The NFL is one of the most dangerous sports leagues to play in. This is why the players are decked out in gear and pads as they take the field. Tackling each other with brute strength and making cuts on the stop of a dime can be lethal to the body. If there is any qualifier that proves just how detrimental this sport can be it would be the gruesome injuries. Let’s take a look back at some of the worst injuries in NFL history.
The Super Bowl champion Danny Amendola was once the number one receiver on the St. Louis Rams heading into the 2011 season.
Unfortunately, during the first game of the season he ended up dislocating his elbow when he came down on it wrong and as a result, he missed the rest of the season.
The Crackback Block
In 2009 when Brett Favre played for the Minnesota Vikings he performed an illegal block on a defensive player and what many thought to be dirty. The Vikings had the ball and were coming out of the Wildcat formation. That is when the running back gets the snap and the quarterback lines up as a wide receiver. Favre went to block Eugene Wilson and went low making a direct hit on his knee.
Wilson missed half the season but when he came back he was not the same. “What was up with that?” Wilson said after the game when asked about the block.
The Denver Bronco guard Chris Kuper had a nasty injury to his ankle in the last game of the 2011 season. Kuper went down and medical staff came rushing in. It is clear that his ankle was going in directions it was not supposed to be going in.
He had to get surgery that included plates and screws and he was limited to only seven games in the next season. “This felt like the right time for me to leave this game on my terms,” Kuper said. “I’m going to miss hanging out in the locker room, and the offensive line meeting room, in particular,” said Kuper. Sadly, he was forced to retire a few seasons later.
Marc Mariani’s Big Break
Marc Mariani was the Tennessee Titans return specialist that got the worst of a tackle during a preseason game in 2012. What makes this so bad is that it was just a preseason game…but we digress. Here’s the story of the actual injury. After he was hit you can see him holding his leg in agony.
The tackle looked like a regular hit but replay showed that the bone in his leg was broken. Just look at the image. His reaction after he saw it was one of immense shock. He ended up missing the next two seasons and came back with the Chicago Bears in 2014 before returning to the Titans in 2016.
Tim Krumrie Breaks a Leg in the Super Bowl
You work all year or better yet all your career to make it to the Super Bowl. It is the game when all of your sacrifices are realized if you win. It is also the one game someone does not want to get injured. Well, Tim Krumrie caught an unlucky break in his leg during this big game.
He was going to tackle the ball runner and as he was coming down, his leg just went in a different direction than it was meant to. His team ended up losing the game but once Krumrie came back, he never missed another game again.
You can chalk this one up as a rookie setback because since this terrible injury his rookie year, Eric Wood has been selected to the Pro Bowl. And the manner it happened in was surely unlucky. The opposing team’s player was trying to sack the quarterback and Wood just happened to be trailing when his leg got caught in the heap of players.
Like we said, Wood has bounced back pretty well but the injury forced him to change positions. In a way, the injury was a blessing in disguise and his later successes prove that he was always meant to play the position he switched to.
Leonard Weaver Ends His Career
This is easily one of the worst injuries in NFL history to watch. Even the image can be spine tingling. Leonard Weaver had settled into a premier fullback by 2009 when this injury happened so it is quite unfortunate for him and the Eagles franchise to have lost such a promising player.
The Eagles were facing the Green Bay Packers in their first game of the season in 2010 and Weaver received his last carry of his career. A Packers defender tackled him and wrapped up around his leg and Weaver leaned forward but his knee bent awkwardly. The result was a shredded ACL.
E.J. Henderson and the Vikings were facing the Arizona Cardinals back in 2008 when he made an attempt at tackling running back Tim Hightower. He wasn’t successful with his tackle and went diving into the ground but on his way down a teammate clipped him and that made his leg go almost completely sideways.
Henderson was done for the season after that. “I feel bad for E.J.,” Vikings quarterback Brett Favre said. “That’s awful for him and for our team.” He did come back the next season and make the Pro Bowl but would end his career the following season.
Darryl Stingley Forced into a Wheelchair
There are hits that get the crowd going and all the players on the team hyped. And then there are hits that put the other player out of commission. The Oakland Raiders safety Jack Tatum delivered the latter to Darryl Stingley as he went up to try and catch the pass from his quarterback.
As a result, Stingley would lay on the ground motionless. Of course, there was no malicious intent behind the hit but it caused Stingley to miss the rest of his career because he was forced to be in a wheelchair. Stingley ended up passing away at age 55 in 2007.
The Dennis Byrd Collision
Like the previous injury, this one was also pretty life threatening. The neck is one area you do not want to mess with, which is why there are penalties in place that go against the other team if a player gets his neck harmed even if it was accidental. No penalties were needed for this fiasco because it was an accident between two teammates.
Dennis Byrd runs into his teammate when he was trying to get the quarterback and put his head right on the chest of the teammate. As a result, his career ended and he had temporary paralysis.
Ronnie Lott’s Pinky
Now, this injury contributes to the legend of this player and is also disgusting at the same time. Ronnie Lott was involved in a play where he broke his pinky finger and would have to require surgery that would cause him to miss an extensive amount of time. He wasn’t with that and decided to just cut off the top of is pinky.
“I was trying to laugh it off, but I felt sick,” he told the AP in 1986 of first seeing the nub. “I tried to stand up, but I broke into a cold sweat. It was just a total shock.” He was full of tough guy juice until he saw the aftermath.
Napoleon McCallum Contorts His Knee
It just seems like knees are getting the worst of all these injuries and Napoleon McCallum’s knee fell victim to a brutal outcome as well. In 1994, the Raiders were opening up their season against the 49ers and McCallum had his last play of his career. The play was a rush up the middle and that was all she wrote.
Once he was tackled by the group of defenders, he fell backward but his leg got stuck between two players and he dislocated his kneecap. The only good news to come from that is that he at least scored a touchdown in his last game.
Johnny Knox Knocked Down for Good
It was the last game of the 2011 season and the Chicago Bears Johnny Knox endured a fatal injury. As he tried to maintain control of the pass he received he ended up fumbling and you know what happens when there is a fumble: complete mayhem as everyone dives for the ball.
As Knox was trying to recover the ball he received a nasty hit from a Seattle Seahawk that would change his life forever. His vertebra was fractured and he couldn’t walk after that. He soon recovered enough to walk again but the nerve damage left him unable to continue football again.
Joe Theismann Ended
Lawrence Taylor or “LT” is regarded as one of the best defensive players of all time. He had a knack for making big hits and just overall getting the job done. Well, Joe Theismann had to end his job thanks to LT because of sack placed on the quarterback during a Monday Night Football game in 1985.
It was a flea-flicker play which gave extra time for LT to track Theismann down and deliver the blow that would fatally break his leg on national television. You could see the bone out of place and immediately after the hit LT called for the medical staff to come and help.
Rashad Johnson’s Finger…
This is one of the more interesting injuries mainly because it really cannot be explained. Not even Rashad Johnson of the Arizona Cardinals can’t explain it and it happened to him! The only concrete knowledge that is out there is as follows; Johnson walked to the sidelines after a punt return and when he took off his glove, the top half of his middle finger was missing.
He did explain how he did not notice this. “Just the adrenaline that you have when you play the game,” Johnson said. “You’re so fired up, you’re so into it, you’re so zoned out. There are even times when you’re playing a game that you don’t even notice the fans.”
This is the injury that caused a ban on horse-collar tackles. That is when the defensive player grabs the runner by the neck of their jersey. Musa Smith got the worse of this predicament when his tibia was fractured in 2004 when his Ravens team took on the Dallas Cowboys.
He was out of commission for roughly two years after that injury so it is smart that the league took action against those types of tackles when they did because more bad injuries could have happened since 2004. Now they have bigger things to worry about like concussions and what not.
This has to hurt for anybody with big dreams. Finally making it to the place you have always wanted to be after putting in so much hard work to ultimately be removed thanks to injury. That is what happened to Destry Wright, the undrafted free agent signed by the Steelers in 2000.
Wright never got the chance to show the Steelers they made the right choice by drafting him because he was severely injured in the first preseason game of the year against the Cowboys. He dislocated his right ankle and broke his right leg. Never again was he able to play.
Lockett’s Ankle Gets Caught
In 2016, the Seahawks were battling the Cardinals in a must-win game as the Seahawks were eyeing a playoff spot. Wilson had just begun to catch his tempo and was clicking beautifully with his receivers. He then threw a bomb to Tyler Lockett that looked like it was a touchdown but he was stopped on the one-yard line. The defender pulled him down and Lockett’s right leg bent under the defender in a terrible fashion.
Russell Wilson thought it was a touchdown until he saw the pain. “I got close to him,” Wilson said, “and there was blood everywhere near his ankle. So that was an ugly situation. You just pray for him.”
You know an injury is gruesome when the internet has not even posted it. The former Denver Bronco Ed McCaffrey suffered a compound leg fracture during the first game of the season in 2001. He was one of John Elway’s favorite targets in 1998 and 1999 and helped win the two Super Bowls they did win.
After the injury, he was carted off the field and rushed to the nearest hospital. The next morning, tragedy struck the nation when the Twin Towers dropped and that probably put things in perspective for McCaffrey to let him know that there is more to life than football.
NaVorro Bowman and His Knee
In the game before the Super Bowl, NaVorro Bowman had one of the worst injuries you could have seen in the HDTV era. You could clearly see the way his knee got buckled while he made a big stop at the goal line against the Seattle Seahawk’s Jermain Kearse.
There were a lot of controversies involved during that moment of the game but one thing that is for certain is that Bowman tore his ACL and MCL during the scuffle. If you watch the replays of it, you see Bowman recovered the fumble with a broken knee but the refs called it wrong adding insult to injury.
Broken Neck After Earthquake
While the Loma Prieta earthquake of 1989 left many lives in the Bay Area in tatters, things got worse for one young player. Jeff Fuller played for the 49ers, and a few days after the quake, he had an awkward helmet-to-helmet collision.
The impact broke his neck and paralyzed him on one side. That play effectively ended Fuller’s career. He went through decades of rehab, but still doesn’t have the same use of his arms.
Bo Jackson Tries To Walk It Off
One of the toughest to do it in the NFL is Bo Jackson. The multi-sport athlete was a beast and he showed it whenever he had the ball in his hands.
In 1991, Jackson was involved in a wild tackle that ended up hurting him more than usual. It dislocated one of his hip bones and even shattered the other. As he tried to walk off the injury, he had to pop back the bone into place a few times. This would end up cutting his career short.
Junior Seau Lets It Hang
When this injury happened to Junior Seau, it was after he came out of retirement to play for the New England Patriots. It was during a 2006 game against the Chicago Bears when Seau attempted a tackle that would break his arm.
His extremity went into an awkward angle and snapped. As he rolled on the ground, you could see it hanging limply. That would be the injury to end his career for good. Sadly, he died not long after retiring. Rest in peace Seau.
Kevin Everett Nearly Dies
Kevin Everett was one who played his hardest at all times. In 2007, during a kickoff return, he hit a player squarely with his helmet and got knocked unconscious as a result.
The tackle damaged his spine as he fell to the ground like a rag doll and proceeded not to move. Doctors said he was partially paralyzed thanks to the blow, which ended his career. He would eventually regain some feeling but he’s still in chronic pain today.
A Thumbs Up From Mike Utley
In 1991, Mike Utley of the Detroit Lions had the worst thing ever happen to him, but remained strong. After an awkward hit damaged his spine, and he couldn’t move much of his body, he still managed to show a thumbs up to those watching.
Sadly, he broke parts of his vertebrae and would no longer be able to play in the NFL. Since then, he’s become an advocate for spinal cord injury victims and still has a sporty lifestyle.
The Worst Time To Get A Devastating Injury
IN 2015, the Superbowl consisted of the Seahawks and the Patriots. Jeremy Lane had himself a game before things came crashing down. After he intercepted a pass from Tom Brady he tried to return it and began celebrating.
He just picked off Brady in the Superbowl, which is plenty of reason to cheer, but he went down awkwardly and tried using his hand to soften his fall. His arm ended up snapping from his wrist to his elbow.
Vollmer Feels The Pain
You know that NFL players are some of the toughest in all sports. They’re busy ramming into each other all game long. There’s little time to complain about pain, but one injury led Sebastian Vollmer to scream as loudly as he possibly could.
After a tackle, Vollmer fell and his knee bent sideways which tore up the insides pretty well. The thing that made the injury even worse was how loudly and clearly you could hear him screaming.
A Gruesome Leg Break
It was the 2009 season when Leon Washington played for the New York Jets. In a game against the Oakland Raiders, Washington ran up the middle and as he got taken down, his leg went the wrong direction.
“I could see blood spurting out. I’ve never seen anything like that before,” a Jets player said after the game. For people who’ve never seen anything like it, that could be a pretty rough sight.
Charles Gordon Suffers
In 2008, the Vikings played against the Packers. Charles Gordon was on special teams, returning the ball as best as he could when the defenders finally caught him and brought Gordon down.
As he was getting dragged to the ground, his body went in one direction but the lower half of his leg turned in the complete opposite way. It was so bad, they wouldn’t even show a replay of it for the viewers watching at home.
Tearing Both ACLs
Tearing one ACL is tough, but imagine having both torn at the same time. Wendell Davis ran a regular route in a game in 1993 and as he went up to grab the ball, he fell into thin air.
As he tumbled to the ground, he laid there lifeless as his knees were in a 90 degree angle. Davis tore both ACLs on that play, which ended his career. They say it was due to the poor turf.
Gale Sayers Tears Up His Knee
A week before Gale Sayers had a devastating injury, he was on a roll, producing the most rushing yards of his career. Seven days later in a game against the 49ers, a knee injury would put an end to his season.
Sayers tore many ligaments in his knee, including his ACL, MCL, and meniscus cartilage. A teammate of Sayers, Gary Lyle, said: “I saw his eyes sort of glass over. I heard him holler. I knew he was hurt.”
Anthony Philips’ Career Ends
Jim Kelly threw an interception against the Atlanta Falcons right to Anthony Philips. Being the competitor that Kelly is, he went after Philips to secure the tackle, but he ended up doing more than that.
As he aimed low, his hit resulted in breaking Philips’ leg, leaving it to hang in front of everyone watching. He tried to run on it for about a yard, but that wasn’t a bright idea, as he didn’t notice the break until he fell.
Badly Broken Nose For Barker
Bryan Barker was the place holder for the Washington Redskins when this terrible injury happened to him. After the field goal attempt got blocked, players stormed after the ball, but Barker ended up retrieving it.
Upon getting it, a player on the Dallas Cowboys accidentally kicked gave him a knee to his nose, which resulted in a gruesome image (not pictured!). He showed some guts being able to take off his helmet and walk away like nothing happened.
Terrible Injury For Tom
It was the New England Patriots facing off against the Kansas City Chiefs. Tom Brady had the ball and prepared to throw the ball when he ended up a bad situation.
As two Chiefs hit Brady, that ended up with him tearing his ACL. It was probably one of the worst injuries sustained by the quarterback ever, as he missed the entire season because of it. Somehow, the Patriots still did well that year thanks to Matt Cassel.
Y.A. Tittle Gets Knocked Silly
The former New York Giants quarterback sustained a gruesome concussion in 1964. The hit was so bad, he had to kneel down and contemplate life for a few moments, distraught because of the impact.
He fell down to the ground and had blood all over his face. Not only did he sustain a concussion, but Tittle also had some damage to his ribs as well. It wasn’t a great day for the quarterback at all.
Jeff Garcia Breaks A Leg
If there’s one thing you should never ask Jeff Garcia, then it’s “how important are preseason games?” When he played for the Detroit Lions, it was all systems go until the turf didn’t want to cooperate.
While running, Garcia got his foot caught in the turf against the Buffalo Bills, which resulted in him breaking his leg. This injury more than likely contributed to his career getting cut shorter than it had to be because he still had a decent arm.
Reggie Slides Into A Torn ACL
Reggie Bush played for the San Francisco 49ers in 2015, the year he sustained an injury that shouldn’t have even happened. After returning a kickoff, a defensive player shoved Bush out of bounds, launching him forward.
As he ran to regain stability, Bush found himself on slippery concrete right by the sidelines. He ended up slamming into the wall and tearing his ACL. Bush would later sue the Rams and ended up winning $12.5 million in the case.
Palmer’s Ligaments Get Damaged
Carson Palmer wasn’t a bad quarterback by any stretch of the imagination. He handled business and provided many wins for multiple teams. One year he got knocked out of a playoff game thanks to a hit to his legs from the Steelers defense.
As Palmer surveyed the field, Kimo von Oelhoffen surprised the vet with a tackle to his lower extremities. The result was severe knee ligament damage, and Palmer couldn’t return to the game.
Welker’s Knee Buckles
Wes Welker is one of the best slot receivers to do it, especially during his time with the New England Patriots. One year against the Houston Texans, he took a hard fall that would severely mess up his knee.
Welker tried to pull off a juke move, which was partially successful until the defender caught his knee at the last moment. Welker’s knee buckled and he tore two ligaments as a result. It ended one of his best seasons.
Jabari Greer’s Knee Dances
In 2013, Jabari Greer saw his career come to an end thanks to a tragic knee injury. While defending a pass, he would go on to tear his ACL, PCL, and his complete posterior lateral compartment.
He played for the Saints at the time as they matched up against the 49ers. Greer was an essential piece of the Saints’ 2009 Superbowl run, which made seeing him go out like that so hard to witness for the team’s fans.