Being a professional athlete may have its perks, but what most people don’t realize is just how physically demanding it can be. When you step into the realm of professional sports, you must stay at the top of your game at all times, which means a strict work out and diet regimen becomes a full time job. If you want to remain in the top ranks of your sport, you have to constantly push yourself, and make sure you prove to everyone else that you deserve the position you’re in. However, this constant pressure usually leads to injuries and sometimes even death.
Sadly, there have been cases of athletes tragically passing away while competing. Today we will be going over a few instances where these unexpected tragedies took place. It’s a terrible thing when what you love most ultimately takes your life. These eleven athletes should be remembered for their unrelenting dedication and impressive skills; they will forever be missed and remain well-respected.
11. Al Lucas – Football
Considering the rough nature of the sport, you would think more would have fallen victim to its hard hitting tackles. Yet, only two players have actually died on the field, one being 26-year old, 300-pound Al Lucas. During an Arena Football League game back in April 2005, Lucas was covering a kickoff for the Los Angeles Avengers during the first quarter of their game against the New York Dragons. During the match, he was tackled by two Dragons players; one of the tacklers’ thigh and knee struck him in the head. Everything seemed normal at first, however, Lucas never got up from the hit. It was later determined that blunt force trauma to the spinal cord was the cause of death.
10. Phillip Hughes – Cricket
Even though the ball is first thrown at the ground as opposed to the player in cricket, injuries still occur, though in this case things went a little further. During a cricket match between South Australia and New South Wales, Phillip Hughes took a ball to the side of his neck after failing to hit the bouncing ball. Although Hughes was wearing his helmet, the ball managed to sneak past the guard and make contact with the side of his neck. This freak accident led to severe hemorrhaging. Hughes passed away days later.
9. Ray Chapman – Baseball
Unless you’re a diehard baseball fan, you may not recognize the name, however Ray Chapmen played professional baseball for the Cleveland Naps – later named the Cleveland Indians – back in 1912. Yankees pitcher Carl Mays threw a spitball that hit Chapman directly in the head. The sound from the impact was so loud fans reportedly could hear the crack. Naturally Chapman collapsed on impact and was taken to the nearest hospital. Unfortunately, nothing could be done for the pro ball player. Chapman’s passing played a major role in the banning of the deadly spitball.
8. Jorge Herrera – Horse Racing
Horse racing can be quite the daring sport especially if your horse comes in contact with another racer. This is exactly what happened to Jorge Herrera in July of 2012. The 33-year old was racing atop his horse Morito in the final race of the day in Pleasanton, California, when Morito clipped his heels with another steed, and threw Herrera from the saddle. Herrera hit the ground hard and was struck in the head by another horse. He died on arrival to the hospital.
7. Lane Frost – Rodeo
Now if you’re competing in this sport, a part of you must realize the risk involved; it’s surprising more people aren’t killed from this death-defying profession. If you’re not a fan of the spot, Lane Frost may not ring a bell, but this all American was one of the biggest stars of the sport. In 1989, Frost competed in the Cheyenne Frontier Days Rodeo. After his dismount, the bull turn its head and drove its horn into Frost’s ribs. This resulted in a torn artery; Frost passed away moments after.
6. Wouter Weylandt – Cycling
Surprisingly, cycling is a lot more dangerous than one may think. Many cyclists have died during the past 120 years – who would have thought? Although, come to think of it, they are traveling at pretty high speeds with only spandex and a plastic helmet for safety. During a road race in the 2011 Giro d’Italia, Wouter Weylandt looked over his shoulder at the riders behind him as he reached a left turn; his foot and bike pedal hit the guardrail. Weyland was tossed through the air and hit an obstacle. Doctors on the scene declared that Weylandt had died on impact.
5. Bill Masterton – Hockey
Hockey has changed quite a bit since the 1940s; its first big change came in 1967 when the original six evolved into 12 teams, which is the largest expansion to ever take place in a major sports league. Bill Masterton was signed by the Minnesota North Stars, who found the 29-year-old to be a promising new addition to the team. Unfortunately, during a game against the Oakland Seals, Masterton was brutally checked by two opposing players. This massive hit was so severe, Masterton lost consciousness before hitting the ice and never came to despite having immediate medical attention.
4. Malik Joyeux – Surfing
In the world of professional surfing, the environment itself becomes your biggest threat. When maneuvering through towering waves that crash down with immense force, one has to make sure they can escape such a hazard. This escape eluded Malik Joyeux at a competition in Honolulu in December of 2005. The Tahitian surfer lost speed going into a big wave and clipped its lip, resulting in his untimely death. The crushing force of the wave broke Joyeux’s board in two and sent the 24-year old plummeting underwater. His body was found 15 minutes later on a beach nearly 100 yards away.
3. Owen Hart – Wrestling
Although wrestling is often ridiculed as being a fake sport, the profession is extremely physically demanding and results in numerous injuries every year. The WWE has also seen its fair share of deaths, although one stands out as being the worst disaster the sport has ever seen. This mishap took place during the 1999 Over The Edge pay-per-view wrestling event in Kansas City. 34-year-old Owen Hart made his entrance, where he would descend into ring from the rafters above. However, Hart’s descent took a turn for the worse when his harness accidentally released from his wire; he plummeted 80 feet to the ring below. Owen passed away from internal bleeding and blunt force trauma.
2. Nodar Kumaritashvili – Luge
The Olympics is a time for celebration and reward, as the top athletes from around the world compete against the best of the best. However, the world was paralyzed by the horrific event that took place during the 2010 Winter Olympics in Vancouver. 21-year old Georgia Republic luger Nodar Kumaritashvili was on a practice run at the track in Whistler, when he lost control near the finish line which sent him soaring over the wall where he then slammed into a metal barrier. This tragedy was viewed by millions on live TV and was a hard blow for Kumaritashvili’s teammates. Nodar died on the way to the hospital from blunt force trauma.
1. Ayrton Senna – Formula 1 Racing
When barreling down a track at speeds of over 200 MPH, the possibility of death awaits around every corner. Even with modern day advancements to the safety of these race cars, casualties still occur. Although Ayrton Senna was widely considered to be the greatest racer of all time, his skills couldn’t save him at the 1994 San Marino Grand Prix. Naturally Senna was leading the race that day, yet when approaching a bend in the track he veered off course and crashed into a wall at 145 mph. The severity of the crash shocked fans and drivers alike. The doctor on scene insisted Senna be airlifted to the nearest hospital, though his injuries were too great and he died shortly after.