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15 Athletes Whose Careers Ended From Injuries Far Too Soon

1 of 16

Not On Their Own Terms

Evan Habeeb - US PRESSWIRE

More often than that, athletes end their career in a way they don’t want to. Whether it’s age, diminishing talent, or injury, players are forced to cut their careers short.

Ray Lewis’ career is likely over due to the injury he suffered on Sunday. It’s not that Lewis can’t recover, but being the elder statesman he is, he might want to walk away from the game before hitting rehab hard. We also saw Derek Jeter fracture his ankle this week. Granted, the odds of Jeter retiring are very slim, but there is still a possibility his body won’t recover as quickly as he hopes due to his age. However, these two guys aren’t the first players whose career could end from injury.

Here are 15 athletes that were forced to leave the game all too soon. The severity of these injuries range from basic knee injuries that never recovered to actual death. But they all have one thing in common: they took these players away from the game they love Final Destination style.

Let’s hope Ray Lewis proves this list wrong and comes back strong in 2013, shall we?

Bryan is a featured writer for Rant Sports. Although he concentrates on MLB, you can see him covering a multitude of things across the Rant Sports Network.

2 of 16

Chris Spielman

Gret Bartram - US PRESSWIRE

Chris Spielman was Tecmo Super Bowl all-star in the early 1990s. He was a vicious linebacker for the Detroit Lions, but several neck injuries ruined the All-Pro’s career. Spielman tried to return after a few separate neck surgeries, but he was never able to take the field for a regular season game after his spinal surgery.

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Joe Theismann

Mark J. Rebilas - US PRESSWIRE

We have all seen the hit Lawrence Taylor put on Joe Theismann, yet some of us may not know that Theismann never took another snap in the NFL after that gruesome hit.

4 of 16

Pat LaFontaine


You know the phrase “he’s a hockey player” is used to describe someone’s toughness. Well, Pat LaFontaine is a big time hockey player. How hardcore is LaFontaine? In his final season with the New York Rangers, LaFontaine played the season against his own medical prognosis. Doctors knew he was one concussion away from serious damage; however, he gave it a go to only receive his final concussion when he collided with a teammate.

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Daunte Culpepper

Brace Hemmelgarn - US PRESSWIRE

Once upon a time, Daunte Culpepper was one of the top quarterbacks in the league. But after suffering a catastrophic knee injury in 2005, Culpepper was never the same, eventually fading himself out of the league as a backup quarterback.

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Sterling Sharpe

Rick Osentoski - US PRESSWIRE

If Sterling Sharpe didn’t have chronic neck injuries, his brother would have inducted him into the Hall of Fame first.

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Keith Primeau


Keith Primeau and Pat LaFontaine’s stories are very similar, sans playing against medical opinion. Two weeks into the 2005-06 season, Primeau’s career ended abruptly after another concussion.

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Kevin Everett


When Kevin Everett was injured, everyone feared for the worst. Although Everett never played in the NFL again, he was able to rebound well enough to walk under his own power.

9 of 16

Steve Young

Matthew Emmons - US PRESSWIRE

It took Steve Young eight “official” head injuries before he called it a career in 1999.

10 of 16

Cam Neely

Greg M. Cooper - US PRESSWIRE

Seabass said that? Cam Neely was one of the better defensemen in the game of hockey, until Ulf Samuelsson spilled the salt on his career, blowing Neely’s knee to bits.

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Michael Irvin

Dale Zanine - US PRESSWIRE

Michael Irvin’s injury is the ultimate example of adding insult to injury. Not only did Irvin’s career end due to the fantastic field at Veterans Stadium, but Eagles fans let Irvin know exactly what they thought of him, booing him as he was getting carted off the field.

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Kirby Puckett


Kirby Puckett accomplished quite a bit during his 11-year career with the Minnesota Twins, but he was forced to retire after being diagnosed with glaucoma in 1996.

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Steve Moore


How Todd Bertuzzi wasn’t put in prison is beyond me. Moore was never the same after Bertuzzi’s cowardice act on the ice, forcing him to retire.

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Mike Utley


Mike Utley was just beginning a promising career with the Detroit Lions. But like a lot of these players, it can end in a blink of an eye. Utley fractured his sixth and seventh vertebrae, leaving him motionless on the field. Although he gave the patented “thumbs up” move, Utley was paralyzed from the waist down.

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Darryl Stingley

Bleacher Report

Jack Tatum was one of the NFL’s meanest hitters, and sometimes that has consequences. When Tatum stuck Darryl Stingley, it changed Stingley’s life forever. Stingley, like Utley, fractured his vertebrae and had a compressed spinal cord, causing him to spend his life in a wheelchair. Due to being a quadriplegic, Stingley struggled with an pneumonia that took his life in 2007.

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Ray Chapman


If you are wondering why Ray Chapman is number one on this list, it’s because he’s the only player who died directly from an on-the-field injury. Chapman was struck in the head by a Carl Mays fastball, collapsing before he could get out of the batter’s box. Chapman was ruled dead 12 hours later in a local hospital.