The 15 Worst Career-Ending Injuries
South Carolina RB Marcus Lattimore's Career Could Be Over
Playing sports at any level comes with risks. For those who look to make a career as an athlete, those risks are magnified even more.
This past week, South Carolina star running back Marcus Lattimore suffered a gruesome looking leg injury. Lattimore will definitely be out for the rest of the season, and depending on the severity of the damage to his knee and leg, it could possibly spell an end to his football career.
Other players have suffered similar fates, whether it was in the prime of their career or just as things were getting started for them, as in Lattimore’s case. But one fact remains, it’s a sad thing to see a promising career cut short by an act of chance.
It’s not always cut and dry either. Sometimes a player can suffer an injury that will allow them to come back and play, but it follows them like a black cloud and never allows them to reach the level of play they once attained, forcing them into early retirement.
Every sport on every level has seen a tragic injury occur, and it’s even commonly used in Hollywood storylines in movies like ‘The Program’ and ‘Varsity Blues’, where injuries force players to leave the game, or find another way to use their skills.
Here is a list of the worst career ending injuries ever seen. It’s scary to think what might have been if some of these athletes had been able to continue, or even start, their careers.
15: Sterling Sharpe - Green Bay Packers
Former Packers receiver Sterling Sharpe was well on his way to a Hall of Fame career. Unfortunately, the football gods had other plans, and it was cut short after just six seasons by a neck injury he sustained during 1994 season. What kind of numbers might Brett Favre have had if Sharpe had been around longer?
14: Dean Ashton - West Ham United
Dean Ashton, a footballer who played for England's national team, was playing for West Ham United when he sustained a broken ankle in 2006. He did recover and play for one more season following the injury, but his effectiveness was immensely reduced. Because of the bad ankle he had to retire at age 26.
13: Cam Neely - Boston Bruins
Boston Bruins great Cam Neely played for 13 NHL seasons, but was forced to retire due to injury in 1996. Neely sustained a crushing knee injury on a check from Penguins defenseman Ulf Samuelsson during Game 3 of the Conference Finals. Although he tried to come back from the injury, he was only able to play in 162 games in the final five years of his career.
12: Vincent "Bo" Jackson - Los Angeles Raiders
Auburn RB “Bo” Jackson won Heisman Trophy in 1985, and then In 1986 he was drafted by the Tampa Bay Buccaneers, but wanted to play baseball instead. The then Los Angeles Raiders picked up Jackson in 1987 where he played four seasons, rushing for 2,782 yards and 16 TDs. In 1991, during a playoff game, Jackson was tackled by Cincinnati Bengals LB Kevin Walker and suffered a serious injury to his hip. Jackson had his hip replaced and returned to baseball, but was unable to play football again.
11: Bubba Smith - Baltimore Colts
In what was one of the most unusual injuries ever, Bubba Smith had his career altered by sideline equipment. While in pursuit of a runner who was headed out of bounds, Smith became tangled up in the down-marker chains, and suffered a knee injury. Baltimore Trainers didn't think the injury too serious at first, but after examining Smith, they called it "one of the worst knee injuries they had ever seen." Smith watched the rest of the season from a wheelchair, and although he came back 2 years later with the Raiders, it was clear he wasn't the same player.
10: Duante Culpepper - Minnesota Vikings
After having a breakout season in 2004, Vikings quarterback Duante Culpepper sustained a major knee injury in a game against the Carolina Panthers in 2005. Culpepper tore or damaged three of the four major ligaments in his knee and was placed on IR. The Vikings released Culpepper in 2006, and he tried to make an unsuccessful comeback with the Miami Dolphins.
9: Steve Moore - Colorado Avalanche
Former Avalanche center Steve Moore had his career in the NHL cut short after only three seasons. Moore sustained three cracked vertebrate and a concussion as a result of a violent cheap hit by Vancouver Canucks goon Todd Bertuzzi. Following the injury, Moore was never able to play again, and Bertuzzi was formally charged with assault, and did end up pleading guilty to the offense.
8: Kirby Puckett - Minnesota Twins
Twins great and World Series hero Kirby Puckett played for 11 seasons with Minnesota. In 1995, Puckett suffered a broken jaw when he was beaned by a fastball, and he was never able to return to the majors following the injury. Puckett tried to rehab in the minors, but in 1996, after waking up with no vision in his right eye, he was diagnosed with glaucoma. Puckett underwent three unsuccessful surgeries to try to restore his vision, but in the end he was forced to retire from baseball.
7: Darryl Stingley - New England Patriots
New England Patriots WR Darryl Stingley began his career with 16 TDs and 2,450 all-purpose yards in five NFL seasons. But his career came to an abrupt halt in 1978. In a preseason game, Stingley was crushed by Oakland Raiders renowned hit-man DB Jack Tatum. The hit broke Stingley's fourth and fifth vertebrae, ending his football career for good.
6: Reggie Brown - Detroit Lions
Former Lions LB Reggie Brown played only 32 games in the league before his career was prematurely ended after suffering a spinal cord contusion in a game against the New York Jets. After the hit, Brown laid motionless, going in an out of consciousness, for 17 minutes on the turf before paramedics were able to perform life-saving CPR and clear him from the field of play.
5: Kevin Everett - Buffalo Bills
Former Bills TE Kevin Everett never had the chance to make a name for himself in the NFL. In Week 1 of the 2007 season, Everett severely injured his neck while attempting to tackle Denver Broncos WR Domenik Hixon on a special teams play. Everett underwent several months of rehabilitation, and eventually was able to walk again, but was unable to ever return to the football field.
4: Tom Browning - Cincinnati Reds
Reds pitching great Tom Browning had fought numerous injuries throughout his storied career. In 1994, during a start against the San Diego Padres, Browning's arm broke while throwing a pitch. The injury was horrible to watch, and fans in the stadium as well as on TV were able to see Browning's arm separate from his shoulder, and could hear a "pop" sound as the ball left his flopping arm. The injury ended Browning's season and his time with the Reds. He attempted a comeback with the Kansas City Royals in 1995, but was unable to pitch effectively again.
3: Eric LeGrand - Rutgers University
Former Rutgers DT Eric LeGrand is one of the saddest, yet most inspirational stories among tragic injuries. In October 2010, LeGrand sustained a serious spinal cord injury during a game against Navy. LeGrand laid motionless on the field for some time, and when he was finally wheeled off the field he was only able to move his head. It was later determined by doctors that LeGrand was paralyzed from the neck down. His former coach at Rutgers, Greg Schiano, had taken the head coaching position with the Tampa Bay Buccaneers, and symbolically signed LeGrand to the team. LeGrand has since been able to rehabilitate himself to being able to move his arms and shoulders, and stand upright.
2: Mike Utley - Detroit Lions
Former Lions offensive lineman Mike Utley's career was cut short in the middle of his third season when he suffered injury to his sixth and seventh vertebrae in a game against the Los Angeles Rams in 1991. Utley gave his now famous "thumbs up" sign as he was wheeled from the field on a stretcher. Doctors determined that Utley had been paralyzed from the chest down, and he has never been able to regain use of his lower extremities.
1. Joe Theismann - Washington Redskins
Washington Redskins quarterback Joe Theismann led the team to a Super Bowl win, was named league MVP in 1983 and had two Pro Bowl appearances. But in 1985, Theismann was sacked by New York Giants defenders Lawrence Taylor and Harry Carson, in what is one of the most gruesome (yet viewed) film clips in NFL history. Theismann suffered a horrible multi-fragmentary compound fracture in his leg that forced him into retirement at the age of 36.