Worst All Time Sports Injury

With so many sports to choose from and the endless number of players in each sport, there are probably multiple candidates for the worst all-time sports injury.  While we may not agree on the top one, I’m sure my picks are right up there. 

Kevin Everett was a player for the Buffalo Bills football team.  On September 9, 2007, he ducked his head while attempting to tackle Domenik Hixon during the season opener against the Denver Bronco’s, and suffered a life threatening spinal cord injury.  He was rushed to Millard Fillmore Gates Hospital where it was reported that he suffered a fracture and dislocation of his cervical spine.  It was classified as catastrophic and his orthopedic surgeon, Andrew Cappuccinno, felt that there would be at least some permanent neurological deficit and stated that he had a statistically very small chance of ever walking again.  The surgeon repaired a fracture between the third and fourth vertebrae using a bone graft and a metal plate and screws in an effort to relieve the pressure on the spinal cord.  At the time, the injury was considered life threatening because Everett was in danger of blood clots, breathing failure and infection.  Immediately after the surgery, Everett had no feeling below his shoulders.  The morning after the surgery there was some voluntary movement in his legs and he was able to feel pressure.

Denver Broncos vs. Buffalo Bills September 9, 2007.
Players wait for word on Kevin Everett. Denver Broncos vs. Buffalo Bills September 9, 2007. Thanks to Hawk Eyes on flickr.com for the picture.

Only two days after his injury Everett showed some improvement in the movement of his arms and legs.  After this, there was guarded speculation that he might even walk again.  Everett was on a respirator until September 11.  Cappuccino described Everett as an athlete with a warrior’s mentality.  While he lay in the hospital facing an uncertain future his main concern was for his family.   

By September 12, Everett was able to move his arms and legs and even wiggle his toes but was not able to control movement in his hands.  Two days later, he was able to move his right hand and on September 17, it was reported that he had movement in both hands and was regaining strength in his legs.  By December 7, Kevin was able to walk on his own but did not have full movement.  He continued to improve.  On April 9, 2008, he underwent another surgery to relieve pain in his neck.  On May 12, 2008, Everett was waived by the Buffalo Bills to make him eligible to apply for permanent disability.  The injury was a career-ender and surely has to qualify him for the all-time worst injury in the history of sports.  

While death may not be classified as a sports injury I didn’t feel this article would be complete without reporting on the death of Minnesota Viking’s Football player, Korey Stringer.  He was only twenty seven years old when he died on August 1, 2001, from heat stroke suffered during a morning practice.  The temperature that day reached ninety one degrees but the heat index pushed the ‘feels like’ temperature to a dangerous one hundred and eleven degrees.  The three hundred thirty five pound, six foot four inch player was treated on the field by the athletic trainer’s for heat stroke symptoms which included rapid breathing and overall weakness.  Stringer had complained of feeling sick throughout the practice.  He was transported to Immanuel St. Joseph’s Hospital in Mankato.  By the time he reached the hospital, he was unresponsive and had a core body temperature of one hundred and eight degrees.  Throughout the day, his organs shut down one by one and after his heart failed, he was pronounced dead at 1:50 AM.  The Center for Disease Control report that people suffer heat related illness when the body’s cooling system is rendered inefficient because of very high temperature combined with high humidity and/or exertion.  A rapid rise in body temperature can cause brain damage and organ failure.  Stringer’s bulked up size and the layers of equipment he was wearing had to attribute to his demise.  Because of his death, the NFL will support efforts to create a heat illness prevention program.  Maybe this was the ultimate worst sport injury ever.

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