Remember seeing Redskins QB Joe Theismann’s leg get destroyed on Monday Night Football? Watching Giants legend Lawrence Taylor giving Theismann an extra leg joint was kind of like watching a Bea Arthur sex tape–highly disturbing, strangely compelling, and thankfully, that wasn’t us in either scene.
But most sports injuries are of the garden-variety type (think ankle sprains and groin pulls), but every once-in-a-while an athlete sustains a truly grotesque, stomach churning, pants shitting injury that, unlike a Golden Girl sex-a-thon, gets replayed on Sportscenter again…and again…and again.
Here are ten of the most horrifying sports injuries of all-time, all rated with your handy Theismann-O-Meter.
10. NAPOLEON MCCALLUM
You’re going to see a lot of football injuries on this list, with Joe Theismann’s leg being the granddaddy of them all. But McCallum’s was worse…way worse. Like Theismann’s was a hangnail compared to McCallum’s injury. After being drafted by the L.A. Raiders (yes kiddies, L.A. had the Raiders before Oakland) out of Navy, McCallum shared carries with Marcus Allen before being relegated to special teams duties. Once again, Monday Night Football is the scene for a cringeworthy leg injury. In the first game of the 1994 season, McCallum was tackled and twisted to the ground by the 49ers Ken Norton.
If you quite hadn’t figured it out, the human knee is not supposed to bend like that…ever. McCallum’s cleat had stuck in the ground, making it impossible for his leg to move, while his body was twisted like a pretzel. He suffered a complete hyperextension to his left knee, tore three ligaments, tore the calf and hamstring from the bone, and ruptured an artery. Needless to say, McCallum never played football again.
9. BORJE SALMING
A ton of hockey players end their careers with so many scars that their faces resemble a Picasso painting. It’s not so bad for the more handsome of players (see Yzerman, Steve), but for those guys whose face started out looking like it was stepped on by a golf cleat, the end result of too many sticks to the grill has horrifying results.
Enter one of my childhood heroes, Borje Salming.
Salming was a Swedish defenseman who played for the Toronto Maple Leafs back in the 1970’s and ’80s. And unlike Swedish women, the men are, for lack of a better term, ass-ugly.
But Salming was a great defenseman, despite having a face like a half-chewed caramel. That is until his face was carved up by a wayward skate. In a game against the Detroit Red Wings, way back in 1986, Salming was knocked down in front of his own net. While sprawled on the ice he got a face-full of Gerard Gallant’s skate blade. The injury required facial surgery and over 200 stitches to his face, leaving him looking like this…
And countless hours of reconstructive surgery left him looking like this…
Salming retired in 1993, went into the sports underwear business (Salming Underwear…real friggin’ original), then posed nude at the age of 56 for some paintings on display at The SPORT Gallery in Toronto. Go check it out if you like old scary naked Swedish dudes.
8. SID VICIOUS
Wrestling is stupid, fake, and not the least bit entertaining to anyone with a high school education. But goddamn, the moves those guys pull in that squared circle sometimes impress even me. So I find it amazing that these roided-up freakshows aren’t seriously injured more often.
Enter Sid Vicious.
Vicious has that “I will eat your children” look permanently etched on his face…which compliments his chiseled physique quite nicely. Shows you what hours in the gym, and needles in the ass will do for you. But Sid was soon to get a lesson in gravity and the unforgiving nature of the ring floor.
If you’re wondering why Sid’s boot is flopping around like that, it’s because both his fibula and tibia are busted. One of the bones actually penetrated the skin, making this a compound fracture. If that boot wasn’t on…there’s a good chance your computer screen would be covered in your own vomit.
7. BRYCE FLORIE
If you’re like me, then you too were probably thinking “who the fuck is Bryce Florie?” Besides being your typical middle-of-the-road pitcher who played with multiple teams, Florie also has the distinction of nearly being decapitated in the middle of a game. In 2000, when Florie was pitching for the Red Sox, he took a line-drive to the eye off the bat of the Yankees Ryan Thompson. The scary looking incident could’ve been worse…the ball could have hit him in the nuts (thereby making his injury both frightening and hilarious).
The smash broke Florie’s orbital socket and cheekbone, and caused damage to his retina. Surgery was required to relieve the pressure in the surrounding area, thereby saving Florie’s eye.
Amazingly Florie returned to the mound a year later to pitch…making an inspiring and triumphant return to pitch once again for the Red Sox.
Who then released him after 7 games.
6. TYRONE PROTHRO
Tyrone Prothro will forever be known for two things in his life–his amazing catch against Southern Mississippi (for which he won an ESPY award), and fracturing both bones in his leg in a game against the University of Florida, both of which happened while he was a star wide receiver at the University of Alabama.
If that picture doesn’t make you piss yourself…here’s the video (complete with slow-motion, multi-angled, cringeworthy instant replay)…
Prothro tried valiantly to return to the gridiron, enduring countless hours of surgery, rehab and physical therapy, but to no avail. Eventually he was placed on medical hardship scholarship in 2007. On a brighter note though, he did earn his bachelor’s degree in the College of Human and Environmental Sciences.
5. ALLAN RAY
Ray was one of those guys who had a great college career but never quite made it in the NBA. Playing for the Villanova Wildcats, Ray would amass 2000 points as a Wildcat, with his best year being his final year at Villanova, when he averaged 19.1 ppg and was named to the Big East first team. This was back in the 2006 season…the same year he had his eye poked out.
In the Big East tournament, in a game against Pitt, Ray was poked in the eye by Pitt’s Carl Krauser. The incident left him temporarily without vision, and his eyeball had seemed to come loose from the socket.
Don’t believe me…here’s the photographic and video proof (definitely not for the squeamish)…
Fortunately this was one of those “it looks worse than it is” cases. The vision returned, and the damage was limited to the soft tissue surrounding the eye. Which was good for Ray–seeing that he signed a $2 million contract to play basketball in Italy.
4. TRAVIS PASTRANA
Travis Pastrana is a motocross champion and stunt performer, who has the rather unfortunate nickname “Gimp”. Travis is also one lucky son-of-a-bitch…which, after researching his near-death accident, makes me think Pastrana is Italian for “Suck My Balls, Death.”
Back in 1998, when Travis was 14 (which means he was born in 1983–the year I bought Thriller), he attempted a jump of 120 feet on his motorbike…but came up short. The accident separated his spine from his pelvis, which is pretty well incompatible with, you know, life.
But Pastrana didn’t die…although he did spend two weeks in a coma and three weeks in a wheelchair. Oh, and according to doctors, Pastrana is one of only three people to have survived this type of injury…that’s right, one of three. Which makes him totally badass for a) being a motocross champ, and b) kicking death in the balls.
Unfortunately hours of intense research came up empty for any pics or videos of Pastrana’s accident, so here’s an artist’s rendering of Pastrana immediately after the frightening crash…
That pic will haunt your dreams forever.
3. SHAUN LIVINGSTON
Shaun Livingston is an oft-injured NBA guard who had the unfortunate luck of being drafted by the LA Clippers right out of high school. Then he had the unfortunate luck of blowing up his knee…and everything in it.
A couple of years ago Livingston, in a game against the Charlotte Bobcats, landed awkwardly after going in for a layup–and by awkwardly I mean his leg went sideways. He tore both the anterior and posterior cruciate ligament, as well as the lateral meniscus, sprained the medial collateral ligament, and dislocated his patella and tibia-femoral joint.
How graphic was the injury? ESPN warned viewers of the graphic nature of the video before airing it. But judge for yourself (and consider yourself warned)…
At the time of this article, Livingston, despite missing 101 of 246 regular season games, just recently signed a multi-year deal with the Oklahoma City Thunder.
No word if he injured his wrist signing the contract.
2. STEVE YEAGER
Baseball catchers have a pretty demanding job. They gotta squat all day, while some pitcher chucks a hard, white sphere at them at 100 mph. Sure they got protection, but that only goes so far. Just ask former Dodgers catcher Steve Yeager.
Yeager played 14 of his 15 seasons with the Dodgers, winning a World Series in 1981, as well as being named the series MVP. But it was a gruesome accident in 1976 that led to the creation of one of the most important baseball protective devices in the game’s history.
While standing in the on-deck circle, a piece of teammate Bill Russell’s shattered bat hit Yeager in the throat, piercing his esophagus. It took over an hour and a half of surgery for doctors to remove the nine (yes, nine) pieces of wood lodged in Yeager’s throat.
To protect Yeager’s neck when he returned from his injury, Dodger trainer Bill Buhler invented a throat protector that hung from Yeager’s mask. Pretty soon most of the other major league catchers followed suit, adopting the Steve Yeager inspired throat protector.
Thankfully though, the other major league catchers didn’t follow Yeager’s foray into nude modelling. The Dodger catcher famously posed nude for Playgirl magazine in 1982…a sight even more stomach-turning than a guy with 9 chunks of wood lodged in his throat.
1. CLINT MALARCHUK
If Chuck Norris could ever procreate (his sperm kills every woman he sleeps with), then Clint Malarchuk would be his love child. Most sports fans know who Malarchuk is…and why March 22, 1989 will forever be linked to the former Buffalo Sabres goalie.
In a game against the St. Louis Blues, Malrchuk’s carotid artery, one of the largest blood vessels in the human body, was slashed by the skate of Blues player Steve Tuttle. Blood began pooling on the ice quickly, and the scene was so disturbing that nine fans fainted, and two others had heart attacks. Meanwhile, Malarchuk was literally dying in front of thousands of spectators.
But death would have to wait, thanks to the instinctive reactions of team athletic trainer (and former army medic) Jim Pizzutelli, who reached into Malarchuk’s neck and pinched the artery until doctors came to suture the wound. Even more amazing was that a week later, after only spending one night in hospital, Malarchuk was back in goal for the Sabres.
To add to Malarchuk’s legendary badassness was the infamous gun incident from 2008…you know, the one where Malarchuk accidentally shot himself in the chin with a .22 caliber rifle. When paramedics arrived to assist the bleeding Malarchuk, the goalie refused treatment, before finally relenting and allowed the EMT’s to transport him to hospital.