As kids, a lot of people grow up obsessed with one sport or another. Many sports-crazed people would love nothing more than to earn a living playing sports, partaking in athletic feats, and earning a living from it. Not many are lucky enough to turn their dreams into reality, but for those who are, those moments must be indescribable, moments of sheer joy. They enjoy basking in the limelight and do it for the rush, the enjoyment, lap up all the attention, the fans, and just love everything about living the sporting lifestyle. It’s safe to assume that for a lot of sportsmen and women, death never really enters their thought processes.
Some sports, the sports people do to get a rush of adrenaline, such as racing cars or motorcycles, can be exhilarating, but also very dangerous. Nevertheless, it doesn’t put athletes off, and in fact, that sense of danger is part of the thrill of it all. There are other sports that can be pretty violent – sports such as football or ice hockey for example. Play these sports professionally, or to a high standard, and you can expect to get bumped around a little bit and get some injuries. But dying playing such sports? It’s always a possibility, but a hell of an unlikely one. It has, however, happened. People have died partaking in these sports, and many other sports around the world, even though you’d think dying in action was unfathomable. It’s truly tragic when it happens, and it always shocks people within the sporting world. These are 15 sports stars who were tragically taken from the world while in action, doing what they loved.
15 Shoya Tomizawa - Run Over On The Race Track
Motorcycle racing is one of those sports that does actually come with a high risk of death. But even so, it’s still an atypical occurrence, and when it occurs, it’s truly shocking. Every death is shocking, but when it happens to someone so young, someone who had his whole life ahead of him, it’s just the worst.
Shoya Tomizawa was a Japanese rider who raced in MotoGP. On the day of his death, September 5th 2010, he was racing in the eleventh round of the Moto2 World Championships in San Marino. He was in fourth place, when he fell from his bike attempting to go around a fast-right-hand bend. His rear tire lost grip, his motorcycle went out from under him and he fell on the track. Those behind him didn’t have enough time to react, and he was hit by the motorbikes of two other riders who were going at a pretty breakneck speed. He received a ton of injuries, was taken to hospital, and by the time the race had finished, he was pronounced dead.
Shoya died at the age of 19, and it hit the world of motorcycle racing hard. He was young, but just a bundle of energy, always smiling, bubbly, vibrant, and with just a tremendous amount of love for everyone around him and the sport he was involved in. Nobody – even the stars – had a bad word to say about him, and he’ll always be remembered in that light.
14 Perro Aguayo Jr. - A Drop-Kick Ended It Instantly
Wrestling can be a dangerous business. It may look like a piece of cake, like it’s no big deal, because it’s scripted, but sometimes moves can be botched, serious injuries can be caused, and disaster could strike. That’s what happened when Mexican wrestler Perro Aguayo Ramirez faced Rey Mysterio and his partner in a tag team match in March 2015. Perro was dropped-kicked, landed on the middle rope, and things were all set for Rey Mysterio to execute that iconic 619. But it didn’t go as planned, because Perro was motionless. Another wrestler at ringside attempted to revive Perro, continuously shaking him. In the meantime, the match continued, and then when it was over, with Mysterio pinning for the win, and everyone started rushing to Perro’s side. He needed medical help, and was rushed to hospital, but it was too late, and he was pronounced dead later that day. Apparently, the cause of death was the drop-kick by Mysterio, which gave Perro whiplash, causing him to snap his neck and fracture three vertebrae. Because of this, he suffered a cervical stroke, and died almost instantly.
13 Phil Hughes - A Cricket Ball To The Neck
Cricket’s another sport that you watch and think that this couldn’t possibly be dangerous. But, batsmen wear all that protective gear for a reason. Think about it for a sec: you’ve got a hard shiny cricket ball being bowled at you from 22 yards away at, on average, around 85 mph. Any science buffs out there will be able to calculate that you’ll have less than half a second to react. If that ball hits you, it could cause serious damage and break things, as it has done to many people on many occasions.
Phil Hughes was rated as one of Australia’s youngest and brightest talents. But during a domestic match in 2014, he missed a bouncer, a short ball, and his career, and his life, came to a premature, tragic end. Even though he was wearing a helmet, the ball hit Phil just below his ear, the area that’s unprotected. He haemorrhaged, collapsed on the pitch, was taken to hospital where he had surgery and was placed into an induced coma. Phil tragically later died, three days before his 26th birthday, causing immense heartbreak throughout the cricketing world.
12 Chuck Hughes - Undiagnosed Heart Condition
Chuck Hughes died in 1971, and remains the only player to die on the field during an NFL game.
Chuck was a wide receiver and was making waves in the world of football. Playing college football, he was rated as one of the best, but things simmered down when he turned pro. For five years, Chuck had to be content to be a backup wide receiver, and people, in hindsight, would’ve probably hoped that he would have remained on the side-lines for the 1971 game when the Lions hosted the Chicago Bears at Tiger Stadium.
Chuck entered the fray late on in the game as an injury replacement. During a play, he began running back, acting a decoy, when he suddenly dropped to the ground, clutching his chest. He began convulsing violently, people noticed, and all the medical personnel who were present in the stadium rushed to try and be of assistance. But it was no use. Chuck was pronounced dead later in hospital. It was discovered he had arteriosclerosis, which caused an almighty heart attack. What makes this incident all the more tragic, is that Chuck had previously gone to hospital complaining of chest pains, but his condition went undiagnosed.
11 Malik Joyeux - One Mistake Cost It All
Now, surfing can be dangerous. Some people may ride the waves for kicks, small-ish waves, and even then, when they fall and get swept under their might, they know of the dangers they pose – it can be frightening. So, imagine riding massive waves, waves that would make any sane person run a mile, but cause surfers to look at them and salivate. That’s what Malik Joyeux did for a living. In fact, he wasn’t just a surfer, he was an all-round waterman.
Massive waves hadn’t caused Malik any problems until that fateful day in 2005 – he took them on with glee. But when he tried to take on an eight-foot wave at Oahu's Pipeline in Hawaii, he fell into serious strife. He dropped into the wave, made some technical errors, lost speed, tried to recover, but it was too late. The ferocity of the wave broke his board, forced Malik under water, and he disappeared for 15 minutes. The ocean had swallowed him up, he couldn’t be located, but was then spotted on another stretch of beach. He had already died.
10 Al Lucas - A Tackle Gone Wrong
I’ve discussed the death of Chuck Hughes, and have mentioned how he’s the only player to die during an NFL game. But he’s not the only player to die on the football field. Al Lucas did briefly have a stint in the NFL, but traded up and chose to play in the AFL with Tampa Bay Storm. He had a pretty big impact, and was turning into one of the team’s star players, but his rise to the top was cut short due to a horrific on-field incident. He was tackled during a kick-off return, during which a knee smacked into Lucas’ helmet. He didn’t get up from the ground, remained motionless, and people instantly knew something had gone seriously wrong. For half an hour, medical professionals attempted to revive him on the field, but with no luck. He had died due to a spinal cord injury sustained during that tackle, and was pronounced dead later that day.
9 Cho Hi - Knocked Out Forever
People talk about the sweet science of boxing. But if you simplify it, break it down to what it really is, it’s a pretty brutal, barbaric sport. As boxers, as sinister as it sounds, you’re essentially dealing with pounds of flesh, and therefore the outcomes of fights can be truly horrific.
Cho Hi, all those with him, and the boxing world, found that out in 2008. The Japanese-based Chinese fighter was boxing on May 3rd 2008, when he suffered an almighty beating at the hands of Daichi Sakoda. The 22-year-old was put on the canvas in the 6th round, and he couldn’t get up. It was an entertaining fight, and there were only seven seconds of the fight remaining, but Cho couldn’t get up. He was unconscious, the fight was immediately stopped, and Cho Hi was rushed away to hospital. He was operated on, in order to remove blood clots, and died 15 days later.
8 Fran Crippen - Drowned During A Competition
Francis Crippen was a pretty awesome swimmer, one of the best around. He spent the vast majority of his career in the pool, swimming in long-distance events, but in 2006 he was after a new challenge and made the transition to open water swimming. Open water swimming is understandably totally different to swimming in a pool. In the pool, various elements can be controlled, and so obviously the dangers are pretty much non-existent. In the open water, you can’t really control the sea, and so over a long distance, weather or the harshness of the sea can change, and when combined with fatigue, it can get swimmers into serious trouble.
In 2010, Fran died while swimming a competitive race in the UAE. Other swimmers noticed his absence at the finish line, and then the search began. After 90 minutes of searching, deep-sea divers came across his body underwater. Apparently, his death had something to do with the sweltering conditions and was deemed heat-related. The sea can be a cruel mistress, even more so in the UAE with the sun beaming down from overhead.
7 Antonio Puerta - Left Behind A Pregnant Girlfriend
Antonio Puerta was a pretty big deal in the world of Spanish football, or soccer. He spent the entirety of his short career playing for one club, Sevilla, and achieved a great deal of success too. By the age of 22, he’d already won five major titles, and had done more than a lot of players would’ve done in their entire careers.
During Sevilla’s first domestic match of the 2007/8 season, Antonino had a heart attack on the pitch. The attacking midfielder was in the penalty area, when he was seen crouching, and then collapsed to the ground. A couple of players saw that he had lost consciousness and rushed to his side, as did everyone else and the medical staff from the side-lines a moment later. He recovered briefly, enough to be able to walk off the pitch, then, when in the dressing rooms, he collapsed again, and was subsequently taken to hospital. It was later revealed that Antonio had died because of a form of heart disease. He had multiple organ failure and had suffered irreversible brain damage because of the cardiac arrests he’d suffered. He left behind his girlfriend, who was pregnant with his child, and the football world in mourning.
6 Wouter Weylandt - Crashed Into A Concrete Guard Rail
Professional cycling may not seem all that dangerous. But when plenty of cyclists are all jostling, vying to get ahead, for a good position, things could get treacherous, as could certain areas of track. The terrain brings with it its own challenges, which makes the fact that these cyclists navigate their way around such courses in the times they do all the more remarkable.
One of these dangerous sections of track is the Passo del Bocco. It’s part of stage 3 of the Giro d'Italia race, and in 2011, it claimed 26-year-old Wouter’s life. Wouter was cycling at about 50mph, descending the track, when he lost control going around a left bend. He smacked into the concrete guard rail, was thrown off his bike, into the road, and smashed into another obstacle. He suffered huge blood loss, and apparently it was a sudden death, so there was nothing anyone could do. At the time of his death, Wouter’s girlfriend was pregnant with his child, making the situation all the more heart-breaking.
5 Todd Skinner - Fell To 500 Feet His Death
Ok, so free climbing is one of those sports that come with a serious health warning and risk of death. Those who free climb, reach crazy heights, are basically adrenaline junkies, and climb for that risk factor – it gets the juices flowing. Todd Skinner was no different. He’s conquered many world-famous peaks, and has free climbed up some massive obstacles.
Todd really was immersed in the world of free climbing. After gaining his degree, he planned to take a little time off in order to climb, but became hooked and turned it into a career. In addition to all of his accomplishments, he also opened training schools, and was something of a motivational speaker.
In October 2008, Todd attempted to conquer the Leaning Tower in Yosemite National Park, North California. He was abseiling down but had some faulty equipment – his harness was worn – and fell over 500 ft. dying instantly, resulting in the loss of a legend.
4 Bill Masterton - The Reason Helmets Are Now Compulsory
Ok, so this is going back a bit now, way back to 1968. But that marked a significant year in the NHL, albeit for the wrong reasons. It was the year Bill Masterton died, and that was significant because it remains the one and only time someone has died in the NHL as a direct result of injuries sustained on the ice.
You’d think, watching NHL, that these guys are made of Teflon. Even those who aren’t, they’re all decked out in protective gear, so if there was some beef, they’d be well protected. But, back in those days, wearing a helmet on the ice wasn’t compulsory, and Bill wasn’t wearing one on that fateful day. During a tackle, Bill was knocked back and smacked his head on the ice. He lost consciousness, and blood started pouring from his nose, mouth and ears. Bill died 30 hours later without ever gaining consciousness. Thankfully, helmets in the NHL are now mandatory.
3 Marco Simoncelli - Lost His Helmet During Major Collision
Motorcycle rider Marco Simoncelli was more than a bit decent racing in the 125cc class. He made the step up to race with the big boys in MotoGP, where he spent a couple of seasons. Marco was still getting acclimatized to racing with new riders, to the bigger bikes, but had already made a name for himself with his style and personality. He was daring, wasn’t afraid to overtake on the track, and off it, he was an immensely entertaining figure.
In 2011, during the Malaysian MotoGP in Sepang, Marco suffered a horrific crash. Two riders collided with him, and during the crash, he lost his helmet, causing him to suffer serious injuries to the head, neck, and chest. He lay motionless on the track, and the race was called off. What made the incident all the more tragic, was that it was his good friend, Italian compatriot, Valentino Rossi, who was involved in the crash. Another young life taken due to the speed and ferocity of motorsports.
2 Tim Hague - Knocked Right Into A Coma
Canadian fighter Tim Hague was just that, a fighter. He was a fighter through and through, and competed in MMA and then boxing during his career.
The heavyweight turned pro in 2006, and had a decent career and fought in some big events, including UFC competitions. When he was released from his UFC contract, he fought in several other promotions, in regional competitions, and actually won a few too. But when he started succumbing to loss after loss, he decided to try his hand at boxing. He made his boxing debut in 2011, but things didn’t really take off. He spent five years out of the ring, but just couldn’t stay away from the fighting game. He returned to fight twice in 2016, but this year, 2017, is the year that marked the end for Tim. Just around a month ago, Tim died due to injuries he sustained during his latest fight against Adam Braidwood. It was a brutal fight, with Tim being knocked down five times in the opening two rounds, before Adam won because of a stoppage. He was in a coma, before passing away in hospital with his friends and family by his side.
1 Piermario Morosini - A Difficult Life Came Unceremoniously To An End
This isn’t about rating deaths, but Piermario Morosini just had to be number one on this list, because he had a truly tough existence. Many people would deem his entire life to be one that was filled with tragedy; it’s amazing he was actually able to make it as a professional soccer player, and concentrate on his passion.
Italian, Piermario Morosini had a tumultuous upbringing, a childhood riddled with tragedy. When he was 15 years old, his mom died. Two years later, his dad died too. He was left to care for his disabled siblings, and then shortly after his dad’s death, his brother passed away, leaving him alone with his disabled elder sister. He said of these terrible times: "these are the things that change your life, but at the same time make you so angry and help you achieve what was also a dream of my parents.” That dream was to play professional football, and he did just that, playing in the Italian leagues.
In 2012, he was on loan from Udinese with Livorno, when he died on the pitch during an away match against Pescara. In the 31st minute, he stumbled to the ground, tried to get up, before falling down again and losing consciousness on the field. Everyone left the pitch in floods of tears, as they knew it was serious. Piermario died before reaching hospital. His elder disabled sister was left with no family, but Piermario’s Udinese teammate, Antonio Di Natale, has taken on the responsibility of financially supporting her and looking after her.
RIP Mario, and the 14 others on this list.
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