The 50 Most Devastating Injuries in Sports History

Timothy Rapp@@TRappaRTFeatured ColumnistOctober 21, 2011

The 50 Most Devastating Injuries in Sports History

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    Warning: If you don't like seeing injuries that cause spurting blood, limbs that bend in the wrong direction, and brutal collisions, this probably isn't the slideshow for you.

    If you don't mind seeing all of those things, however, than you've come to the right place. You'll see all of that and more in the 50 Most Devastating Injuries in Sports History.

    It ain't pretty.

    (Note: There have been instances of injuries in sports that have resulted in death. I've decided against including them in this slideshow, as such tragedies extend far beyond the category of "devastating injury.")

50. Tomas Vokoun

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    Keith Ballard learned an important lesson from this 2009 incident—be careful where you swing your freaking stick, man. I think the Barry Melrose quote below pretty much sums this one up. From ESPN:

    Vokoun was carted off the ice on a stretcher and taken to an Atlanta-area hospital. Vokoun needed several stitches, but traveled with the team back to South Florida. Immediately after the incident, however, Ballard looked like he could have used a Prozac.

    ESPN hockey analyst Barry Melrose called the incident "maybe the stupidest thing I've seen in my life."

    Thankfully, this one turned out be less severe then it looked. How he didn't get a concussion from that one, I'll never know.

49. John Terry

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    Thankfully, this injury looked more horrific than it turned out to be. From The Independent:

    Before that, Chelsea's John Terry had been taken to hospital after losing consciousness when he was accidentally kicked in the face by Abou Diaby as the 26-year-old England captain attempted to win a header. It was feared Terry had swallowed his tongue, and players, who frantically waved on the medical teams, claimed he was turning blue.

    But Terry, who played only after a remarkably swift recovery from an ankle injury, was later able to return to the stadium and join in his team-mates' celebrations. "He lost consciousness, that was the major problem," Mourinho said. "The first thought is the man's safety and the man's family. After that you think of football."

    It wouldn't be the last time Terry would be knocked unconscious during a game.

48. Mark Hominick

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    Holy hematoma!

47. Salim Sdiri

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    Ever been stabbed in the back?

    Or how about have a javelin thrown into it?

    That's gonna leave a mark.

46. Austin Collie

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    I'm not going to sit on my soapbox or anything here, but I think seeing this play live changed the way I feel about concussions in football. I'm very much in favor of any rules that limit the amount of violent hits to the head that occur in the NFL, and it was seeing the way Collie lay on the ground here, arms stiff and up in the air, that made me realize that things had to be done to prevent head injuries in football.

    Ironically, Coleman was not fined for the hit, as it was not deemed intentional. This was one of three concussions Collie would sustain in 2010.

45. Jessica Dube

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    Dube required 80 stitches to repair the laceration on her face stemming from this incident.

    Though as you will see as you continue scrolling through this list, her injuries could have been much, much more severe.

44. Kevin Bieksa

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    The video pretty much tells the story, though they sort of skip over the part that made me squirm—the lacerated calf muscle.

    I mean, you saw the blood squirting onto the ice, right?

43. Rudy Tomjonavich

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    Tomjanovich got roughed up pretty bad after taking this knockout punch from Washington. We get the following diagnosis from (of all places!) People Magazine in 1979:

    Tomjanovich, 29, a 6'8", 220-lb. All-Star forward for the Houston Rockets, was suffering from a brain concussion, leakage of spinal fluid into the brain cavity, and fractures of the skull, jaw and nose.

42. Steve Yzerman

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    If that didn't give you a good idea of this injury, I'll bet this will.

    From CBC Sports:

    Yzerman underwent four-and-a-half hours of surgery at a Detroit hospital on last Saturday to repair a scratched cornea and broken bone just below his left eye.

41. Frank Gifford

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    (Go to the 2:11 mark of the video)

    This is one of the most famous hits in NFL history. It was also one of the most devastating—Gifford not only missed the remainder of the 1960 season (it was the eighth game of the year), but he missed the entirety of the next season.

    His head hit the ground so hard from the blow that he was knocked unconscious and sustained a concussion.

40. Kurtis Foster

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    Foster fractured his left femur and had to have a rod inserted into his leg after this 2009 injury. As you probably guessed, he missed the remainder of the season.

39. Kaz Ishii

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    I think its safe to say that Kaz Ishii had a bit of a headache after this 2002 incident. From CBS Sports:

    Los Angeles Dodgers rookie left-hander Kazuhisa Ishii, hit in the forehead by a line drive, had a two-hour operation Monday to remove bone chips from his nasal passage.

    He will remain hospitalized for at least a few days, Dodgers trainer Stan Johnston said.

    A CT scan after the operation was deemed normal and the Japanese pitcher was eating and walking, according to the Dodgers. Ishii also sustained a small skull fracture and a concussion.

    It may have been a small skull fracture, but I'm sure it felt pretty huge. Think about that for a moment—he fractured his skull.


38. Dave Dravecky

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    After having a cancerous tumor in his arm removed from his arm in 1988, Dravecky returned in 1989, only to have his humerus bone snap, ending his career. Later, celebrating a playoff victory that same season, he once again broke his arm.

    In 1991, he had the arm amputated.

37. Leon Washington

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    Though its hard to see just how gruesome this injury was from this video, the players on the field were able to see just how bad this one was. From ESPN:

    Washington went down on his only carry of the day when a defender rolled up on his right leg after a 6-yard run. Teammates said the bone broke through the skin, and it was visible on the field. Washington was helped off the field by two trainers and then taken away on a cart.

    He was diagnosed with a broken right fibula and underwent surgery immediately after the Jets' 38-0 victory.

36. Renzo Gracie

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    That, ladies and gentlemen, is a very fast way to break your arm.

    If you don't believe me, feel free to take a closer look.

35. Allan Ray

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    I don't want to sound like a girl or anything, but OHMIGOD, EW!

    If you want a closer look (pun not intended, I swear), go here.

    Thankfully, Ray's injury wasn't severe.

34. Buster Posey

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    Not surprisingly, this injury cost promising young catcher Buster Posey his 2011 season. From

    Catcher Buster Posey has torn ligaments in his left ankle which probably will require surgery, along with a broken bone in his lower left leg, the Giants announced Thursday.

    Frankly, I'm with his wife on this one—Cousins had enough plate to attempt the slide. I know it is a bang-bang play, but I'm of the mindset you think slide first, crash-into-the-catcher second.

    I'm aware it is a split-second decision, so I'm not trying to chastise Cousins too hard. It's a part of the game, even if it doesn't always need to be a part of the game.

33. Anquan Boldin

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    If you ever feel like questioning Anquan Boldin's toughness, stop yourself and consider the following (from The Baltimore Sun):

    Multiple facial fractures had to be repaired by 40 titanium screws and seven plates. The wide receiver's displaced jaw had to be wired to realign his bite.

    And he only missed two games. TWO GAMES!

    That's one tough dude.

32. Carlos Beltran and Mike Cameron

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    Cameron was disabled because of multiple injuries and will need surgery to repair facial fractures. Beltran was diagnosed with a concussion and a minimally non-displaced fracture of a facial bone, which will not require surgery.

    It's amazing to me that this sort of thing doesn't happen more often. I know collisions occur on a rather frequent basis, but thankfully they don't generally do the sort of damage seen here.

    This is so devastating to watch simply because of the speed that they collided at in pursuit of the ball. My face hurts just watching.

31. Derrick Roland

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    Get used to seeing the words "broken tibia and fibula" on this list, which is exactly what happened to Roland in this gruesome 2009 injury.

30. Preston Burpo

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    At one point, it almost looks like Burpo's leg has been Photoshopped, it is twisted so badly.

    You guessed it: broken tibia and fibula.

29. Ryan Powdrell

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    And that, sadly, was the end of his USC career.

28. Djibril Cisse

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    Cisse missed about five months after breaking his leg in this 2004 incident.

    Which I guess means this looked a lot worse than it ended up being. I guess.

27. Patrick Edwards

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    This 2008 play resulted in a compound fracture in his right leg that required surgery and a rod to be placed in Edwards' leg. He missed the remainder of the 2008 season.

    Edwards—who was a freshman at the time—has had a pretty solid career since the accident. Last year alone he hauled in 71 passes for 1,100 yards and 13 touchdowns.

26. Bryce Florie

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    This video tells the story of Florie, along with showing the devastating line drive that drilled him in the face and broke his cheek bone and orbital socket.

25. Eric Foster

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    This occurred only two weeks ago, and it was pretty tough to watch. Foster had successful surgery on his dislocated ankle, though his season is most certainly over.

24. Jason Kendall

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    I think this should just about sum up this 1999 injury for you (from Sports Illustrated):

    Jason Kendall collapsed in a terrifying heap, his right ankle shattered and his body in shock. Some Pittsburgh teammates rushed to help, only to turn away in horror as they saw a bone protruding grotesquely from his leg.

    In one of baseball's worst on-field injuries in years, Kendall fractured and dislocated his right ankle in a frightening fall at first base and was sidelined for the season—and maybe longer—Sunday in the Pirates' 4-3 loss to Milwaukee.

    Quick writing note: I'm probably splitting hairs here, but I'm not sure there is a circumstance where a bone protruding from human skin wouldn't be doing so "grotesquely." Seems a bit of a redundant to throw in the adjective, if you ask me.

23. Corey Hill

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    There are a couple of really disgusting bone breaks on this video.

    But No. 1—the Corey Hill kick—good god, that is hard to watch.

    I literally walked away from my computer when I first saw this.

22. Brian Savage

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    We get the details of this 1999 injury from the Los Angeles Times (via It's All About Lappy):

    "It wasn't his fault," Savage, wearing a surgical collar to support his neck while three cracked vertebrae heal, said softly while high above the Molson Centre ice Saturday. "It was a hockey accident. I don't blame him."

    "Him" is the Kings' Ian Laperriere, a participant in the horrifying incident at Staples Center.

    On Nov. 20, Montreal's Savage fanned on a shot and, with his head down, collided with Laperriere, then fell to the ice in convulsions. Savage was taken to a hospital, and after the Kings lost, 5-3, Laperriere raced there to learn of his condition.

    Luckily for Savage, he avoided any damage to his spinal cord, and was able to resume his career after recovering from the injury.

21. Donald Audette

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    I haven't been able to find footage or pictures of this injury. Sorry (I guess).

    We get the details of this 2001 injury from the St. Petersburg Times:

    Audette was injured Dec. 1, when the skate of Rangers defenseman Radek Dvorak cut through his arm and its tendons, requiring four hours of surgery.

    "It was not too pretty," said Audette, who returned Saturday night against the Penguins. "I had nightmares the first few nights after it happened. I would look down at my arm and every time the artery pumped, blood was pumping out of my arm."

    Audette said his ability to skate off the ice might have saved his life because he probably kept an additional "two liters of blood" from pouring out. He said he thought he would not play again this season.

    Audette was lucky he didn't lose his arm. Of course, after suffering the injury, he returned to the Canadiens in time for the playoffs that year.

20. Oupa Ngulube

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    Have you ever done the "rubber pencil" trick, where you hold the pencil at one end and slowly shake your wrist until the pencil appears to be wobbling in the air like a piece of rubber?

    Yeah, Ngulube's leg was actually wobbling in the air like a piece of rubber.

    (Tim seen shuddering.)

19. Marcus Davis

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    I'm guessing he took a few shots to the face.

    Just a hunch.

18. Borje Salming

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    During a game between the Detroit Red Wings and Toronto Maple Leafs on November 26, 1986, Borje Salming of the Maple Leafs was knocked down in front of the net and had his face stepped on by the skate of Red Wings' player Gerard Gallant.

    Various reports have stated that he needed anywhere from 200 to 300 stitches, though the damage was obvious to all. From

    "He looked like a softball after the game," said teammate Steve Thomas.

17. Marcin Wasilewski

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    Ladies and gentlemen, I present you with a fractured tibia and fibula. From

    Wasilewski's injury required five separate operations. The player remembered: "At the start, it looked like I had been bitten by a shark. They gave me an ocean of painkillers in the first days as I was in real pain, but it got worse after the fourth operation. My wife told me I was biting my pillow to get through the pain."

    Remarkably, Wasilewski returned to play eight months after sustaining this injury.

16. Shaun Livingston

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    Livingston pretty much injured every freaking aspect of a knee one could injure in this 2007 injury. From ESPN:

    Livingston had an MRI exam Tuesday which revealed tears in the anterior cruciate ligament, posterior cruciate ligament, medial collateral ligament and lateral meniscus.

    He also dislocated his patella, besides the previously diagnosed dislocation of his tibia-femoral.

    His leg bent like he was a claymation character. Ouch.

15. Patrice Bergeron

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    This hit on October 27, 2007 left Bergeron with a broken nose and a Grade III concussion, costing him the remainder of the 2007-08 season.

    For the hit, Jones received a two-game suspension.

14. Tyrone Prothro

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    Tyrone Prothro was a junior when this incident took place in 2005—he never played football again. He spent almost the entire month of October that year in the hospital, and had to have a metal rod placed in his leg.

13. Janos Baranyai

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    And that, ladies and gentlemen, is what a dislocated elbow looks like.

    I know—I wasn't curious about what a dislocated elbow looked like either.

12. Bryan Berard

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    Berard was sidelined for 18 months after the incident in the video, which almost cost him his right eye and required surgery to re-attach his retina.

11. Willis McGahee

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    This is one of the most horrifying injuries to watch in slow motion I've ever seen. Legs are not supposed to move in that direction.

    McGahee tore his MCL, PCL and ACL, which is a lot of CL's to tear. Of course, he was able to recover from the injury and has had a very good NFL career.

10. Sid Vicious

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    Here's the context from the New York Daily News:

    To refresh your memory banks, Sid suffered a horrific broken leg (snapping both the tibia and fibula) in 2001. It came vs. Scott Steiner in the last-ever WCW pay event. He had to have a steel rod inserted in the leg and many thought his career was over.

    I don't think I'm going to be able to eat today.

9. Rene Bourque

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    From the Chicago Tribune:

    Zednik's injury also brought back not-so-fond memories for Blackhawks winger Rene Bourque, who was injured similarly Nov. 12, 2006, when the skate of the Blue Jackets' Nikolai Zherdev cut his jugular at the United Center.

    "It was awful," Bourque said. "It was almost as bad as [Zednik's]. I was out for a month. I was in the hospital for three days and I lost a liter of blood. I didn't know if I was going to make it either for a few minutes."

    And yes, Zednik's incident is forthcoming.

8. Don't Be a Kickboxer, Kids

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    Or this might happen.

7. Trent McCleary

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    While the quality of the video isn't great, it breaks down the severity of Trent McCleary's collapsed larynx, which ended his career.

6. Steve Moore

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    It's one of the ugliest moments in hockey's history, and it ended Steve Moore's career. He suffered devastating injuries (from CTV Canada):

    But Moore still hasn't played a hard game of hockey since March 8, 2004, the day that changed his life. That's when Bertuzzi grabbed him from behind, punched him in the head and drove his head into the ice. Moore suffered three fractured vertebrae in his neck, a concussion and other injuries.

    As of March of this year, Moore has claimed he suffered permanent brain damage from the incident.

5. Kevin Everett

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    Thankfully, Everett regained the use of his arms and legs after suffering a "life-threatening spinal-cord injury" in 2007.

4. Richard Zednik

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    Here are the grizzly details of Zednik's slashed carotid artery after being struck by the skate of teammate Olli Jokinen (from ESPN):

    The carotid artery supplies blood to the brain, while the jugular vein takes blood from the brain. Blood pressure is much higher in the carotid artery.

    Sabres orthopedic surgeon Les Bisson, who attended to Zednik shortly after he got off the ice, said losing five units—about five pints—of blood was significant, but "not a lot" for this type of injury.

    According to Noor, the slashed artery was "hanging by a thread." She stressed if the artery had been completely severed it would have recessed into the neck, requiring even more extensive surgery.

    Zednik missed the remainder of the 2008 season after this injury.

3. Napoleon McCallum

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    McCallum needed six surgeries—SIX!—to repair the damage done to his leg after this career-ending injury in 1994. From the Los Angeles Times:

    He'd suffered a dislocated knee. Three ligaments had been torn, ripping his calf and hamstring muscles from the bone, and he'd suffered nerve and artery damage as well.

    If surgery didn't go well, a terrified McCallum was told, his left leg probably would have to be amputated.

    Luckily for McCallum, the worst-case scenario never played out.

    That's as gruesome a leg injury as you will ever see. Well, almost...

2. Joe Theismann

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    Perhaps the most famous injury in NFL history, this play in 1985 broke Theismann's leg and ended his career. From The Washington Post:

    Theismann's right leg was mangled. He had a compound fracture of the tibia, meaning the bone had snapped in two, with one end protruding from Theismann's skin, and a shattered fibula.

    It has also made me wince and shiver every single time I watch it.

1. Clint Malarchuk

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    Be forewarned: The following video is extremely hard to watch. If you don't like blood, please turn away.

    Malarchuk required upwards of 300 stitches, and was extremely lucky that his trainer was able to close the wound until paramedics could take him to the hospital, where he required surgery on his jugular vein. Remarkably, he fully recovered and played two weeks later.

    And he was a man's man about the entire ordeal. From Mark Zampogna for Lets Go Sabres:

    "I didn't go into any real shock. I think maybe if I had any shock, it was this morning," he told the assembled press. "I'm not going off on a stretcher, I never will. The day I go off on a stretcher, they're going to have to make funeral arrangements. I'm proud of that fact that I got off the ice on my own power."