A sad fact of professional athletics is the tenuous relationship that these athletes have with the sport that defines their lives. Whether due to deterioration of skill, an ever competitive arena, or other exterior factors, the career rate of professional athletes continues to be incredibly low.
Perhaps the greatest plague on professional athletes is the ever present possibility of serious injury. Anyone who has played sports knows that injuries are an integral part of the game, however, they also recognize the fear of those potentially catastrophic injuries which can greatly alter an athlete’s career or life.
With an increasing amount of TV coverage on professional sports (I mean heck, ESPN had a girl’s high school basketball game on!), so many more of these injuries are witnessed live by fans. As such, this list will count down the 15 Most Gruesome Sports Injuries of the 2000’s.
As the name suggests, the only qualification for the injuries on this list is that they be sports related and that they have occurred since January 1st of 2000.
15. Giancarlo Stanton – Facial Fractures and Dental Damage
I think an underrated aspect of baseball at the major league level is just how fast the gameplay is. Specifically, the speed at which pitchers can throw in the big leagues far outdistances what hitters regularly see at the amateur or collegiate level. Giancarlo Stanton got an up close and personal view of fast pitching during the #15 incident on our list, which resulted in severe facial fractures and dental damage to the Marlins slugger. During a game against the Milwaukee Brewers, Stanton got hit full in the face by a pitch. The worst part about this incident was the fact that Stanton was in half swing when he got hit, so his face was turned towards the incoming pitch with no protection whatsoever. The man formerly known as Mike Stanton is lucky that this injury wasn’t more serious.
14. Kevin Huber – Broken Jaw and Fractured Vertebrae
As far as careers in professional sports go, an NFL Punter has to be considered one of the safest. I would have said that, anyways, if it weren’t for the #14 gruesome injury on our list. In week 15 of the 2013 season against the Pittsburgh Steelers, Huber was blocked by Steelers linebacker Terence Garvin, which led to a fractured jaw. Not only this, but it was later revealed that Huber had fractured his vertebrae on the play, causing him to miss the rest of the season. Kudos to Huber for at least being close enough to the action to actually have the chance of making a tackle, but seeing the results, it’s hard to argue that it was the smartest play for him to make.
13. Rashad Johnson – Missing Finger
For the #13 entry on our list is an injury which I’m surprised does not happen more often in the NFL. During the 2013 season, in a game against the New Orleans Saints, Johnson’s finger was smashed between two helmets. The impact of this collision was so forceful that it literally snapped off the tip of the middle finger on his left hand. Johnson played it cool when it happened, much cooler than I would have had one of my appendages just been permanently ripped off. Further showing his toughness, Johnson would return from this gruesome injury later that same season. We will see another (and much more hilarious) NFL finger injury later on this list, but the injury to this NFL safety certainly deserves its spot on the bottom half of our list.
12. Mike Cameron – Broken Nose and Cheek
I think the most miraculous part about this incident was the fact that Carlos Beltran was actually running in his attempt to play the ball. That’s probably why Cameron was recklessly diving for the ball, because he just assumed that Beltran wasn’t going to be able to run fast enough to make the catch. But all kidding aside, collisions in the outfield are one of the primary causes of injuries in baseball. Whether the collision is with the wall, or another player (like it was here), outfielders who are tracking a fly ball are uniquely susceptible to collisions and other incidents. This particular incident left Mike Cameron with a severely broken nose and cheekbone and the sheer force of this unseen collision makes it the #12 most gruesome sports injury of the 2000’s.
11. Marcus Lattimore – Dislocated Knee
A sad fact of this article is that many of the afflicted athletes never fully recovered from their gruesome injuries. The #11 entry on our list is a perfect example of this, as South Carolina running back Marcus Lattimore would never recover the speed and explosiveness that he had prior to his devastating knee injury. I highly recommend watching the video on YouTube because I don’t think anything I can write can do justice to how truly gross this leg injury was. The injury would cause Lattimore to miss the rest of his college career, and he would not get drafted until the fourth round of the subsequent NFL Draft. Despite being drafted, Lattimore would retire in a few short months as it became evident the toll his gruesome injury had had on him as a player.
10. NaVorro Bowman – Tore His ACL and MCL
I honestly think the San Francisco 49ers might have the worst luck of any team in the NFL. As opposed to teams like the Browns and Bills who, through bad decision making (hey Johnny Manziel) and policies, have made their franchises into laughing stocks. In contrast, the 49ers in recent years have been victims of annual bad luck that has devastated this once great franchise. A perfect example of this is the severe leg injury which occurred to star linebacker NaVorro Bowman against the Seattle Seahawks in the 2013 NFC Championship game.
Bowman has declined significantly since the injury and this, combined with the retirement of Patrick Willis, has had a hugely detrimental impact on the 49ers once vaunted defense. We hope he’ll be able to stay healthy the rest of his career.
9. Tim Hudson – Broken Ankle
Many writers and commentators have affectionately called MLB pitchers the “the least athletic athletes” of all time. While this doesn’t apply to all pitchers, it would apply to an almost forty year old Tim Hudson when he received a devastating leg injury while pitching for the Braves in 2013. Hudson was pitching a 4-hit shutout against the New York Mets when Eric Young, Jr., who was trying to beat a throw to first base, accidentally stepped on Hudson’s leg above the ankle. This resulted in an ankle fracture that ended Hudson’s 2013 season. In the video you can see Hudson’s lower leg bend (and eventually break) under the weight of Young. Hudson would successfully resurrect his career with the San Francisco Giants, thus showing that life doesn’t always end for these athletes after their gruesome injuries.
8. Willis McGahee – Torn ACL, PCL, MCL
A sad fact of this list is that many of the injuries listed here had devastating effects on the careers of its victims. As such, I thought it would be nice to include an athlete who would go on to have a very successful career after their gruesome injury. Such was the case with the incredibly intense leg injury that running back Willis McGahee suffered during his career in College as a member of the Miami Hurricanes. During the 2003 National Championship Game, McGahee would catch a screen pass before being on the receiving end of a very violent hit by Ohio State Safety Will Allen. As a result of the hit, McGahee would suffer a torn ACL, PCL, and MCL. Despite this devastating injury, McGahee would still enter himself into the 2003 NFL Draft in which he was selected in the 1st round by the Bills.
7. Jason Pierre Paul – Missing Finger(s)
We talked earlier about the completely understandable, football related, injury which led to the loss of Arizona Safety Rashad Johnson’s finger. In contrast, I present to you the story of Jason Pierre-Paul. During the summer of 2015, news reports began to surface that the New York Giants All-Pro defensive end had suffered a severe injury to his hand while setting off 4th of July fireworks. These reports were later verified and it was revealed that Paul had lost actual portions of several of his fingers in the incident. Perhaps the greatest part of this story (at least from a writer’s standpoint) is that Paul was previously known for his ability to bat down balls at the line of scrimmage. Kind of hard to do with only eight fingers.
6. John Cena – Broken Nose
The #1 argument for critics of professional wrestling is that the action and competition is fake. The fatal flaw in this reasoning is that, though the outcomes are scripted, the maneuvers and acts performed by these phenomenal athletes are very much real. A perfect example of this is the #6 entry on our list, which occurred during an episode of Monday Night Raw in a match between Seth Rollins and John Cena. During the match, Rollins hit Cena with a high knee to the face, knocking him to the mat. Once Cena got back to his feet, it was obvious the trauma which had just occurred. Cena’s nose was clearly broken, and was so askew as to make the 16x World Champion look almost comical.
5. Kris Commons – Weird Leg Lump
For the other entries on this list, I’ve done my best to focus on the incident or circumstances which led to these gruesome injuries. With the #5 entry on our list, however, I cannot get past the picture of the injury itself. What exactly is that on his leg? It looks like his thigh is pregnant, that or this guy has about the world’s biggest pimple on his leg. Soccer players are often criticized (and I think rightfully so) for the outrageousness and insincerity of the “flopping” which has become commonplace in their sport. If there was ever a case for the toughness of soccer players, it would be this injury to Kris Commons. Commons actually finished the game in which this injury occurred. I’d say it’s pretty safe the tackler who caused this deserved more than a yellow card.
4. Kevin Everett – Cervical Spinal Injury
The injury to Buffalo Bills Tight End Kevin Everett wasn’t gruesome due to how it looked when it initially happened, but because of the long-term effects that this injury had on this man’s life and career. During the first game of the 2007 NFL season, Everett was on the kickoff team in the Bill’s game against the Denver Broncos. While attempting to make a tackle, Everett received a devastating hit which knocked him to the ground. Everett was carted off the field and rushed to the hospital where it was confirmed that he had received a severe cervical spine injury, leaving him partially paralyzed. In the years since Everett has regained use of his arms and legs, however his ability to walk is limited and he has been placed on government disability. This is certainly one of the saddest cases on our list.
3. Jessica Dube – Lacerated Cheek and Nose – Mentions video
You don’t often hear the word “gruesome” used to describe the sport of competitive figure skating, but that’s exactly what makes this list so great. Easily the most frightening injury to ever happen in the figure skating world occurred at the 2007 Four Continents Championship in Colorado Springs. During the event, Dube was doing a partner performance when the skate of her male her male partner got much closer to Dube’s face than she expected. The skate severely lacerated the nose and cheek of Dube, causing an immediate stoppage of the performance. Dube was rushed to the hospital where she was amazingly able to make a full recovery. After watching the Dube video, I cringe any time I see a figure skater sticking their bodies a little too close to their partners swinging skates.
2. Anderson Silva – Broken Leg
With some of the entries on this list, those of us watching live were unaware that anything unusual had happened until after the gruesome video replay was shown. Such was not the case with the severe leg injury suffered by UFC fighter Anderson “the Spider” Silva in his fight against Chris Weidman at UFC 168. There are mixed reports concerning whether Silva initially cracked his shin earlier in the fight, however, it is obvious that during a leg kick by Silva in the 2nd round, he severely broke both his tibia and fibula. Watching live you saw Silva’s leg wrap around that of Weidman’s, moving in a way more relative to a Stretch Armstrong doll than an actual human being. The fight was of course immediately stopped, causing one of the more abrupt (and of course gruesome) ends to any UFC fight that I’ve ever seen.
1. Kevin Ware – Severely Broken Leg
I don’t think that you can talk about gruesome sports injuries in any era without discussing the Kevin Ware leg injury. Ware was, of course, a pivotal part of the Louisville University basketball program that one the NCAA Tournament in 2013. Unfortunately, however, Ware will be forever remembered for an injury which occurred in an Elite 8 game against Duke that same year. Ware landed awkwardly after attempting to block a three-point shot attempt by Duke guard Tyler Thornton and suffered a compound fracture to his right leg which protruded several inches out of his shin. ESPN, much to its credit, refused to show replays of the gruesome injury but it still made quite the rounds on the internet and other news sources. After making his recovery, the press continued to focus on Ware through the rehab of his injury until he transferred to another school.