Injuries are part of playing sports, but sometimes we wonder if sports injuries have to be so devastating. Players bank on their health for a paycheck and, at the same time, they have to entertain demanding fans. If they don’t perform, they won’t be around for long.
Some think that some sports, like football, need an overhaul because of the severity of injuries when they do occur. Should national leagues be paying more attention to these injuries? And, what can be done, if anything, to minimize or eliminate them?
Here are just a few examples of devastating sports injuries and what could have been done to prevent them.
Notable Career Crushing Sports Injuries
When Super Bowl Winning quarterback Joe Theismann was forced into early retirement, he couldn’t even call on a personal injury attorney. He suffered a famous injury which broke two bones in his right leg on the field, in front of America, on Monday Night Football.
Really, it was all part of the game. Who could have seen that tackle coming from Lawrence Taylor? After that, he never played again and it arguably more well-known for this play than his successful career.
What could have been done to prevent an injury like this? It’s hard to say. The Washington Redskins aren’t a minor league team, and they do take care of their players. Football is a rough sport, and it’s not conducive to rules like “two-hand-touch.”
What probably needs to happen in this sport is a revision of how the game is played, which would fundamentally change the sport and possibly its fanbase.
Mike Utley was an offensive lineman for the Detroit Lions. In his third year, he was critically injured – an injury to his sixth and seventh cervical vertebrae left him paralyzed from the chest down. How did it happen? A pass gone wrong. David Rocker, a rookie out of Auburn, lined up opposite him. As the ball snapped, the two men ran at each other like two freight trains at full steam. Lions QB, Erik Kramer, dropped back and threw a pass to Robert Clark.
Just as the ball sailed over Utley’s head, Rocker jumped up to try to block it, and Utley lost his balance and fell to the ground. Before he could catch himself, his head hit the ground and Rocker landed on top of him. It was all over.
How do you prevent accidents like this? Again, this is the nature of the sport, but perhaps better helmet gear or possibly more balance training for athletes. But sometimes, just sometimes, accidents happen.
What’s unique about the Steve Moore incident is that it was totally preventable.
Moore was a hockey player and, during a game between the Vancouver Canucks and the Colorado Avalanche, Moore fought Vancouver’s Matt Cooke. Moore earned himself a 5-minute major. Later on, Todd Bertuzzi was sent out onto the ice and tried to pick a fight with Moore, but couldn’t sucker Moore in. The Colorado centerman turned away and Bertuzzi sucker-punched him. Moore went down, and piled on top of him, along with several other players.
At the end of it, Moore was out of action and would never play again. He suffered three fractured neck vertebrae and a concussion. How do we stop incidents like this? Simple, we create severe penalties for fighting and especially for gratuitous violence. Maybe that diminishes the sport of hockey a little, where people almost expect to see a fight. But, these fights aren’t accidents. They’re reckless acts of violence that can end careers.
Culpepper was the Vikings quarterback in 2004, but he sustained a major knee injury during a game in 2005, which he never recovered from. He ended up damaging three of the four major ligaments in his knee and was placed on IR.
How could accidents like this be prevented? They can’t. But, what can happen is better preventative maintenance and proper rehabilitation. Culpepper was never able to come back to his pre-injury state, but perhaps better medical technology, intensive strength training, and more time for recovery would let players like this continue playing.
Beukeboom was a hockey player who had enjoyed 15 long years in the NHL, but his career was ended when he was sucker-punched by Matt Johnson in 1998. Beukeboom tried to recover from the incident, but he continually suffered from memory loss, nausea, confusion, and headaches.
He was eventually diagnosed with post-concussion syndrome and had to retire. Again, these types of injuries are totally preventable. What’s odd is that violence like this is perfectly acceptable in a sports context and yet an ordinary person on the street would be charged with assault. Changing the rules of the game would be the only way to keep players, like Beukeboom, on the ice and entertaining fans.