Gruesome sports injuries are endlessly replayed on highlight reels and posted to YouTube for posterity. You don’t have to be a Redskins fan to remember the moment in 1985 when Joe Theismann’s leg was hideously broken. You also don’t have to be a San Francisco Giants fan to remember when Dave Dravecky’s humerus bone snapped as he threw a pitch to Montreal’s Tim Raines, causing Dravecky to collapse on the mound.
We remember these dramatic injuries, but we don’t always remember that these injuries ended players’ professional careers. Joe Theismann never played football again after his tibia snapped, and Dave Dravecky’s pitching arm eventually had to be amputated because it was cancerous. If you bet on sports, then you know the pain of watching a bet slip away from you because a player is unexpectedly injured. When your favorite player suffers one of these five injuries, there’s a good chance his or her career is on the line.
Torn Anterior Cruciate Ligament (ACL)
The anterior cruciate ligament, or ACL, is one of two ligaments inside of the knee joint that controls the knee’s back-and-forth movement. Sudden stopping after fast movement, awkward jumps, on-field collisions and rapid directional changes can cause the dreaded “pop” and the buckling of the knee joint.
Minnesota Vikings running back Adrian Peterson tore his ACL in 2011. Most people go through surgery and extensive rehabilitation just to return to normal activity, but Peterson has proved to be an exception. In 2012, Peterson resumed playing and went on to become the NFL’s MVP. However, because ACL tears often lead to earlyonset arthritis, Peterson’s career may yet be shortened by his ACL injury.
Repeated concussions have horrific consequences for some athletes, not only in football but also in other sports. NHL center Pat LaFontaine, for example, ended his hockey career at just 33 after experiencing six concussions in his 15 NHL seasons. He battled post-concussion syndrome, which includes symptoms like depression, insomnia, fatigue and headaches. As LaFontaine told NHL.com, “Once you get to a certain point with head injuries, there’s no turning back.” At the end of 2013, a group of former NHL players filed lawsuits related to concussions, and MLB players may not be far behind.
Torn Ulnar Collateral Ligament (UCL)
Ulnar collateral ligament (UCL) injuries of the elbow most commonly affect baseball pitchers. A pitcher’s overhead throwing motion can tear the ULC, which is on the side of the elbow joint closest to the body.
Matt Harvey, a right-handed pitcher for the Mets, was having a spectacular rookie season when he suffered a torn UCL in August 2013. Harvey will have what’s known as “Tommy John” surgery to repair the ligament, but a future that once looked bright is now up in the air. Mets fans are used to bad news, but losing Harvey was a crushing blow to the team.
Spinal Cord Injury
In 1997, wrestling legend “Stone Cold” Steve Austin was fighting to snatch the Intercontinental Championship from Owen Hart. Hart delivered a reverse piledriver that smashed Austin’s head into the ground, breaking his neck and causing temporary paralysis. Austin had multiple surgeries to repair the damage, but he never got rid of the severe pain. However, he was luckier than Buffalo Bills tight end Kevin Everett, who suffered a severe cervical spinal cord injury in 2007. He regained some use of his arms and legs, but he never played another football game.
A broken tibia, which is one of the lower leg bones, is one of the ugliest injuries in sports. After that infamous 1985 hit, Joe Theismann’s broken bone pushed through his skin, leaving the top of his calf at a 45-degree angle while the lower part of his calf dangled perpendicular to the ground. Two years ago, NCAA basketball player Kevin Ware of the Louisville Cardinals landed awkwardly after an attempted block and, like Thiesmann, suffered a hideous compound tibia fracture. He sat out the rest of the 2012 season and redshirted for 2013, but his future as a basketball player remains uncertain.
Football injury image by John Martinez Pavliga from Flickr’s Creative Commons
Baseball injury image by Aspenphoto from Dreamstime