The 15 Worst Career-Ending Sports Injuries Of All Time

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The 15 Worst Career-Ending Sports Injuries of All Time

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Sometimes, we as sports fans are so taken aback by the vast talents of various athletes, it takes gut wrenching injuries to bring us back to earth. We tend to forget that athletes are people too. When they're most exposed is when they sustain a serious injury and are unable to continue doing their jobs. It's often tragic, and it's always sudden, but there are many athletes who have had promising careers cut short due to injury.

These injuries left an impression in our heads in a number of ways. First of all, there have been several players that have been taken before the world could see them put their talent on display. Perhaps they were a promising young talent that never quite reached their potential before sustaining their injury or perhaps they were just realizing it when their careers were cut short. Another reason these injuries stick in our minds is if the player was prominent. Even if it's toward the end of their career, injuries that end the legendary career of players will always be in the collective consciousness.

Most tragic of all is those players that were taken in their prime. Much like actors or singers who pass away in their prime, athletes who sustain injuries in the middle of their primes leave us wanting more from them. In essence, their sports careers die and there's no finality. There is no downward turn when the athlete starts to age, all of their work is just undone in seconds. While it's never fun to think back on these types of moments, it's essential to look back so we can all remember that any given athlete's greatness is just a play away from being over.

Jacob Kornhauser is a writer for "Like" him on Facebook, follow him on Twitter or add him to your Google+ network.

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No. 15: Mack Strong

Mack Strong
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A fullback for the Seahawks, Strong enjoyed a long 15-year career. However, that career was unfortunately ended abruptly when herniated disks were discovered after taking several hits in a 2007 game. Doctors warned he risked becoming paralyzed and so Strong promptly retired.

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No. 14: Mike Utley

Mike Utley
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Drafted by the Lions in 1989, Utley quickly jumped into the starting lineup on offense as the right guard. After starting in just five games, Utley was placed on injured reserve for the remainder of the season. He battled through injuries in his second season as well and in his third season, he tragically got paralyzed against the L.A. Rams.

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No. 13: Doc Powers

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In the first game ever played at Shibe Park in Philadelphia, Powers crashed into a wall chasing a foul pop up. Suffering numerous internal injuries, Powers died two weeks later and he is one of two professional sports players to die as a result of an injury sustained during competition.

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No. 12: Steve Moore

Steve Moore
Stephen Dunn - Getty Images

Moore was off to a solid NHL career and was playing in his third season when he received a vicious blow to the head from the Canucks' Todd Bertuzzi in 2004. The hit fractured three neck vertebrae and Moore would never play in another NHL game.

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No. 11: Wally Pip

Wally Pip
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I guess you could say that Pip had the only career-ending headache of all time. He technically didn't sustain any actual injury on the field, but the headache that kept him out of a game for the Yankees, pushed a young Lou Gehrig into the lineup. The rest, as they say, is history.

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No. 10: Adam Greenberg

Adam Greenberg
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In what has to be the shortest career in major league baseball history, Greenberg of the Chicago Cubs was unthinkably hit by a pitch in the head by the first pitch that he ever faced. He never faced another pitch in major league baseball until an online petition in 2012 got him signed to a one-day contract with the Marlins. He made one plate appearance and struck out on three pitches.

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No. 9: Bo Jackson

Bo Jackson
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One of the great overall athletes of all time, Bo Jackson was taken before he should've been. In a play that didn't seem serious at the time, Jackson injured his hip. It seemed like he would be back eventually, but he never quite recovered from what ended up being a career-ending injury.

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No. 8: Sandy Koufax

Sandy Koufax
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It's almost unfathomable to think of what Koufax could've done if his career wasn't cut short by injuries as he was one of the best pitchers of all time in just 12 seasons. By the age of 30, arm injuries had unfortunately taken Koufax from the game that he impacted so greatly.

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No. 7: Mickey Cochrane

Mickey Cochrane
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In 1937, the great catcher Mickey Cochrane was beaned with a pitched ball that almost ended his life. After the pitch put him in a coma, he was no longer able to continue his amazing career.

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No. 6: Eric LeGrand

Eric LeGrand
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LeGrand is one of the more inspirational sports stories over the last decade. Playing for the Rutgers football team as a defensive tackle, he was paralyzed while making a tackle in a game in 2010. After he fought back and regained movement of his shoulders and sensations throughout his body, he was signed to a symbolic contract by the Tampa Bay Buccaneers.

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No. 5: Kevin Everett

Kevin Everett
Getty Images

In a very similar injury to LeGrand, Everett suffered a spinal injury on the field. While making a tackle on a kickoff, Everett fractured and dislocated his cervical spine, which led doctors to call it a life-threatening injury. However, miraculously, Everett went hard in his rehab and walked onto the field at Ralph Wilson Stadium that same season to a standing ovation.

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No. 4: Kirby Puckett

Kirby Puckett
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One of the really great men to ever play the game of baseball, Puckett's career was cut short after he was beaned by a pitched ball. The injury was serious at the time and led to the loss of vision in one of Puckett's eyes. That eventually led to a glaucoma diagnosis and this Twins' fine career was cut far too short.

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No. 3: Michael Irvin

Michael Irvin
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Tackled head-first into the turf in Philadelphia in 1999, this legendary wide receiver instantly went limp and had to be carted off the field. Furthering their negative reputation, Eagles fans cheered as he was taken off the field. He sustained a cervical spinal cord injury and was forced to retire earlier than he would've liked.

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No. 2: Dale Earnhardt

Dale Earnhardt
Sean Gardner - Getty Images

There is perhaps no other sports moment in which the top competitor in a sport was taken from us so quickly. Earnhardt was one of the top competitors in NASCAR history and he was tragically killed on the final turn of the 2001 Daytona 500 while going 150 miles per hour. His son carries on his legacy and has won the Daytona 500 twice, including the most recent one just a few weeks ago.

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No. 1: Joe Theisman

Joe Theisman
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This injury is at the top of the list because it's the most gruesome and it's one that everyone has watched in slow motion at least once in their lives. Playing the tail end of his illustrious career, Theisman's leg essentially crumpled underneath him as linebacker Lawrence Taylor laid a vicious hit on him. While he is fine now, this injury is iconic as one of the worst and gruesome in the history of sports.