending injury against the Eagles in 1999, it wasn't Irvin making the noise. Instead it was Eagles fans—who were cheering as he was carted off on a stretcher.
12. Kirby Puckett, Minnesota Twins
Twins great Kirby Puckett played all 11 years of his MLB career in Minnesota. In 1995, Puckett suffered a broken jaw on a fastball pitch and he never made it back to the majors.
Puckett tried to rehab in the minors, but in 1996 he was diagnosed with glaucoma after waking up without vision in his right eye. Three surgeries couldn't restore his vision and Puckett was forced to call it quits.
11. Kevin Everett, Buffalo Bills
Former Bills tight end Kevin Everett's NFL career was cut tragically short after just two seasons in Buffalo. Early in the 2007-08 season, Everett sustained a spinal cord injury trying to bring down the Broncos kickoff returner Domenik Hixon.
Everett's prognosis was initially very bleak, but he slowly began to improve. He will never regain what he lost in its entirety, but he has regained some power in his legs, which allows him to walk under his own power.
10. Pat LaFontaine, New York Rangers
The legendary Pat LaFontaine played in the NHL for 15 years, one of them completely against medical advice. In 1997, LaFontaine sustained a concussion on a hit by Penguins enforcer Francois Leroux and he was then diagnosed with post-concussion syndrome.
The Sabres management refused to clear LaFontaine for play, but apparently the Rangers had no problem with it. He played one final, very productive, season with the Rangers before a collision with a teammate resulted in another concussion.
He never returned to the ice after that.
9. David Busst, Coventry City
David Busst is a former professional footballer from England who was playing for Coventry City in 1996 when he suffered a career-ending in a match against Manchester United.
Busst collided with two United players which resulted in compound fractures in both bones of his lower right leg. It was one helluva a gruesome scene and the injuries were so significant that Busst nearly had to have his leg amputated.
To add insult to injury, Busst contracted the MRSA virus while in the hospital, and that, along with the 26 subsequent operations, forced him into retirement.
8. Steve Moore, Colorado Avalanche
Former Avalanche center Steve Moore's career in the NHL was cut short after just three seasons, courtesy of a violent cheap shot by the Canucks noted jerkbag Todd Bertuzzi.
Moore sustained three cracked vertebrate and a concussion as a result of the hit and he never played again. Bertuzzi, for his part, was formally charged with assault and ultimately pled guilty to the offense.
7. Mack Strong, Seattle Sehawks
Former Seahawks fullback played all 14 seasons of his NFL career in Seattle. During the 2007-08 season, Mack sustained a herniated disk in a game against the Steelers.
The injury resulted in trauma to his spinal cord, but thankfully he was not threatened by paralysis. Either way, Mack decided to hang up his cleats for good after the incident.
6. Trent McCleary, Montreal Canadiens
Former NHL winger Trent McCleary was signed by the Canadiens as a free agent in 1998, but his playing time was limited during his first season with the Habs because of a severe eye injury he sustained. Ultimately he recovered from the eye incident.
But less than a year later, McClearly was critically injured while blocking a shot in a game against the Flyers. He was hit in the throat by the puck, which resulted in a collapsed lung and a fractured larynx.
McClearly hoped to make a comeback, but the throat injury left him unable to properly condition due to shortness of breath.
5. Reggie Brown, Detroit Lions
Former NFL linebacker Reggie Brown was drafted out of Texas A&M by the Lions in the first round of the 1996 NFL Draft. He played just 32 games in the league before his career ended abruptly after suffering a spinal cord contusion in a game against the Jets.
After the hit, Brown was in an out of consciousness and laid motionless on the turf at the arena for 17 minutes before medics were able to perform life-saving CPR and get him off the field.
4. Darryl Stingley, New England Patriots
The late Darryl Stingley played four years in the NFL as a wide receiver for the Patriots. In 1978, Stingley collided with Raiders defensive back Jack Tatum and the resulting injury was a compressed spinal cord and two broken vertebrae.
Stingley regained limited movement in his arms, but spent the rest of his life in a wheel chair. Stingley died in 2007 from heart disease and pneumonia that was complicated by quadriplegia.
3. Eric LeGrand, Rutgers
Former Rutgers defensive tackle Eric LeGrand never got a chance to play in the NFL. In October 2010, LeGrand sustained a serious spinal cord injury during a game against Navy.
When LeGrand was wheeled off the field minutes later, he was only able to move his head. The doctors later determined he was paralyzed from the neck down.
2. Mike Utley, Detroit Lions
After a very promising start to his career with the Lions, former offensive lineman Mike Utley's career was abruptly ended in his third season when he suffered injury to his sixth and seventh vertebrae in a game against the Rams.
Utley flashed the thumbs up signal as he was carted format he field, but doctors later determined that he was paralyzed from the chest down.
1. Doc Powers, Philadelphia Athletics
Doc Powers was a catcher who played in the major leagues from 1898 until 1909. Powers was injured chasing a pop-up straight into a wall during the first game played in Philadelphia's new Shibe Park.
Powers' suffered substantial internal injuries from the collision and died from complications just two weeks later. He is one of only two players to die from an on-field incident.