We’re not talking about an eye gouging or a weak punch, we’re talking about the most brutal sports injuries that forced athletes into retirement, that snatched dreams and killed years of hard work. Of course athletes know the risks and often the fear of a career-ending injury lurks in the back of their minds but its the love of the game, the roar of the crowd, the surge of adrenaline that keeps them coming back, yearning for more. Take a look at the list we pulled together of the worst career ending sports injuries in history.
Reggie Brown – Detroit Lions
We kick off our list with a doozy. This was the sports injury that stunned a stadium filled with 77,000 roaring fans into eerie, dead silence. Reggie Brown was a former college footballer at Texas A&M now playing as the second-year linebacker for the Detroit Lions. It was his 26th game when he and fellow Lions linebacker, Antonio London, tackled the Jets running back Adrian Murrell after a 2-yard gain. The other players popped right back up, but Brown didn’t. Brown laid on the ground, not moving, not breathing; he laid unconscious for almost 17 minutes. Doctors determined he had sustained a spinal cord contusion but after a few months of physical therapy, Brown was mobile and active, although he never returned to the field. He’s now a manager for a motor vehicle dealership group in Austin, Texas.
Scott Stevens – New Jersey Devils
Defensive master? Check. Stanley Cup Finals winner? Check, (three times in fact). Conn Smythe Trophy winner? Check. Hockey Hall of Famer? Check. There’s no doubt about it, Scott Stevens was a wizard out on the ice, his defensive play was top notch and heavy body checks were bar none. Sadly though his career came to an heartbreaking end after a slapshot hit his head, causing post-concussion syndrome. He’s currently with the Minnesota Wild as an assistant to head coach Bruce Boudreau.
Kirby Puckett – Minnesota Twins
Puckett’s entire 12-year MLB career as a center fielder was with the Minnesota Twins (1984 to 1995). His career batting average, when he retired, was a whopping .318, a career high by any right-handed American League batter since the great Joe DiMaggio. Then in 1995, he was in the in the middle of another pristine season until he sustained a broken jaw from a fastball thrown by Dennis Martínez. Not long after and Puckett couldn’t see out of his right eye. He was diagnosed with glaucoma, attempted three surgeries but his vision just couldn’t be restored. At just 36, he officially retired.
Doc Powers – Philadelphia Athletics
Before he went pro, Doc played ball for Norte Dame where he also became a licensed physician. Hence the nickname “Doc” as he was both a licensed physician and a ballplayer. Sadly though in 1909, Powers became the first Major League player to have suffered an on-field injury that eventually led to his death. He was injured in Philadelphia’s Shibe Park during the first game played that season, he had crashed into a wall while chasing a foul pop-up. The collision caused massive an d severe internal injuries, he died just two weeks later from post-surgery infections.
Bubba Smith – Baltimore Colts
Man, Bubba Smith was a force to be reckoned with out on the field. Before his NFL gig, he was a shining star during his college career. In fact in 1988, he was even enshrined in the College Football Hall of Fame and Michigan State retired his number 95 jersey. In the NFL, Smith spent nine seasons as a defensive end for the Baltimore Colts, the Oakland Raider and the Houston Oilers. Smith was a Super Bowl champion (V) and a 2× Pro Bowl (1970, 1971) but then during the 1972 preseason, he ran into a solid steel pole that the NFL used back then to mark yardage. He would miss the rest of the season and retire shortly after. After retirement, he became an actor, most recognized as Hightower from the Police Academy movie series.
Cam Neely – Boston Bruins
“Bam-Bam Cam” was known in the NHL world to be devastating with his body checks and fists almost as much as his goal scoring exploits. The Hall of Famer was injured in the knee by Ulf Samuelsson in game three on May 3, 1991, then again to the knee on game six. Combining both hits, Neely developed myositis ossificans (a small but painful growth of bone within the muscle) in the injured area. While the injury sidelined him for all but 22 games of the next two seasons, he would play 162 more NHL games but not long after, he officially retired due to reoccurring knee troubles.
Eric LeGrand – Rutgers
Eric LeGrand never got the opportunity to play for a professional team; instead he was a defensive tackle for the college football team, the Rutgers. The day was October 16, 2010 against the Army Black Knights when LeGrand collided with the ball carrier, Malcolm Brown. For many minutes, this collision left him motionless on the ground, without the ability to move his head. As he was being carried off the field, he attempted to flash a thumbs up to the crowd but was unsuccessful. Doctors determined that LeGrand had sustained a severe spinal cord injury and while they worked tirelessly, there was nothing they could do. LeGrand was paralyzed from the neck down.
Kevin Everett – Buffalo Bills
Former tight end Kevin Everett’s career with the Buffalo Bills was a young two seasons in when tragedy struck. Early in the season of 2007-2008, Everett suffered a spinal cord injury when bringing down Broncos kickoff returner Domenik Hixon. He sustained a fracture and dislocation of his cervical spine which doctors called “life-threatening.” The doctors also said that his injury would leave him with permanent neurological impairment, but just two days later, he gained some feeling and power back in his legs. Together with hard work and physiotherapy, Everett walked again in public for the first time at the Ralph Wilson Stadium before the home finale against the Giants – a mere three months after doctors said his chances of walking again were practically impossible.
Steve Moore – Colorado Avalanche
Steve Moore played just 69 games for Avalanche from 2001-2004, scoring five goals and seven assists. Then his career came to a screeching halt at a Vancouver-Colorado game, which as long been dubbed, “The Bertuzzi incident”. Canucks Todd Bertuzzi just couldn’t get Moore to fight so he did something quite stupid in retaliation. He skated after Moore, punching him in the back of the head, and fell on top of him. Simultaneously, Moore’s teammate Andrei Nikolishin and Bertuzzi’s teammate Sean Pronger also fell on top of Moore as a result of the fight. The combination from the hit, fall, and piling-on caused Moore to sustain three fractured neck vertebrae, facial cuts and a concussion. Moore never played again.
Mike Utley – Detroit Lions
It was the 11th game of the season, first play of the fourth quarter on November 17, 1991 against the Los Angeles Rams when everything changed for Utley. He was using a hands-on approach to guard the former Lions QB Erik Kramer when his assignment changed position, Utley went in to knock him down but ended up being the one on the ground, he fell hitting his head and breaking his neck. As he was being taken off the field, he flashed a thumbs up to the crowd and would later find out that he sustained injury to his sixth and seventh cervical vertebrae, causing paralysis from the chest down. Since then he has regained function in his upper extremities, making him a paraplegic. He now runs the Mike Utley Foundation.
Jeff Beukeboom – Edmonton Oilers
In his 15 year NHL career, Jeff Beukeboom won three Stanley Cups and was regarded as a true hard-hitting defenceman. With the New York Rangers, he was easily a fan favorite known for his body-checks and unrelenting, fierce protection for his teammates. Beukeboom was well on his way to greatness until a sucker punch from Kings player Matt Johnson derailed his entire career. He did attempt to play on but was tormented with severe headaches, confusion, nausea, and memory loss. Beukeboom was subsequently diagnosed with post-concussion syndrome and forced into retirement.
Pat LaFontaine – New York Rangers
Over a span of 15 years, Pat LaFontaine dominated the ice, becoming just one of five players in the history of the NHL to skate for all three New York based teams. Then in 1997, LaFontaine suffered a concussion from a hit by Penguins enforcer Francois Leroux. He was diagnosed with post-concussion syndrome and doctors told him to retire immediately. However LaFontaine was incredibly stubborn, believing that he could still play, he switched over to the Rangers who had no reservations with his playing (despite his concussion issues). LaFontaine played just one final, productive season with the Rangers before sustaining yet another collision with a teammate which caused another concussion. After this, he retired his skates for good.
Michael Irvin – Dallas Cowboys
For 11 years, everyone regarded the former Cowboys wide receiver as one of the greatest. After he recovered from a collar bone injury, his career in 1997 and 1998 was nothing short of glorious. The 1999 season came and it was only the the fifth game when Irvin was tackled by Eagles defensive back Tim Hauck and was sent flying head-first into the turf. “The Playmaker” was carted off on a stretcher as the Eagles fans cheered joyfully. Years later, Irvin said that he “accepted Eagles fans cheering his injury because he’d been “killing them for 10 years”. The Pro Football Hall of Famer was forced into early retirement due to a non-life-threatening cervical spinal cord injury, known as narrow spinal column (cervical spinal stenosis).
Trent McCleary – Montreal Canadiens
A seven year NHL career brought 192 played games, 8 goals scored and 23 points earned. Then in 2000, in a game against the Flyers, a slapshot changed everything for Trent McCleary. He dropped to the ice, attempting to block a slapshot from Chris Therien but was struck in the throat instead. Unable to breathe, McCleary rushed to the bench, collapsing as he suffered a fracture to his larynx and had a collapsed lung. He was rushed to the hospital where doctors performed an emergency tracheotomy – he remained in full equipment during the procedure as hospital staff didn’t even have enough time to remove his skates. McCleary tried to come back but his air passage was 15% more narrow than before his injury thus forcing his hand to retirement.
Chris Spielman – Cleveland Browns
On and off the field, Chris Spielman has a heart of gold and buckets of raw talent. Most say he’s an underrated linebacker, as he did after all, captain the Lions’ defense to one of the best statistically in the NFL in the mid 90s. Then with the Buffalo Bills in the 1997, Spielman suffered a neck injury that required spinal surgery, he missed most of the season after this. He then chose to miss out on the 1998 season to help his wife, who was battling cancer at the time. In 1999, he was itching to get back on the field so he signed with the Browns in 1999 and sadly suffered yet another neck injury, forcing him into retirement. He’s now a broadcaster.
Keith Primeau – Philadelphia Flyers
And the NHL keeps ’em comin’. During 1990 to 2006, Keith Primeau was a King on the ice. During his time with the Flyers, he scored the game winning goal in THE longest game to ever occur in modern NHL playoff history against the Pittsburgh Penguins. As the team captain, he went on to lead the team in goals (34) and even tied his career high in points (73) in the 2000–01 season. Primeau was no stranger to injuries, he suffered numerous head injuries before the fatal blow came nine games into the 2005–06 season. He sustained a severe concussion, was diagnosed with post-concussion syndrome and retired within days.
Robert Edwards – New England Patriots
What started off as a dream, quickly turned into one of the oddest tales of sports injuries sustained by players. In the first round of 1998, Edwards was drafted in the first round by the New England Patriots. That season, he rushed for an impressive 1,115 yards before his “freak accident.” Edwards ended up blowing out his knee at an NFL rookie flag football game of all places during Pro Bowl week in Hawaii. Doctors said he came crazy close to having his leg amputated below the knee and was told he might not walk again. Edwards didn’t play football again until 2002, where he’s had a rather slow comeback but he is back at least.
Tony Conigliaro – Boston Red Sox
Ladies and Gents, meet the youngest home run champ in American League history! Conigliaro was just 22 when he reached a career total of 100 home runs (which was obviously a milestone for someone his age). Then when the Red Sox were playing the California Angels in 1967, Conigliaro was hit smack dab on his left cheekbone by a pitch from Jack Hamilton. He suffered a linear fracture of the left cheekbone, a dislocated jaw, and severe damage to his left retina. Just a year and a half later though, he returned to the pitch, even earning Comeback Player of the Year, but was forced into retirement as his eyesight had been permanently damaged.
Joe Theismann – Washington Redskins
Legendary QB Joe Theismann had quite the rap sheet (the good kind), Super Bowl champ (XVII), NFL Man of the Year (1982), NFL MVP (1983), 2× Pro Bowl (1982, 1983), and the list goes on. But he’s perhaps most known for his horrific career ending injury, which was voted the NFL’s “Most Shocking Moment in History.” The Washington Post even went on to name the tackle forcing him into retirement as “The Hit That No One Who Saw It Can Ever Forget.” It was November 18, 1985, the Washington Redskins versus the New York Giants when Theismann was sacked by Giants linebackers Lawrence Taylor and Harry Carson. This hit caused a comminuted compound fracture of his leg and during recovery, there was insufficient bone growth. This caused Theismann’s right leg to become shorter then the other, forcing him to retire at just age 36. To this day, Theismann has never blamed Lawrence Taylor for his injury.
Alvin Williams – Toronto Raptors
After playing college ball at Villanova University, Williams was drafted by the Portland Trail Blazers in the second round of the 1997 NBA Draft. He then joined the Raptors in 1998, appearing in all 82 games for two straight seasons. Sadly though he would miss a third of the 2003-04 and the entire 2004-05 season with a serious knee injury. While he eventually re-joined the lineup at the start of the 2005-06 season, he was back on the injured list after just one game back.
Mack Strong – Seattle Seahawks
Mack Strong’s entire 15-year career was with the Seattle Seahawks. He was selected to his first ever NFL Pro Bowl in 2005 and again in 2006. Strong was also chosen as an Associated Press All-Pro and is often regarded as one of the best blocking fullbacks in the NFL. Sadly though during the 2007 season against the Steelers, Strong suffered a herniated disk in his neck, causing severe trauma to his spinal cord. He was told that if he retired immediately that the injury would not lead to paralysis. So after 15 long and incredible seasons, Strong retired. Currently he’s a football sportscaster for Root Sports Northwest.
Andrew Bynum – Los Angeles Lakers
Andrew Bynum’s rookie season was off like a lightning bolt, until of course, the 2007–08 season. During a game against the Memphis Grizzlies, Bynum partially dislocated his left kneecap after landing awkwardly on fellow teammate Lamar Odom’s left foot as attempted grabbing a rebound. He would miss the next 32 games of that season and would re-injured the knee the following year, thus missing the start of the next season. To this day, he still suffers from knee woes.
Baron Davis – New York Knicks
There’s no doubt that when Davis played for the almighty Knicks, he was a key player. In 2012, they made it to the playoffs, facing off against the eventual champs, Miami Heat. Then in Game 4, Davis grabbed a rebound and marched up the court. As he went to take a shot, extending his arms, his knee buckled and blam. He was on the floor. Initially, the fall didn’t all that bad until you look at the replay and you see as his knee buckles inward and his foot stays planted on the court.
Bill Walton – Boston Celtics
Bill Walton was a superstar long before he joined the NBA. He was a significant part of John Wooden’s powerhouse UCLA Bruins, won three successive College Player of the Year Awards, and lead the Bruins to two Division I national titles. His NBA career earned him Most Valuable Player (MVP) and two NBA championships. In 1993, he was also inducted to both the Naismith Memorial Basketball Hall of Fame and the Oregon Sports Hall of Fame. But his entire professional career was hampered with numerous foot injuries and while he had several reconstructive surgeries, it just wasn’t enough.
Bo Jackson – Oakland Raiders
Bo Jackson is a pure legend. He’s only one of a few athletes that was named All-Star in two major sports, baseball and football. To this day, he is still regarded as one of the greatest athletes of all time, and there’s no denying that. It all however came to a short and brutal end when he suffered an NFL injury in 1991 to his left left. Jackson was diagnosed with avascular necrosis of the hip joint and lost all of the cartilage supporting his hip, forcing him into early retirement.
Brandon Roy – Minnesota Timberwolves
For five seasons, Brandon Roy was an unstoppable force on the court, but he was sadly ushered into retirement due to a degenerative knee condition. During his professional career, Roy was NBA Rookie of the Year Award in a near unanimous vote, impressive. He was also selected as a reserve in the 2008, 2009, and 2010 All-Star games. He played the most minutes of any Western Conference player, and even tied for most points in the West in the 2008 season, and played the most minutes of any player during the 2009 season. While he would make a comeback in 2012, he played for just five games, and had to re-retire.
Clayton Weishuhn – New England Patriots
Despite having a two year career in the NFL, Wishuhn still holds the Patriots’ single season record for most tackles. His impressive 229-tackle campaign happened in his second season, which turned out to be the last full season he’d ever play. He sustained a nasty knee injury in Week 1 of the 1984 season. His knee problems persisted for so long that he missed the 1985 season as well. After he suffered groin and hamstring injuries as well, he was limited to a mere four games in the 1986 season, his last in the league.
Darryl Stingley – New England Patriots
Stingley’s entire four year career was with the New England Patriots, and he racked up 110 receptions, 1, 883 receiving yards and 14 touchdowns. However tragedy stuck during a preseason game against the Oakland Raiders in 1978 when Stingley was hit by defensive back Jack Tatum. Stingley’s helmet connected with Tatum’s shoulder pad, compressing his spinal cord and breaking his fourth and fifth cervical vertebrae. Eventually he regained limited movement in his right arm, but lived the rest of his life as a quadriplegic. This particular incident became a symbol of violence in football and was a wake up call for the NFL to change its rules to downsize aggressive plays. In 2007, Stingley tragically passed away from heart disease and pneumonia complications, commonly found in those who suffer from quadriplegia.
Andrew Bogut – Milwaukee Bucks
Just talking about this injury causes me goosebumps but here goes. During a 2010 game against the Suns, Bucks center Andrew Bogut goes up for a dunk in the second quarter. I know, this sounds totally innocent, but here’s the thing, the second Bogut landed on the court, everyone (and I mean EVERYONE) knew it was devastating. Announcers were crying, “Oh no,” over and over, the entire stadium was filled with fans and non-fans cringing their faces in horror, and for those at home, you could clearly hear over the telecast as Bogut screamed out in heart wrenching pain. The way Andrew Bogut landed on the court caused a bone crunching break immediately, he suffered a broken hand, sprained wrist, and dislocated elbow.
Daunte Culpepper – Minnesota Vikings
Daunte Culpepper had the greatest breakout season that a quarterback could possibly ever have. In 2005, while he was with the Vikings, Culpepper suffered a horrendous knee injury during a game against the Panthers. He damaged three of four major ligaments found in the knee and was placed on IR shortly thereafter. A year later, he was drafted to the Dolphins for his attempted comeback but he simply couldn’t shake off his injury. Culpepper started a mere 24 games in his final four seasons in the league.
David Wilson – New York Giants
David Wilson’s childhood dream was to play for the Giants and that dream came true in 2012. Wilson was often regarded as a top 5 running back, just behind Trent Richardson. But after just two seasons, his dream was destroyed. Wilson was placed on the injured reserve list after suffering from what doctors call, spinal stenosis. Doctors informed Wilson that if he ever played ball again, he was at an increased risk of sustaining a serious neck injury. But he didn’t care, Wilson underwent neck surgery in 2014, played a bit but was ruled out for the remained of the year due to his neck problems. Yet again, his doctors advised him not to play anymore so Wilson, with a heavy hear, retired.
Derrick Rose – Chicago Bulls
Rose had a glowing NBA career before his crushing injury in 2012. He was NBA Rookie of the Year (2009), All-NBA First Team (2011), a 3× NBA All-Star (2010–2012), and NBA MVP (2011). Now that’s a pretty stellar career but during the first round at the 2012 NBA Playoffs against the 76ers, Rose tore his ACL in his left knee. He had surgery shortly later and was sidelined for the rest of the season. Rose did return in 2013–14, but sustained another knee injury. The Comeback King, eh? Cause Rose returned yet again the following season, but his knee injuries continued to plague him, until he was eventually traded to the Knicks in June 2016.
Grant Hill – Phoenix Suns
Hill’s time at Duke was nothing short of excellent and the same can be said for his NBA career. In his first six seasons, Hill totaled 9,393 points, 3,417 rebounds and 2,720 assists. Oscar Robertson, Larry Bird, and LeBron Jame are the only other three players in the league who got these numbers after their first six seasons. Then in 2000, a mere seven days before the playoffs began, Hill sprained his left ankle in a game against the Philadelphia 76ers. This injury continued to be a hige liability in the years that followed.
Greg Oden – Portland Trail Blazers
Oden’s brief time in the NBA was constantly plagued with injuries and his injury that came in December 2009 was a huge blow. A teammate bumped into Oden, sending him flying to the ground. The worst part is that this simple, little fall was all it took to break Oden’s kneecap. He would miss the rest of the season, undergo surgery after surgery, and didn’t play again until the 2013-2014 season with Miami Heat, shortly after he was cut. Currently he plays for the Jiangsu Dragons in the Chinese League.
Jamal Crawford – Chicago Bulls
During a 2003 game against the Timberwolves, Crawford was guarding the opposing player who went up for the ball. Crawford managed to land on the back of the player, roll down and land with brutal force onto his neck and the back of his head. His legs went over his head and he lay on the ground in agony. While the medics worked on him on the court floor, the entire crowd and players from both sides remained deadly quiet. Crawford is one lucky, lucky man as he was out of hospital the next day with only a sprained neck.
Jamal Lewis – Baltimore Ravens
Here’s an injury most people can’t forget, considering they watched it all unfold on HBO’s “Hard Knocks” during training camp following Baltimore’s Super Bowl run in 2000. Lewis’s devastating knee injury caused him to miss the whole of the 2001, but he did comeback, and some would say, better than ever before.
Jason Sehorn – New York Giants
After back-to-back successful seasons with the Giants, Sehorn sustained a crippling knee injury, tearing his MCL and ACL. He returned the following season and played for five more but nothing like the true player he once was. He eventually retired in 2003 and is currently a panelist for Fox Sports Net.
Joel Przybilla – Portland Trail Blazers
In 2009, in a game against the Mavericks, Joel Przybilla ruptured his Patella tendon as he came down from a rebound, landing on his knee rather awkwardly. That’s all it took. Days later, he underwent surgery, missing the rest of season. He officially retired in 2014.
Ki Jana Carter – Cincinnati Bengals
Carter’s career at Penn State earned him All-American honors, and he was the No. 1 draft pick in 1995 by the Cincinnati Bengals. While most consider his NFL career a bust from the get-go, there’s no denying he was talented. He tore a ligament in his knee during his first preseason game of his rookie year, and just never fully recovered. Carter would miss the entire 1995 season and was plagued with countless injuries after. He retired in 1999.
LeCharles Bentley – Cleveland Browns
Bentley’s career with his dream team, the Cleveland Browns, came to a screeching halt in 2006 during the first 11-on-11 drills in camp for Cleveland. He suffered from a staph infection and needed four additional surgeries following his knee injury. Bentley claimed that the infection was so horrible that he almost had his leg amputated. He later sued the Browns over the infection but the matter was settled out of court in 2012.
Marc Savard – Boston Bruins
Marc Savard was on fire, he was loved by fans, and was a monster on the ice but during his time with the Boston Bruins, Savard’s career came to a tragic end. He was hit by the Pittsburgh Penguins Matt Cooke, and sustained a severe concussion. He returned for the 2010 postseason, suffered yet another concussion in January 2011 and didn’t play for the rest of the season. Doctors diagnosed him with post-concussion syndrome, forcing him to retire, and he is still suffering from the syndrome.
Marcus Lattimore – San Francisco 49ers
When Marcus Lattimore played for the University of South Carolina, he was a pretty impressive player and was eventually drafted by the San Francisco 49ers. Then in 2011, in a game against the Mississippi State Bulldogs, Lattimore tore his knee ligament and announced he would miss the remainder of the 2011 season. In 2012, he attempted a comeback but during a game against the Tennessee Volunteers, he dislocated his right knee and torn every single ligament, damaging the nerve. Not long after surgery, he declared himself eligible for the NFL Draft.
Mark Prior – Chicago Cubs
Mark Prior’s career in the mid-90s was fantastic, he had a mid-90s mph fastball, a curveball, a slurve, and a changeup. All the makings of a future great but his time with the Chicago Cubs was overwhelmed with constant injuries. During 2007 to 2013, Prior bounced from team to team, suffering from painful injuries, until he eventually retired.
Marquis Daniels – Boston Celtics
To this day, no one actually knows how Daniels got injured. He was driving the ball down the court when he just…fell over. Daniels was hardly touched by a defender but still, he fell, hitting his head with such incredible force that absolutely everyone in the stadium heard the thumb over the broadcast. He lay motionless on the court floor for a solid five minutes and was carried out on a stretcher. It came out that Daniels suffered a bruised spinal cord and missed just 1-2 months.
Nick Kypreos – Toronto Maple Leafs
During a pre-season game in September 1997, Kypreos got into a fight with Rangers Ryan VandenBussche. The fight was so savage that Kypreos was knocked unconscious on the ice. After the injury, doctors said Kypreos suffered from post-concussion syndrome and was forced to retire.
Niles Paul – Washington Redskins
In 2015, the Redskins re-signed Paul for a three-year, $10 million contract. Fancy. However, not long after Paul suffered a devastating season ending ankle fracture dislocation (phew, mouthful), in the first preseason game against the Browns. Currently, he’s on the injured reserve list after suffering yet injury during week 8 in 2016.
Penny Hardaway – Phoenix Suns
Hardaway’s first NBA seasons had him looking like a future Hall of Famer as he just dominated the court. He was a dynamic point guard with a threat for triple doubles every night. That all changed in the 1997-98 season, he suffered a serious left knee injury cost him, and he ended up having four more surgeries on that same knee before his career was over.
David Busst – Coventry City
If you know anything about the English Premier League (England’s top soccer league) then you probably remember David Busst’s career ending injury. Most fans and commentators still consider it the most horrid injury ever. In 1996, against a game with Manchester United, Busst smashed into two opposing players, leading to compound fractures in his lower right leg. The injuries were so devastating that he almost had his leg amputated! Then while in hospital, he contracted the MRSA virus and together with the 26 subsequent operations that followed, he retired.
Glen Davis – Boston Celtics
When you’ve got a nickname like “Big Baby,” no one believes you when you cry wolf. But that all changed for Davis during a 2010 playoff game, he went up for a rebound and collided with a few players, landing hard on his head. The ref carried on the play despite the fact that Davis was still on the ground. A minute later Davis got back up, wobbled around the court and landed into the arms of the referee, who immediately called a time out. It came out that Davis had suffered a concussion and eventually he did return but was never the same.
Dean Ashton – West Ham United
Dean Ashton was easily the greatest forward the English Premier League had seen for some time. His career was spent playing for Crewe Alexandra, Norwich City and West Ham United, and then he got the grand opportunity to play for the national club, England. While Ashton became a legend at West Ham United, he was also playing for England, but it was during an England game that he sustained a serious ankle injury, forcing him to miss an entire season with West Ham. After recovery, he did attempt a couple comebacks but had to retire at only 26.
Shaun Livingston – Los Angeles Clipper
When Shaun Livingston was playing for the Clippers, he sustained a devastating knee injury. He went up for a dunk and came down in a split, which caused his left knee to buckle and snap in the wrong direction. That night, doctors said he tore his anterior cruciate, posterior cruciate, suffered collateral ligaments, and dislocated his kneecap. Whoa. If you were to listen to the replay right now, you can still hear his bellowing screams.
Sterling Sharpe – Green Bay Packers
For six incredible seasons, Sterling Sharpe tore up the field and his moves are still legendary. In 1992, Sharpe and Brett Favre became one of the top passing teams in the entire league and that same season, Sharpe was one of just seven players in NFL history to win the “Triple Crown” as a receiver position. Sadly, his career stopped short after a neck injury during the 1994 season.
Steve Nash – Phoenix Suns
While we might be cheating a bit by putting Steve Nash on our list, everyone can agree that his injury was what nightmares are made of. During a game in 2010, the Suns and the Pacers were having it out. Nash was defending when a drive from Earl Watson elbowed him right in the face and was sent flying back as if something non-human had just punched him. When he got back to his feet, the camera quickly zoomed in on his face, and Nash was bleeding extensively from his nose. Although he carried on smiling and smiling, all-the-while, his mouth was filled with blood.
Zydrunas Ilgauskas – Cleveland Cavaliers
Early on in his career, Ilgauskas was a rather unique and versatile skill-set player. And just like most big men, he suffered from an insane amount of foot injuries. He even missed the entire 1996-1997 season due to a broken bone in his foot. He made “comebacks” per say, to the best of his ability, which is more than most people can say.
Steve Young – San Francisco 49ers
Steve Young is considered by many a NFL legend, earning the title NFL’s Most Valuable Player twice and MVP Super Bowl XXIX. His 43 career rushing touchdowns rank second among quarterbacks and his 4,239 rushing yards rank third of all time. However his Hall of Fame career was constantly plagued with severe concussions and just before the 1999 season, Young suffered seven head injuries and when he sustained his eighth, that was the finish line.
T.J. Ford – San Antonio Spurs
T.J. Ford earned many top basketball accolades when he was in high school and college, so when he was drafted eighth in the 2003 NBA draft by the Milwaukee Bucks, he was well on his way. Then during his rookie season, Ford sustained a contusion of the spinal cord, and missed the entire 2004–05. Later he would make a full recovery and return to the court, but he was never the same player and officially retired in 2012.
Trent Green – St. Louis Rams
In 1999, Green was all set to be the starter for the Rams but after his horrendous knee injury during a preseason game from a hit by Chargers Rodney Harrison, that never came to pass. Eventually he re-bounded and played for the Kansas City Chiefs and Miami Dolphins. He retired in 2009 and is now a sports analyst with CBS Sports.
Rudy Tomjanovich – Houston Rockets
No about about it, Tomjanovich’s injury changed the world of basketball. On December 9th, 1977, the Lakers were playing against the Houston Rockets and a fight broke out on court. Tomjanovich rushed to help his teammate Kevin Kunnert, who fought with Abdul-Jabbar then with Kermit Washington. Rudy ran up directly behind Washington, who turned around and delivered a near fatal right-hand punch straight to Rudy’s face, knocking him right to the floor, in a pool of blood. The hit he sustained was the equivalent of getting thrown from a car going 50 miles per hour! His skull had dislocated and spinal fluid leaked from his brain. Rudy Tomjanovich did eventually recover but his NBA career never did and two years later, he retired and became a successful NBA coach.
Jermichael Finley – Green Bay Packers
In the third round of the 2008 NFL Draft, Finley was drafted by the Green Bay Packers and the years that followed were pretty extraordinary. When he started the 2011 season, he started off strong, catching three touchdowns and he also finished 3rd among tight ends in receiving touchdowns and 12th in terms of yards. So in 2012, Finley was set to just over $5 million and about $8 million in 2013. Then during week 7 of the 2013 season against the Browns, Finley sustained a bruised spinal cord but it wasn’t until 2015 that he officially retired.
Tony Boselli – Jacksonville Jaguars
During Boselli’s freshman year at college, he had minor shoulder surgery and all throughout the pros, he tried to rehab his shoulder but nothing helped. In 2001, he finally retired after he was unable to play due to constant shoulder injuries.
Bernard King – New York Knicks
At the peak of King’s career, he suffered a disastrous injury to his right leg when he planted it under the hoop during an attempt to block a dunk by Kansas City King Reggie Theus. He ended up with a torn anterior cruciate ligament, torn knee cartilage, and broken leg bone, all of which required major reconstruction, this forcing King to miss all of the 1985–86 season. This kind of injury is the kind that no NBA player has ever returned to form after such a career-ending injury, surgery, and the loss of time. While he did come back, he never got that pre-injury explosiveness back again and he retired in 1993.
Stone Johnson – Kansas City Chiefs
Stone Johnson would fracture his neck during a preseason game against the Houston Oilers, resulting in his immediate transfer to the hospital as he lay unresponsive. Doctors confirmed that he was paralyzed from the neck down and just eight days later, Johnson passed away.
LaPhonso Ellis – Denver Nuggets
LaPhonso Ellis may not be the most commonly known NBA player, but he did have a pretty solid season early on. After a stress fracture in his right knee, he was benched for most of his third season. Ellis did attempt a comeback, but he was never the same. Later on in his career, after a hernia and another knee injury, Ellis retired in 2003.
Jonathan Bender – Indiana Pacers
At 7-0 and weighing in at 230 pounds, Bender was quite a rare athlete. Sadly enough, his career after the 2001-2002 season wasn’t what he hoped, as he played in just 46 games. The season after was even worse as he played just 21 games. However, he was plagued with knee injuries that he just couldn’t ignore anymore.
Allan Houston – New York Knicks
During his career, Houston was known for many things, on and off the court, but on the court especially, for his three-point shooting prowess. Then in 2001, Houston signed a maximum contract extension with the Knicks and his yearly salary was well over $20 million, making him pretty much untradeable but injury problems would burden the Knicks. Houston would go on to miss 32 games in 2003-04 due to a knee injury, and he only played in only 20 games that season as his injury had yet to completely heal. It was this knee injury that forced him to retire in 2005.