Near death experiences have a way of changing a person’s outlook on life and can sometimes severely limit their victim’s physical abilities. These incidents can occur during normal everyday activities or through the course of the sports in which these athletes engage. The transformative ability of near death experiences can sometimes give the victim clarity and perspective on their lives, but for others can be traumatic and personally devastating.
Athletes often experience injuries during the course of their sporting endeavors, it is almost expected as a hazard of the job. No athlete takes the field of play thinking it could potentially be their last act, however several of these athletes found themselves in circumstances where their lives were in danger because of their occupation. Every sport has its potentially dangerous elements and some of these incidents exposed the vulnerabilities that athletes contend with on a regular basis.
Some of the athletes on this list used these incidents as inspiration as they went on to achieve further success. For others, it represented the end of their athletic endeavors, but they remain closely associated with the sports they influenced. These experiences taught fans to appreciate the risks that athletes take when plying their trades and in some cases changed the way that sports approached certain injuries. In many cases, these athletes can thank the quick response of athletic trainers, team doctors, and surgeons for saving both their lives and their careers.
10 D.J. Hayden – Football
A seemingly innocent collision during a full contact practice at the University of Houston, actually almost ended the life of D.J. Hayden. In 2012, Hayden collided with teammate Trevon Stewart as they both went up for an interception, and it left Hayden in terrible pain. 48-year athletic trainer Mike “Doc” O’Shea sensed something was out of the ordinary and rushed Hayden into the locker room. As Hayden’s condition deteriorated, O’Shea called an ambulance and the EMTs rushed him to Memorial Hermann Texas Trauma Institute.
9 Brock Lesnar – Mixed Martial Arts, Professional Wrestling
8 Eric Abidal - Soccer
Eric Abidal was diagnosed with a liver tumor in October 2011, during his campaign with Barcelona. He underwent surgery to remove the tumor two days later. That May, he played all 90 minutes of Barcelona’s Champions League Final win over Manchester United and was presented with the captain’s armband for his remarkable return. However, Abidal’s battle was far from over. In March 2012, Abidal revealed that he would have to undergo a liver transplant because the first surgery had been unsuccessful.
7 Fabrice Muamba – Soccer
On March 17th, 2012, Fabrice Muamba took the field for Bolton Wanderers against Tottenham Hotspur in an FA Cup tie at White Heart Lane. Medical staffs from both teams rushed onto the field to treat Muamba after he collapsed during the first half, suffering from a heart attack. Dr. Andrew Deaner, a cardiologist attending as a fan, helped administer cardiopulmonary resuscitation (CPR) on the pitch and Muamba was wheeled off the field on a stretcher.
6 Vladimir Konstantinov – Hockey
Following their Stanley Cup Triumph in 1997, Vladimir Konstantinov, Viacheslav Fetisov, and Detroit Red Wings masseuse Sergei Mnatsakanov were celebrating at a private party, which they left via limousine. That night, limo driver Richard Gnida allegedly fell asleep at the wheel, jumped a curb, and crashed into a tree. Konstantinov suffered serious head injuries, was paralyzed, and fell into a coma. Mnatsakanov also suffered head injuries which left him in a coma. Fetisov walked away with minor injuries and continued his career, but Konstantinov’s hockey career was over.
5 Travis Pastrana – Motocross
4 Jonny Gomes – Baseball
3 Rulon Gardner – Wrestling
2 Paul Kruger – Football
1 Serena Williams – Tennis
Serena Williams is one of the most decorated female athletes of her generation, matched only by her sister Venus. She suffered a cut to her foot and a ligament tear as a result of stepping on a glass in Munich, Germany in June 2010. In March 2011, she complained about difficulty breathing and had swelling in her leg. At the insistence of her physiotherapist, Williams went to the hospital, a decision that likely saved her life. At the hospital, doctors uncovered several pulmonary embolisms in her lungs. Her treatment required twice daily doses of blood thinners and surgery, which likely saved her life. Williams recovered from her injury to win Wimbledon for the fifth time and a gold medal at the 2012 Summer Olympics.
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