The prevalence of sports injuries today is high and wide spread among different kinds of athletes in many different sports. Players are constantly training and honing their skills in order to endure the rigorous demands of competing at an elite level. The amount of pressure put on an athlete to perform results in a training schedule that looks more like a full-time job. Athletes commit to the expectations set by themselves, their trainers, their teams and even their fans in order compete. However, training can’t guarantee perfect health and even the top performing athletes are flawed.
Fortunately, most injuries can be treated effectively and every professional sports team is equipped with athletic trainers and medical professionals ready to assist at any moment. But as much as most injuries can be treated, the recovery period can take anywhere from a couple of weeks to an entire season to the dreadful career-ending injury. Any athlete knows the assumption of risk to their body in sports but incidental contact, awkward landings and unintentional collisions can change everything in one brief moment.
Although Major League Baseball is the least physical sport of the Big 4, it’s certainly no exception to some of the worst injuries in sports history. Since professional baseball was established, one player has died as a direct result of on-field injuries in a Major League Baseball game. But injuries are not surprising given the intensity and duration of the regular season so most professional baseball players go on the disabled list at least once in their career.
While there can be a lot of devastating injuries all over the league, some damage changes more than just the game. Looking back through the history of Major League Baseball, some of these guys have endured a season where they spent more time on the DL than they did on the field. While there are many notable injuries not on the list including Aroldis Chapman’s fractured skull, Ray Fosse’s home plate collision and Mickey Mantle’s blown knee, these top 10 injuries were either worse looking or simply more detrimental to long-term success. Considering bloodiness, broken bones, intensity of impact, recovery period and the level of talent before and after the injury, these are the top 10 worst injuries in Major League Baseball.
10. Mike Cameron & Carlos Beltran – New York Mets
Mike Cameron and Carlos Beltran had one of the nastiest collisions in professional sports. During a game against the San Diego Padres, the two outfielders crashed into each other while diving in an attempt to catch a fly ball. Although both men were knocked out cold and suffered concussions, Cameron sustained the worst of the injuries with multiple facial fractures and had to be carried on the field in a stretcher. Fortunately, both men made full recoveries and were able to continue playing professional baseball.
9. Bobby Valentine – California Angels
Bobby Valentine was first drafted by the Los Angeles Dodgers in 1968. Despite a slow start with the Blue Crew, Valentine’s career took off when he went to play for the Angels. During a game in 1973, the talented shortstop played the outfield for an injured teammate when he sustained a terrible injury. While chasing down a home run, his spikes got stuck in the outfield fence and as his momentum carried forward, Valentine suffered a multiple compound leg fracture. Bobby Valentine spent six months in two different casts and never properly recovered from the break.
8. Chris Snyder – Arizona Diamondbacks
In terms of bizarre injuries, this one takes the cake. During a game against the Milwaukee Brewers in 2008, Chris Snyder took a foul ball in the worst possible place -the groin. Although the initial impact didn’t seem that bad, Snyder had to take himself out of the game after playing through the pain for a couple of innings. It was later revealed that the Arizona Diamondbacks’ catcher sustained a fractured testicle that actually required surgery to have it removed. Miraculously, he was only placed on the DL for 15 days.
7. J.A. Happ – Toronto Blue Jays
J.A. Happ was hit on the left side of his head by Desmond Jennings’ line drive last summer during a game against the Tampa Bay Rays. Happ immediately collapsed on the mound and after a few moments of bracing his head, there was blood visibly coming from his left ear. Along with a fractured skull, Happ sprained his MCL and his PCL when he had dropped on the mound after being hit. Despite the bloody ear and line drive, it was actually the damage done to the knee after he was struck by the ball that was the worst. Happ is still waiting to make a full return to the Toronto Blue Jays.
6. Buster Posey – San Francisco Giants
While there was no intent to actually hurt anybody, this home plate collision is the most controversial injury on the list. During a regular season game in 2011, Buster Posey suffered a broken ankle and multiple torn ligaments after Colorado Rockies’ outfielder, Scott Cousins, charged home plate on a go-ahead run. Posey managed to hobble off the field with some assistance but would miss the remainder of the season. Although Cousins received a lot of negative feedback regarding the play, it was considered legal and fair. In 2014, MLB officials implemented an experimental rule to prevent dangerous collisions like this from happening again.
5. Juan Encarnacion – St. Louis Cardinals
In 2007, St. Louis Cardinals’ outfielder, Juan Encarnacion was warming up in the on-deck circle when he was struck in the head by a teammate’s foul ball. He suffered multiple fractures to his left eye socket as well as damage to the eye which ended his season. It was announced, in 2008, that Encarnacion would not to return to play with the St. Louis Cardinals. In fact, that game in August of 2007 would be the last Major League Baseball game Juan Encarnacion would ever play.
4. Tony Saunders – Tampa Bay Devil Rays
Tony Saunders broke his arm during a game against the Texas Rangers in 1999. The young southpaw threw a wild pitch when his arm snapped and Saunders dropped to the ground screaming and writhing in the pain. At the time, the former World Series champion was considered a young talent with an immense amount of potential. Unfortunately, this injury was the beginning of his downfall as Saunders would continue to struggle to stay healthy. Saunders managed to recover from this only to break the same arm again the following year, forcing him to retire at age 26.
3. Tony Conigliaro – Boston Red Sox
Tony Conigliaro was signed by the Boston Red Sox in 1962 and made his rookie debut with the team in 1964. But it was the unfortunate night in August of 1967 when Conigliaro’s life would change forever. During a home game against the California Angels, Jack Hamilton hit Tony in the face with a fastball. Conigliaro suffered a fractured cheekbone, a dislocated jaw and damage to his retina that would later greatly impact his vision. The Red Sox slugger made a remarkable comeback the first year he returned to baseball but finally had to retire in 1975 due to the ongoing deterioration of his eyesight from the damage done in 1967.
2. Bryce Florie – Boston Red Sox
Bryce Florie was struck with a line drive during a game against the New York Yankees in 2000. Florie suffered multiple broken bones and damage to his retina along with the unforgettable image of his blood-streaked face and busted right eye. This injury is easily the goriest injury on the list as Florie’s face was covered in blood and his right eye had instantly begun to swell and bruise. Although Florie made a commendable comeback the following season, the Boston Red Sox released him 7 games later. He did not return to Major League Baseball following his release.
1. Ray Chapman – Cleveland Indians
During a game against the New York Yankees in 1920, Carl Mays hit Ray Chapman in the face with a fastball. Chapman fell unconscious at the hospital and suffered a depressed fractured in his head that was roughly three and a half inches long. The ball had hit him so hard that his skull had broken and pieces of it had lacerated parts on both sides of his brain. He had left the field on a stretcher and passed away in the early hours of the morning due to his injuries. Ray Chapman is the only baseball player to die from an injury sustained during a Major League Baseball game.