Athletes spend their entire lives fighting to reach the very top of their field with a strict regime of diet, exercise and training alongside goodness knows what else they do to make it to the elite.
Not always the favorite horse on the Kentucky Derby odds wins the race. Sometimes, lady luck doesn’t smile so kindly on athletes and injuries take away their chance to shine further. Here we look at five of the worst injuries ever seen.
Number 5. Kevin Ware
There are few injuries that carry the same shock value as an open fracture, which is where a broken bone pierces through the skin. That’s the wound a young Kevin Ware found himself with though. Ware was playing in the National Collegiate Athletic Association Basketball (NCAAB) for the Louisville Cardinals. The gruesome moment came in innocuous circumstances as Ware attempted a block before an awkward fall. The point guard did recover from his injury but went undrafted in 2017. He now plays as a pro in Finland.
Number 4. Clint Malarchuk
Ice Hockey stars might be known for their “hard as nails” image but Malarchuk took that to whole new levels in 1989. Malarchuk was keeping goal for the Buffalo Sabres – where he’s widely regarded as one of their greatest ever players – when Steve Tuttle, who was playing for the St Louis Blues, inadvertently caught him with his skate.
It sounds like something that could happen easily but, on this occasion, it sliced open the goalie’s carotid artery and partially hit his jugular. Malarchuk was on the floor with blood pumping from his gash. Several players and fans couldn’t deal with the sight of the injury but the player himself left the ice without the need for a stretcher. What is more remarkable is that he played again just 11 days later.
Number 3. Willis McGahee
Like Ware, McGahee suffered his injury at college level. The running back was highly rated but his career was thrown into doubt before it had even started when Will Allen obliterated him with a hard – but fair – tackle in the Fiesta Bowl. McGahee tore his MCL, ACL and PCL all of which are bad enough on their own.
An insurance package of $2.5m would have been payable to McGahee had he opted to give up on his career. It wasn’t about money though and he decided to enter the 2003 draft where he went on to be a round one pick before spending 11 years in the NFL.
Number 2. Mike Utley
Certain injuries are immediately horrific – see our words on Clint Malarchuk – and then there are injuries that look like nothing but turn out to be horrendous. Mike Utley’s falls into the latter category. The Detroit Lions guard was firmly on his way to establishing himself as an NFL player as he’d started each of the Lions’ first 11 games in the 1991 season.
His life though was turned upside down when he landed awkwardly from a hold with David Rocker of the LA Rams. The blow fractured two vertebrae, which left him paralysed from the chest down. Utley mustered the strength to flick a thumb to the fans on his way off the field though and it’s become the symbol of hope for his charity – the Mike Utley Foundation – that focuses on finding a cure for paralysis.
Number 1. Ray Chapman
It’s quite possible the name Ray Chapman means little to you. After reading this, you’ll never forget it again. Chapman, a shortstop for the Cleveland Indians, was facing the pitch of Yankees man Carl Mays. The delivery struck Chapman in the head at such speed that he collapsed to the floor with blood gushing from his ear. 12 hours later, he was pronounced dead from the injury.
At the end of that season, which was 100 years ago, the style of pitch that resulted in this tragedy was banned and that remains the case today with the spitball still an illegal delivery.
There you have it, five of the worst sporting injuries of all time.