Worst NFL Injuries Of All Time: Top 5 Hard-To-Watch Moments In Football, According To Experts

Today’s NFL football players are simply modern versions of the gladiators from history. They have a way of keeping audiences enchanted with their physical prowess and strength. There’s nothing more invigorating than watching these big, burly NFL football players run as fast as they can and then knock each other down aggressively without restraint. These powerful athletes might seem invincible, but when that unbridled aggression takes a turn for the worse, it can result in some of the worst NFL injuries ever imagined.

Football can be dangerous. A new study shows that professional athletes on the gridiron don’t necessarily need a concussion to increase their risk of developing CTE (chronic traumatic encephalopathy). Instead, players’ odds of developing CTE were related to how many head impacts they received as well as how hard those head impacts were.

And with so many concussions occurring in football players, they don’t just take you out of the game for a few weeks. The effects are long-lasting. Research shows that retired athletes who suffered concussions during their career have an increased risk of developing both dementia and high blood pressure.

With the rough nature of the sport, we have looked back at some of the moments in football history that made us cringe in the past. StudyFinds has compiled a list of the worst NFL injuries that have plagued players in past years. Do you remember seeing an NFL player get injured while watching a game? Share your experience in the comments below.

aerial photography of NFL logo printed on field
NFL logo (Photo by Adrian Curiel on Unsplash)

The List: Worst NFL Injuries, According to Sports Experts

1. Johnny Knox (2011)

Wide receiver Johnny Knox enjoyed three NFL seasons with the Chicago Bears before he became infamous for one play that ended his career. “During a 2011 showdown against the Seattle Seahawks, Knox crashed into Anthony Hargrove. The former fifth-round receiver was immediately ushered into surgery. In doing so, he avoided paralysis. However, his NFL career was done and over with,” writes a reviewer at Sports Keeda.

But what exactly happened between the time he stepped onto the field and being rushed into surgery? Twin Spires shares the horrifying details: “In a late-season game against the Seattle Seahawks, Johnny Knox caught a pass over the middle of the field and then lost the ball on a fumble…As he dove down to recover the ball, he collided in mid-air with Anthony Hargrove, a defensive end also going for the ball. The collision just looked like a hard hit in real-time, but replays showed Knox was bent in halfthe wrong way. His back was nearly touching his rear end.”

Although injuries to limbs are typically commonplace among football injuries, Knox’s injury story is legendary because of the graphic video footage of his pain and suffering when a tackle bent his back the wrong way, leading to multiple vertebrae fractures, according to Insider. 

“Despite quite a bit of rehab, the promising young receiver’s career was over, and he retired a year later without ever playing another snap,” adds Twin Spires.

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2. Joe Theismann (1985)

When quarterback Joe Theismann stepped onto the field against the New York Giants, their longtime rivals, he had no idea this would be a life changing decision. “He would never play another NFL down again,” shares Sports Keeda. “Theismann was crushed by Lawrence Taylor as he made his way up the middle. As a result, Theismann suffered a gruesome injury as his leg was essentially snapped in half.”

His leg was broken from the middle, and Tickets Love says Theismann reported that he was not feeling anything below his knees at the time.

“They were part way through the second quarter when something awful happened,” recalls Ranker. “The Giants went for a blitz, and Lawrence Taylor came barreling into Redskins quarterback Theismann, dragging him down for the sack. As it happened, Taylor’s knee drove into Theismann’s leg, shattering it in a spectacularly graphic way. Taylor instantly began calling for help the moment the play was over, rather than celebrating the hit, and viewers watched on national TV as Theismann lay on the field…The play ended Theismann’s career and left him with one leg permanently shorter than the other.”

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3. Darryl Stingley (1978)

All NFL players know that when they step onto the field they run the risk of serious injury or death or sometimes both. When it comes to the worst NFL injuries, Darryl Stingley’s 1978 injury story is one of the most heartbreaking of all time. A Ranker reviewer recalls the incident: “New England Patriots player Daryll Stingley was going up to catch a pass when Jack Tatum ran into him with both speed and intent. After Stingley went down, he didn’t get up, and he didn’t move, even as medical professionals rushed onto the field. When doctors looked at him, they found that he could not feel anything in his limbs.”

Ranker also notes that Tatum never apologized for the hit that left Stingley unable to walk off the field. According to Sporty Tell, “The collision resulted in a broken spinal cord and 4th and 5th cervical vertebrae.”

The Money wraps up the horrific incident and the long-term toll it took on Stingley, as he “was unable to get up after the collision and became quadriplegic.”

4. Destry Wright (2000)

Imagine you train all of your life for your moment in the NFL spotlight. And then…during your first season as one of the country’s elite NFL players, everything you worked for is gone in an instant. “This was exactly what happened to Destry Wright who played just a season for the Pittsburgh Steelers,” explains Sporty Tell. “In a June 2000 preseason game against the Dallas Cowboys, Wright twisted his ankle, which dislocated and also broke his right leg.”

Marca  adds a more detailed description of the dreadful incident: “Wright’s right ankle dislocated so badly that he was recorded lying on his stomach with his right foot pointing upward.”

According to a reviewer at The Money, Wright’s ankle injury was so bad that he was forced to retire during his first season.

5. Tim Krumrie (1989)

Tim Krumrie was a defensive tackle player for the Bengals, playing in the almighty Super Bowl in 1989. His Super Bowl injury was so horrific that, according to Bleacher Report, the NFL had videos of Krumrie’s injury completely wiped from the internet.

Marca says Krumrie “attempted to tackle Roger Craig on the game’s fourteenth play. Krumrie’s lower left leg twisted beneath his weight as his cleat landed on the ground, breaking four different bones and leaving only his skin holding his foot to his torso.”

Krumrie is the only NFL player on this list who suffered one of the worst NFL injuries of all time and went right back to work. According to Twin Spires, Krumrie “returned for training camp the following summer, and did not miss a single game in the ensuing six years of his career.”

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Note: This article was not paid for nor sponsored. StudyFinds is not connected to nor partnered with any of the brands mentioned and receives no compensation for its recommendations.


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About the Author

Te-Erika Patterson

Te-Erika is the Publisher of The Feisty News for Women, the only full-service news source for women. Te-Erika is also the author of How To Love a Powerful Woman, Leave Your Baby Daddy and Loving Female Led Relationships: Relationships that Empower Women. A graduate of The University of Florida, Te-Erika enjoys a thriving career as a digital content creator that has spanned more than a decade. She enjoys chocolate, wine and solitude, and she is currently living a quiet life in Montgomery, Alabama. Follow her @Te-Erika

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