Sports and injuries go hand in hand. It’s enough of a freak-out having your star player go down with a torn ACL in-game during the season but athletes are not just robotic cyborgs programmed explicitly for perfect physical execution specifically catered to serve our desires as they perform for our favorite sports team or fantasy lineup. Sometimes they are total dummies that do dumb human stuff that gets them irrevocably hurt for the rest of their athletic careers. Other times, some other idiot comes along and messes everything up for them in awful and gruesome ways. Athletes – they are just like us!
The most recent example of this happened over July 4th weekend when Giants defensive lineman Jason Pierre-Paul blew off his index finger while playing around with some high-grade fireworks. The worst part about it is that Pierre-Paul is a free agent and has been involved in intense negotiations with the Giants over a new contract that is now up in the air due to his shenanigans. Not to be outdone, Tampa Bay Buccaneers cornerback C.J. Wilson was just placed on the injured reserve/retired list after also blowing off a couple fingers this past July 4th whilst playing with fireworks. Man, this July 4th was brutal for defensive NFL players!
With these tragic yet pretty stupid injuries in mind, we thought it prudent to put together a list of 15 players that have faced either career-threatening injuries after which they were never the same, or injuries that altogether forced these players to retire. Some of these are truly unfortunate accidents that happened on the field whether due to their own actions or the accidental interaction with another player (sometimes their own team member) and some of these are just ridiculous, occurring under bizarre and nearly laughable circumstances.
13 Robert Edwards, New England Patriots
This was a rough one if you can remember it. Edwards racked up 1,115 yards on 291 attempts and 9 TDs for the Pats during his rookie year. He was rewarded with a ticket to the Pro Bowl where Edwards accidentally blew out his knee during a rookie flag football game. His leg was so messed up he was told he barely escaped having it amputated. Edwards would return four years later (to give you an idea of how ACL injury recoveries have advanced in the modern era) to briefly play for the Miami Dolphins but his career was effectively over in the NFL.
12 Nick Kypreos, New York Rangers
Kpyreos had been a member of the 1994 Rangers Stanley Cup team but things got fairly dumb a few seasons later. As a member of the Toronto Maple Leafs in 1997, Kypreos suffered a severe concussion when his head hit the ice after a fight against a member of his former team, the New York Rangers, during a freaking preseason game. Not a real game. Not practice. A PRESEASON game. After the injury, Kypreos was diagnosed with post-concussion syndrome and was forced to retire at the age of 31.
11 Daunte Culpepper, Minnesota Vikings
Culpepper struggled somewhat early in his career (even though he had Randy Moss in his prime) but showed up big time in 2004 during a season in which he accrued 5,123 total yards. In 2005, things started off a little rough for Culpepper (ahem, SMALL HANDS , ahem) but they got worse once Culpepper suffered an injury to his ACL, PCL and MCL. Culpepper would attempt comebacks with the Dolphins, Raiders and eventually the Lions but his NFL promise was never the same after that initial injury.
10 Jeff Beukeboom, Edmonton Oilers
Beukeboom was the epitome of an NHL bruiser, hell-bent on punishing the opposition and bullying anyone not wearing the same colors he had on. Unfortunately, Beukeboom’s style of play as a goon backfired when he suffered a serious concussion from a sucker punch doled out by Matt Johnson of the L.A. Kings. Althought Johnson would face a 12-game suspension for the deliberate act, Beukeboom would not recover completely and retired just five months after the hit.
9 C.J. Wilson, Tampa Bay Buccaneers
As mentioned in the introduction, Tampa Bay Bucs cornerback C.J. Wilson got a little carried away while celebrating the 4th of July. Wilson was trying to light some fireworks when two of his fingers were blown off. Wilson announced a couple of weeks ago that he would be retiring due to his injuries. Wilson did add that he may attempt a comeback after his injuries heal. He still has time on his side at 25, but he's facing an uphill battle.
8 Kendrys Morales, L.A. Angels
While Kendrys Morales is still carving out a decent career for himself as a designated hitter in Kansas City, his dumb injury a few years ago derailed what could have been an All-Star laden career. While with the Angels back in 2010, Morales had just enjoyed a season in which he was fifth in MVP voting, with 34 home runs and 108 RBIs. The following season, while celebrating a walkoff grand slam with his teammates, he broke his leg after landing awkwardly. That would end his 2010 season and he would miss most of 2011. He has rebounded decently, but hasn't quite reached the level once expected of him.
7 Chris Hanson, Jacksonville Jaguars
In 2003, Jaguars then-coach Jack Del Rio had brought in some wood to the locker room as a motivational ploy for the Jags – perennial losers in a god-awful city - to ‘keep chopping wood’. After an ax was wisely brought in and players began to take hacks at the wood, punter Chris Hanson decided to give it a try. Instead of chopping the wood he nearly chopped off his right foot and was rushed to the hospital.
6 Jay Williams, Chicago Bulls
Williams had just led Duke to its 3rd National Championship and was subsequently drafted by the Chicago Bulls in the first round when he decided to take his bike out for a spin on June 19, 2003. Williams crashed his Yamaha motorcycle and severed a main vein in his leg, fractured his pelvis and dislocated three ligaments in his left knee.
Williams’ injuries required a long rehabilitation process so he was released by the Bulls but later attempted a comeback in 2006 with the New Jersey Nets that fell short a month later when he was released.
5 Stephen Garcia, Montreal Alouettes
Former South Carolina quarterback Stephen Garcia went undrafted in 2012 so had to get his pro football career started north of the boarder. He signed a three year deal with the CFL's Montreal Alouettes, but his stay was shortlived. While getting off a team bus, Garcia flashed the peace sign to fans and injured his two fingers. Garcia was gone from the team the following year. For a guy whose propensity for trouble scared off some NFL teams, it's ironic that it was a time of peace in which he suffered his most embarrassing moment.
4 Joba Chamberlain, New York Yankees
In March 2012, Joba jeopardized his career when he suffered an open dislocation of his ankle whilst jumping around on a trampoline with his son during Yankees spring training. Naturally, the New York media flipped out and quoted several onlookers that feared Chamberlain might die due to his heavy loss of blood.
Chamberlain would return to baseball but was never again the dominant force he showed flashes of being early in his career.
3 Plaxico Burress, New York Giants
After averaging 11 TDs during the 2006 and 2007 seasons with the New York Giants, Burress held out in the offseason for a 5-year incentive-laden contract with the team. Ten games into the season, Burress inadvertently shot himself in the leg in attempt to grab the firearm when his Glock started sliding down his pants while he was in a Manhattan nightclub. Burress served two years in prison for 2nd degree criminal possession of a weapon and reckless endangerment.
Although he had a fairly successful 2011 campaign with the Jets, Burress was completely out of football by 2012.
2 Nate Burleson, Detroit Lions
Nate Burleson really likes pizza. We all like pizza. We all aren’t journeyman wide receivers that pick up our own pizza and then suffer career-threatening injuries because that hot, piping, and delicious pizza slides around while we’re driving home and somehow causes us to crash our car and break our left arm in the process. Pizza is delicious AND dangerous, people. The injury ended Burleson's season and he was cut from the Lions the following winter. After a tryout with the Browns last summer, he was cut and retired from the game.
1 Aaron Boone, Yankees
During the 2003 playoffs, Boone was a Yankee hero with his ALCS Game 7 walk-off homerun against Tim Wakefield. By February he was cut by the Yankees after tearing his ACL in a pickup basketball game. While Boone tried to later revive his career with a few ball clubs he never reached those same ALCS heights. The Yankees did okay, though. They just went out and replaced Boone with some guy named Alex Rodriguez.