Everyone wants to be a sports star, right? The money, the cars, the fame. Professional athletes seem to have it all. But, sports have their dark side. Just like in every industry, sports stars must face their work hazards every day when on the field or court. For a select few athletes, these hazards become all too real. For them, these hazards have become a life-altering reality. Injuries happen every day in the sports world. These are the injuries that go beyond a sprained ankle and the common pulled muscle. These are the injuries that ended careers.
10. Sterling Sharpe — Damaged Vertebrae
Before Randy Moss donned the famous #84 jersey in Minnesota, the Green Bay Packers had their own famous #84. Sterling Sharpe played for the NFL’s Green Bay Packers from the late eighties through the early nineties. His career would have continued far past 1994, if it weren’t for an injury that would cut short the career of a player many considered Hall of Fame material. In a game against the Atlanta Falcons, Sharpe suffered a damaged vertebrae. While having previous neck injuries and conditions, the doctors told him it would be best if he stopped playing as soon as possible. It turned out that the fateful game against the Falcons would indeed be his last game. A potential Hall of Famer, cut down in his prime.
9. Steve Young — Several Concussions
If you watched the NFL in the early 90s, then you know of one quarterback who dominated opponents and could scramble out of any situation on the playing field. Left-handed slinger Steve Young won one Super Bowl in his illustrious career. He may have won more, but we will never know what could have been. Steve’s injury (much like Sharpe’s listed above) is the result of multiple injuries over many years. Since Young was a quarterback, it was inevitable he would get sacked and smashed and thrown to the ground. It happened…seven times too many. Steve suffered seven confirmed concussions before calling it quits in 1999. Young received two of his seven confirmed concussions within the first three weeks of the ’99 season. Worried he was wading in dangerous waters, Young retired from the game of football.
8. Kirby Puckett — Broken Jaw/Glaucoma
Another great career that ended prematurely, Kirby Puckett still had more to prove. Granted, he already won two World Series titles. But, with the talent Puckett possessed, he wasn’t going to stop playing baseball for a good while. However, that all changed on September 28th, 1995. Puckett was at bat against Dennis Martinez, when one of Martinez’s fastballs zoned in on Puckett’s jaw. Suffering a broken jaw, he began his rehabilitation in the Grapefruit League the following pre-season. But, on March 28th, 1996, Puckett’s life would change forever. He woke up, not able to see out of his right eye. After visiting the doctor, he was given the news he had developed glaucoma.
7. Mack Strong — Herniated Disk
So far, two out of the first three spots on this list are dedicated to players who have played football. This spot bears no exception. Mack Strong, a fullback for the Seattle Seahawks, had an above average career. He was selected to two Pro Bowls in back-to-back years (2005 and 2006) and seemed to be sailing smoothly, playing well, and enjoying his life. But, when he herniated a disk in 2007 against the Pittsburgh Steelers, the doctors advised him to hang up the cleats. The injury itself was not of a massive or overwhelming nature. However, if Strong continued to play, this herniated disk could have lead to possible paralysis if he was hit improperly. Mack thought this was enough to scare anyone, and called it quits.
6. Reggie Brown — Spinal Cord Contusion
Reggie Brown’s case is special, since he had such a short career before his injury occurred. Brown, a first round pick in the 1996 draft by the Detroit Lions, was looking ahead to a career filled with success and grandeur. That dream would come to a screeching halt in 1997. In the last game of the season, Brown assisted on a tackle against an opponent…and didn’t get up for 17 minutes. Reggie had suffered a spinal cord contusion during the act of tackling. He was eventually taken off the field, and had to be revived via CPR. Thankfully, Reggie did not lose any muscle function or suffer any paralysis from this incident. Sadly, he could not continue his career and retired after just two seasons in the NFL.
5. Joe Theismann — Compound Fracture
Probably the most famous case on this list, the legendary quarterback’s injury is also one of the more gory injuries to occur in sports. The night: November 18th, 1985. The teams: Washington Redskins vs. New York Giants. Theismann dropped back in the pocket, only to be creamed in the back field by famous linebacker Lawrence Taylor and Harry Carson. When they tackled Theismann, his leg snapped right in the middle. This would prove to be a major incident in Joe’s career, since it led directly to his retirement. Even today, the play and the injury are still talked about in sports circles.
4. Trent McCleary — Crushed Larynx
The only player from the sport of hockey to appear on this list, McCleary’s injury surprisingly didn’t have to do with the razor sharp blades on his feet. In fact, it deals with the deadly speed of the hockey puck. In hockey, it is common for a player to throw themselves on the ice in an effort to stop an opponent’s shot from reaching the goal. McCleary threw himself down, employing this very strategy. However, the puck struck him squarely in the throat instead of his mid section. The puck crushed his larynx, leaving Trent unable to breathe. Skating to the bench, he collapsed and was rushed to the hospital. McCleary attempted to come back to the NHL the next season, but could not play without suffering from shortness of breath. He was forced to retire.
3. Darryl Stingley — Broken Vertebrae
The third spot on this list belongs to a New England Patriots wide receiver whose career and life was forever altered in a preseason game in 1978. Stingley lowered his head against an opponent who attempted to tackle him. When he lowered his helmet, his head was compressed against the opponent’s shoulder pad. This resulted in Darryl breaking his fourth and fifth cervical vertebrae. His career would never take off, and everyone in the NFL was both shocked and disappointed when the injury occurred. Stingley was supposed to be one of the top young players in the NFL, and the Patriots were planning on signing him to a long-term contract. The deal would never be fulfilled, and Darryl’s life was altered forever. He became a quadriplegic due to the injury.
2. Eric LeGrand — Fractured Vertebrae
College football fans were shocked when Eric LeGrand suffered his injury on the football field in 2010. LeGrand was making a tackle against his opponent on a kickoff, and never got up when he fell to the ground. LeGrand’s injury was impactful in a society where everything is recorded and the clip of his injury was played constantly on Sportscenter. Eric’s injury didn’t look awful, but looks can be deceiving. LeGrand is now paralyzed from the neck down, though he keeps up the fight to regain movement in his limbs. He has been able to regain some feeling in his body, which is a great sign for LeGrand. Football is a dangerous sport, and this is just one more example of this.