The 30 Worst & Most Gruesome Sports Injuries of All TimeStories
Everything is possible in sports – underdogs can defeat favorites, seemingly weaker opponents can beat stronger athletes, teams can secure wins in the last seconds of the match, and so on. We can all agree that sports are great, and that’s why millions of people around the globe are watching sporting events.
However, there are times when athletes push too much, and they test their limits just to find out that they are not invincible. There are accidents between two or more participants caused by negligence in other cases. The final result is injury. Sometimes these sports injuries can be gruesome and make people feel uncomfortable to watch. Those wondering what the worst sports injuries look like have come to the right place.
We’ve made a list of the worst sports injuries ever that cover different sports. Some of these accidents have happened in derby matches. In contrast, others became famous just because of the horrible nature of these incidents. We also have examples of older events and new events (although modern athletes tend to be more careful and protected). So, here are the 30 worst and most gruesome sports injuries of all time!
1. Jessica Dube – Facial cut
Crazy – this is probably the word that will pop into your mind first when you watch the video. Jessica Dube is a former Canadian figure skater. She won several competitions, mostly with her team partner Bryce Davison. Jessica was involved in several accidents, including one that will make your blood freeze. This gross event happened during the Four Continents Championships in 2007. During a synchronized spinning next to her partner, she received a blow to her face from her partner’s skate blade. The ice was covered in blood, and Dube was immediately hospitalized and underwent surgery (she got over 80 stitches). Luckily, Jessica’s eyes were unaffected, and she recovered fast and continued competing.
2. Napoleon McCallum – Knee injury
The worst injuries in sports often force players to retire. One example of an injury that was so bad that it didn’t give any chance to the athlete for continuing his career was the one suffered by Napoleon McCallum. Without any doubt, McCallum was a tough man. After all, he graduated from the U.S. Naval Academy. After graduating, Napoleon became an American football player and played for a year before being assigned to USS California. He returned to the NFL in 1990, but the injury in 1994 ended his career. After a powerful twist by Ne Norton Jr., Napoleon fell to the ground, breaking his knee. The way his leg was twisted will give you the creeps.
3. Oupa Ngulube – Broken leg
If you haven’t heard about Oupa Ngulube, this doesn’t mean that you are not a soccer fan. Barely anyone remembers this player because he had to quit his promising career at a young age. Sadly, people usually know him due to one of the most gruesome sports injuries. Oupa was part of the South African Premier League when his opponent literally crushed his leg in a duel. The perpetrator (Felix Mwamba Musasa) was suspended for eight games even though he apologized and claimed that this was not his intention.
4. Salim Sdiri – Pierced back
Imagine warming up for your jump and being pierced by a javelin. That’s precisely what happened to Salim Sdiri in one of the worst sports injuries of all time. He was at the peak of his career when Tero Ptikamaki threw a javelin (by accident) at him during the IAAF Golden League in Rome. The horrific incident affected Sdiri’s kidney and liver, and it took several months for him to recover. The good news is that Salim got three gold medals in France in the next three years, but the question remains whether he could be even more successful if it wasn’t for the horrific piercing.
5. Tony Saunders – Broken arm
Tony Saunders was a promising baseball pitcher who unfortunately had to give up on this sport after a terrible injury. Tony joined the MLB in 1997 but left the professional baseball league in 1999 during the Tampa Bay Devil Rays – Texas Rangers match. Eager to display his pitching skills, he snapped his arm and broke it. Apparently, the sound of the snapping was heard on the field. Interestingly, after a year, Saunders tried playing again but suffered another injury. This was a clear sign that this was not the profession he was meant to follow. That’s why Tony became a stockbroker after that.
6. Mick Foley – Ear ripped off
Who says that World Championship Wrestling matches were staged and that the wrestlers do everything for the show? If you think so, watch the match between Mick Foley (Cactus Jack) and Big Van Vader from 1994. Mick’s ears were cut after an accident between the ropes, so when Vader grabbed him by one of his ears, it was ripped off. The worst part is that the referee actually took the ear, and the match continued! It’s easy to see why we added this event as one of the most gruesome sports injuries ever.
7. Djibril Cisse – Broken leg
Bad sports injuries can happen at any time. Djibril Cisse, who is still active (a professional football player from France since 1998), knows that very well. In 2004, while playing for Liverpool, Djibril broke his leg after a seemingly ordinary duel with Jay McEvely. It was actually Cisse’s fault (if we can say so) because he accidentally hit the turf with his left leg, which snapped right away. The final result was a broken fibula and tibia, but he returned to the field in less than a year. We should also mention that if it wasn’t for the doctors’ and trainers’ swift reaction at the stadium, Djibril would have lost his left leg.
8. Darryl Stingley – Spinal cord injury
This is one of the worst things that can happen to any person, not just athletes. Darryl Stingley had an excellent career since he started playing in the NFL in 1993. However, things went horribly wrong after a pre-season match against the Oakland Raiders (he played for the New England Patriots). During this match, the unfortunate wide receiver suffered a hit by Jack Tatum. They were both trying to catch the ball when they collided. Actually, Darryl hit Tatum’s shoulder, and this contact was so powerful that it broke a couple of cervical vertebrae. As a result, Stingley became a quadriplegic, and the NFL made changes in their rules protecting players from such awful injuries in the future.
9. Akil Mitchell – Popped out eye
It turns out that even eyes can be part of the most gruesome sports injuries. When Akil Mitchell, an American-Panamanian basketball player, joined the NBA in 2014, his dream came true. He became part of the New Zealand Breakers (NBL – Oceania) two years later. Akil was doing just fine in his team, but the chilling event in 2017 during the New Zealand Breakers vs. Cairns Taipans match almost cost him his vision. After a seemingly harmless duel between Mitchell and Egwu, the gentle poke to the eye made it come out of the socket. This is definitely 18+ material and not for the faint-hearted. Miraculously, this unfortunate event didn’t leave any permanent consequences to his vision. He was back on the court a month later.
10. David Robinson – Knock out
Do you remember the match when Karl Malone put David Robinson to sleep? Let’s start by saying that David was known as the Admiral because he was part of the U.S. Navy for a while, so this guy knew how to take a hit. However, after a reckless move by Karl Malone (in an attempt to catch the ball), David received a blow to the head (Malone used his elbow), which left him unconscious. Everyone was shocked because they didn’t know how bad the injury was. After spending a night at the hospital, Robinson was sent home, and he continued his career without any health problems.
11. Samantha Cerio – Broken legs
Things can go from bad to worse in the blink of an eye in gymnastics. Unfortunately, Samantha Cerio realized that during a significant competition which led to one of the worst sports injuries ever seen. To be honest, she was not a professional gymnast (it was a college competition), but the injuries she sustained are grisly. During a gymnastics routine, Samantha landed awkwardly on both of her legs resulting in two broken legs (dislocated knees, one leg completely broken, torn ligaments, etc.). Cerio still feels pain and is not fully recovered, but she can walk. It’s no surprise she focused on another profession after this debacle.
12. Joe Theismann – Compound fracture of the right leg
We have another football player on our list of gross sports injuries. This time we are reminding our readers of Joe Theismann’s misfortune. This famous quarterback played football for a long period but committed to just two teams. First, he played for three years for the Toronto Argonauts (CFL) and then for the Washington Redskins for 11 years. The truth is Joe would have played longer if it wasn’t for the match against the New York Giants in 1985 when the sack by Harry Carson and Lawrence Taylor crushed the fibula and tibia of Joe’s right leg. You can see from the video how awful this contact looks. As a result, Theismann never played football again.
13. Clint Malarchuk – Neck cut/injury
In some situations, we can blame the sports equipment. Clint Malarchuk’s neck injury is an excellent example of that. The Buffalo Sabres met the St. Louis Blue in 1989 in an exciting match that turned bloody. The odd part is that Malarchuk got his neck cut with a stake blade hit after the collision of two other players. Blood was all over the ice rink because the blade cut the carotid artery. This image was so gross that eleven fans on the stands fainted, and two had heart attacks! The quick and intelligent reaction by the doctors on the rink saved his life). However, Clint never got back in shape and suffered from various psychological disorders.
14. Tony Conigliaro – Cheekbone fracture
Even though baseball is a limited-contact sport, injuries are not something rare. Also, we’ve mentioned that these injuries occurred more often in the past when athletes and federations were not that careful. Tony Conigliaro started his MLB career as a Red Sox player. This right fielder was part of the team when they met the California Angels in 1967. This is when Tony batted against jack Hamilton and received a hit by a pitch. The result was horrific – a broken cheekbone and a dislocated jaw. Even his eye was damaged. It took him over a year to get back, but his return was more than suitable for the team.
15. Zach Miller – Torn artery in knee
We have a football mishap next on the list of worst sports injuries ever. Zach Miller, the tight end who played for the Jacksonville Jaguars, Tampa Bay Buccaneers, and finally for the Chicago Bears, suffered a crazy injury during the match against the New Orleans Saints. As fans watched whether Zach would catch the ball for a touchdown, Miller made a bad landing and dislocated his left knee. The worst part is that there was a good chance for his leg to be amputated. Despite the lengthy rehabilitation process, Zach could not continue playing football, but he was placed on the reserve list.
16. Paul George – Compound fracture of the right leg
Even practice games can be dangerous, and Paul George found that in a difficult way. This NBA player was supposed to play for the U.S. national team in 2014. Still, he suffered an injury during a scrimmage that changed everyone’s plans. He couldn’t blame anyone for landing in the wrong way and hitting the basket stanchion during the match. Paul actually fouled James Harden, but that didn’t matter because he got a compound fracture of the right leg. The scrimmage was canceled, and Geroge made a return about eight months later. It’s worth mentioning that this player was unlucky in December 2021 when he suffered a torn UCL in the elbow.
17. Kevin Ware – Open fracture
It’s not just how you go up in the air – the landing matters too. Yes, we are talking about basketball and one of the most gruesome sports injuries you will ever see. Ware played for Louisville in the NCAA for two years when this unpleasant accident occurred. At first, his teammates and opponents didn’t notice that Kevin was injured because there was no contact between him and another player – he simply jumped to block a shot. Still, an ugly open fracture on his right leg appeared when he landed. Once the bench saw that, players started moving away in disgust. Fortunately, the doctor was calm and did his best to lessen the extent of his injuries. Ware got back to the court after a year and still plays basketball.
18. Sid Vicious – Broken leg
Once again, we have a WCV and WCW wrestler who obviously didn’t fake his performance (at least in this case in particular). It has been 13 years since Sid Vicious started his wrestling career when Sid faced Steiner in a title match. Although Vicious was not known for his aerial moves, the WCW management suggested he should try one during this match because the fans love that. Now that we look at the video clip from the game, we know it was a bad idea. Once Sid Vicious jumped from the corner of the ring and landed on his left foot, it broke in half and looked very bad (pierced skin caused by snapped fibula and tibia). This made the famous wrestler retire for a while, but he got back two years later, this time sticking to ground maneuvers.
19. Shaun Livingston – Broken leg
Everything was going great for Shaun Livingston in the first two years in the NBA. However, during the third season in Los Angeles Clippers, Shaun was part of an unfortunate event that could’ve retired him. Namely, during the match against the Charlotte Bobcats, Livingston attempted a layout and dislocated his kneecap as he fell to the ground. His left was snapped, and viewers can see that clearly on the video even though it’s not H.D. quality. That’s how awful this incident was. Shaun’s left knee was shattered, but he somehow recovered after a complex and lengthy rehabilitation process. Livingston started playing after a year and a half.
20. Marcin Wasilewski – Open leg fracture
Americans often joke about soccer players’ diving, but some of these fouls are real. Marcin Wasilewski can confirm this. This footballer/soccer player played for Anderlecht during a match against Standard Liege (a derby match in 2007) in the Belgian First Division. Marcin tried to stop the opponent by performing a sliding tackle when Axel Witsel simply stomped his leg, crushing it in two. Needless to say, Witsel got a red card and was suspended for eight games. At the same time, Wasilewski underwent surgery for the open fractures on the fibula and tibia of the right leg. It took a long rehabilitation before his return in 2010.
21. Patrick Edwards – Compound fracture of the leg
We’ve watched the video several times, and we have to ask – do those motorized carts have to be there!? One of the worst injuries in sports (especially in American football) occurred in 2008. This was Patrick Edwards’ first active season for the Houston Cougars after sitting out the 2007 season. During the eighth match, against the Marshall Thundering Herd, Patrick entered the end zone and crashed into parked motorized carts left by the band! This is one of the most bizarre things that led to a sports injury that left Edwards with a compound leg fracture. In any case, this was probably the reason why Patrick never played in the NFL.
22. Bryce Florie – Facial injury
Being an MLB pitcher is not just a responsible job. It’s also a hazardous one. Bryce Florie may not be the most famous Boston Red Sox player, but many fans still remember his mishap from 2000. When Ryan Thompson of the New York Yankees practically brought Florie’s ball directly to his face. Given the high speed, Florie was lucky to avoid permanent injuries. However, he suffered a facial injury with broken bones and eye damage. Bryce returned after a few months, but his performance was not that good, so he was forced to leave the Boston Red Sox.
23. Allan Ray – Eye injury
Some of the worst injuries in sports affected players’ eyes. To be honest, this type of injury is rare, and that’s good because they look scary (not to mention that they can leave people blind). Many people suspected that this happened to Allan Ray when he got poked in the eye by Carl Krauser. It was a fierce diel between the two players during the Big East Tournament in 2006. Once Allan got to the hospital, it was clear that there was nothing wrong with his vision and that he suffered soft tissue damage (his eye didn’t leave the eye socket). Allan Ray played for 13 years after this incident.
24. Rick Ankiel – Neck injury
Never run fast, close to a wall! Rick Ankiel is another athlete that was injured due to his negligent actions. During the match against the Philadelphia Phillies in 2009, Ankiel (St. Louis Cardinals) ran to catch the ball and made it. But, the success lasted for just a second because he stumbled and crushed in the outfield wall. The video of this horrific event will undoubtedly make you feel uncomfortable, and you can also see his panicking teammates. The good news is that it was a minor neck injury, and Rick was back in the game after a couple of weeks.
25. Ryan Powdrell – Broken ankle
You don’t need an H.D. video clip to figure out that something terrible has happened in this football match. As a fullback for the USC Trojans, Ryan Powdrell was the team’s backbone, a tough guy who was not afraid to face two or more players at once. But, during the match against the Arkansas Razorbacks, he was put in a sandwich between two players who broke his ankle. The leg was twisted in the wrong direction, and you can see this in the video. Interestingly, Powdrell spent several seasons in different NFL teams in the following years but never played. He ended his career in 2010 after a calf injury.
26. Janos Baranyai – Dislocated elbow
The sounds that Janos Baranyai made during this accident tell us a lot about the level of pain he has experienced. This is one of the worst sports injuries we’ve seen in the Olympics. The Hungarian weightlifter hoped to end among the top 10 at the Beijing Olympics in 2008 but suffered a dislocated elbow instead. Baranyai was attempting to lift 148 kilos, but that was obviously too much for his arms at the moment, or maybe he just didn’t lift them the right way. Anyway, it took him two years to get back on track.
27. Antonio Romero – Rectum injury
We are not sure whether we can count bullfighting as an official sport, but if we do, this has to be one of the most gruesome sports injuries on the list. After all, how many athletes have gotten anal reconstruction surgery? It’s not unusual for bulls to gore bullfighters, but it is very rare for these animals to hit the rectum. Unfortunately, Antonio Romero suffered a precision strike by a bull back in 2017. The 30-centimeter (12 inches) long horn penetrated and caused massive damage to the rectum and sphincter. Luckily, the doctors were able to put everything in order down there.
28. Anfernee McLemore – Dislocated ankle
There are times when teammates can injure each other, and Anfernee McLemore knows that now. He was a promising college basketball player playing for Auburn when his team met South Carolina. After an unsuccessful defensive rebound, McLemore was touched by accident by his teammate leading to an awkward landing that ruined his ankle. This injury was so painful that it made Anfernee scream for help. The prompt reaction of the team soothed the pain, but Anfernee still had to spend weeks to recover. This player continued playing for a couple of years but ultimately decided to start another career. The incident definitely affected this decision.
29. Rudy Tomjanovich – Facial fracture and spinal injury
Most of the gruesome sports injuries we’ve seen are caused by accident, but some were obviously caused on purpose. Something like that happened in the NBA in 1977 when Kermit Washington threw a sucker punch to Rudy Tomjanovich breaking his face and causing spinal injuries. Tomjanovich was in a life-threatening situation for a few weeks but miraculously got back to the NBA the following season. Washington was suspended for 60 days. He is now seventy years old and serving time for identity theft.
30. Stephen Smith – Ear injury
Accidental headbutts can be pretty nasty. Stephen Smith fought Francisco Vargas for the world title in Las Vegas when their heads collided. The collision didn’t look that bad, but when Smith continued the match, the referee saw that his ear was split and blood on the left side of his head. This gruesome injury made Smith lose by a technical decision. Of course, this mishap didn’t stop Smith from competing and even from winning a few other matches (against Newton, Quinn, Phillips, etc.).