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Five of the worst career ending football injuries
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A career ending injury can happen at any time to any athlete, but more often a professional sports career that ends due to injury does so because of the cumulative effect of injuries received over a period of time. NFL football is one of the most violent sports, and it's not surprising when a career ending football injury occurs on the field; what is surprising is that they don't happen more often.
Here are five of the worst career ending football injuries suffered by NFL players:
Joe Theismann, Washington Redskins, November 18, 1985
In what may be the most well-known and most-watched football injury in NFL history, Washington Redskins quarterback Joe Theismann's career ending injury came at the hands of New York Giants linebacker Lawrence Taylor.
Although the crack of Theismann's bone breaking may not have been audible to the stadium and home audience, the images of his horribly broken leg were very visible, thanks to the zoom lens of the television cameras.
Ultimately the most severe career ending football injury came to Mike Utley in his third year with the Detroit Lions. Utley made a routine tackle in a game in the Silverdome against the Los Angeles Rams that wasn't so routine. As he was carried from the field, Utley gave a thumbs-up to his teammates and the crowd, a sign that indicated he had movement in his arms. That was about all he had, however, as the tackle fractured his 6th and 7th cervical vertebrae, and left him paralyzed from the chest down.
Just six years after Mike Utley was injured, second-year linebacker Reggie Brown received an eerily similar career ending football injury when he made a tackle against a New York Jets ball carrier.
On the field, Brown stopped breathing and had no sensation in his limbs. It was first thought his injury, which caused two vertebrae in his neck to shift, would leave Brown paralyzed from the neck down.
However, on January 7, less than a month after being hurt on the football field, Brown stood up and walked to a podium at the hospital where he was being treated and told reporters "I'm okay."
Michael Irvin, Dallas Cowboys, October 10, 1999
In a game against the Philadelphia Eagles at Veterans Stadium, Michael Irvin made the 750th, and last, reception of his career. Irvin fell on his head, injuring his neck and back and was motionless on the field long enough for many people to think of the terrible injuries suffered by both Utley and Brown.
Although Irvin was not as seriously injured as either Utley or Brown, this was a career ending injury for him, and he never suited up again.
Kevin Everett's career ending football injury came when he received what doctors called a "catastrophic" and life-threatening spinal cord injury in a football game against the Denver Broncos, and was never expected to walk again if he survived.
But within just three months of his on-field football injury, Everett was walking on his own, having regained the use of the limbs he couldn't move on the field immediately after being injured.
Although professional football is a violent sport, relatively few NFL players have received a single on-field career ending injury like those described above. With measures the NFL is taking to prevent and mitigate the impact of other football injuries players receive during a game, it's possible fewer players will be forced to retire due to injury than ever before.
ESPN, 75: Theismann's career ends with gruesome injury, by Rick Weinberg
Mike Utley Foundation
The 12th Man Magazine, The Long Climb Back, by Tom B. Turbiville
ESPN, Surgeon: Everett has life-threatening spinal cord injury, Associated Press
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