Football is a physical game with some of the biggest athletes in the world colliding with each other. Yes, they wear padding, but our bodies were not designed for such punishment. Players can slip through offensive blocks and do devastating damage to their opponents, resulting in the most severe injuries in NFL history.
Cribbs was one of the fastest and most agile return men in the NFL, but there were serious concerns about his health following a huge tackle against the Ravens. Running at full speed, Cribbs was knocked off balance by one tackler and then knocked unconscious by another.
As soon as the tackle came in everyone knew it was bad as Cribbs’ helmet flew off across the grass. There was so much concern for Cribbs that teammates and opponents dropped to a knee to began saying prayers. It was a devastating injury, but Cribbs recovered and played another three seasons in the NFL.
Leg injuries are common in football as players’ cleats often get stuck in the turf as tackles are flying in. Joe Theismann was one of the greatest quarterbacks in the NFL, but in 1985 his career was ended after an awkward tackle. Theismann’s Redskins were playing the Giants, whose defense moved in for the sack.
Giants defenseman Lawrence Taylor is a two-time Super Bowl champion. He landed on Theismann and as his body weight dragged the quarterback down, Taylor’s leg connected. It broke Theismann’s leg live on TV and Taylor immediately called for medical assistance following the sack.
Head and neck injuries are a big concern in the NFL, and after Darryl Stingley was given a huge hit, he suffered the most devastating injury. Patriots receiver Stingley was trying to catch a pass, but the ball was out of reach. Just because he didn’t get the ball didn’t mean the defense would go easy on him and Stingley was hit with bone shattering force by Jack Tatum.
The impact compressed Stingley’s spinal cord, breaking his fourth and fifth vertebrae. Stingley spent the rest of his life a quadriplegic following the tackle, and the injury forced the NFL to look at better protecting its players. One of the worst things about the injury was that it was in a preseason game, making the injury seem all the more meaningless.
Steelers running back Destry Wright was playing a preseason game against the Cowboys when injury struck him down. Following a play, Wright dislocated his right ankle while breaking his leg at the same time. The injury was memorable because of a picture taken during the game. It shows Wright laying on the ground in pain while one foot points south and the other is twisted 180 degrees in the opposite direction.
Injuries in football are inevitable. When you put guys on the field who have such devastating speed and power, it’s only a matter of time. These injuries are the most severe ever seen on the football field as they ended careers, and in one case, changed a man’s life forever.