Top 10 Gnarliest Injuries in Recent Sports History

Written by James Donnelly 0 minute read

Elite sport is dramatically exciting to watch live, but sometimes sporting glory turns to gruesome spectacle when misfortune or malice strikes and the top 10 worst sports injuries happen. It's not only obvious contenders such as boxing and MMA that can see woe, even golfers can fall pretty to serious injuries. In no particular order here are the top 10 worst sports injuries of recent times.

Gnarliest injuries in recent sports history

Tiger Woods

Series of the Worst Back Injuries

Think of the top 10 worst sports injuries and it's unlikely that golf and golfers are going to be the first things that spring to mind. Unfortunately for Tiger Woods, golfers can (and, in his case, do) suffer some pretty gnarly sports injuries. A double stress fracture in his leg wasn't enough to stop him competing in the US Open in 2008 which he won (luckily for those betting on Bet365), but that's not the only serious injury he's had (and bounced back from).

The man many consider to be the greatest golfer of all time wasn't even in the top 1,000 golfers between August 2015 and January 2018 and only managed to appear in a solitary tournament during that two and a half year period. By way of comparison, he had more back surgeries than tournament entries, with four back surgeries between 2014 and 2017. Back injuries don't look as outwardly severe as some other medical woes but as anyone who has had even the slightest problem can tell you, the pain is right up there. In December 2020 Woods had a fifth microdiscectomy surgery on his back, to remove a pressurized disc fragment that was pinching his nerve. Ouch.


Evander Holyfield

One of the Worst Scenes in Sports

Boxing is something that everybody would expect to see on the list of the top 10 worst sports injuries. Bizarrely, it's actually more dangerous in the modern world than it was in the 14th century, because boxing gloves allow punches to be thrown with far more force as there's no (or very low) risk of breaking your own hand compared to medieval bare knuckle brawls (which saw way fewer deaths than the modern day sport). But it's not an immense right hook or brutal jab that makes the list of the top 10 worst sports injuries. It's when Mike Tyson met Evander Holyfield and acted like an absolute savage.

It was the second bout between the two men, Holyfield having confounded expectations to win with a TKO in their first encounter. Tyson was out for blood, literally. In the third round of their second meeting, Tyson bit Holyfield's ear and was docked two points. The ref had wanted to disqualify Tyson but Holyfield said the fight should go on. His reward? Tyson bit his other ear and tore off a chunk. Tyson ended up disqualified after all.


Brian O'Driscoll

Dislocated Shoulder Injury Playing a Rough Sport

If you're a fan of popular British sports and enjoy betting at popular UK online casinos, you're going to find this next story amusing. It's about Brian O'Driscoll - a legend of Irish rugby thanks to a combination of stunning pace, a very good rugby head on his shoulders, leadership abilities, and the cool capacity to capitalize on scoring opportunities that has made him the most prolific centre of all time. However, rugby is very much a contact sport, and plenty of great players have had a laundry list of injuries over the years. O'Driscoll is no different, but the tackle he received in 2005 when playing the All Blacks was severe enough to lead to spear tackles being outlawed.

The cult status of rugby in New Zealand has made their national side one of the most fearsome opponents in the world of sport, and it's a rare year when the All Blacks aren't the best team in the rankings. When the British and Irish Lions met the All Blacks in 2005, O'Driscoll's game ended early when a pair of Kiwi players spear tackled him, lifting him from his feet and driving him into the ground. The Irishman protected his head at the cost of dislocating a shoulder, necessitating surgery and more than a dozen stitches.


Anderson Silva

Most Damaging TKO Injury in Sports

Anderson Silva is considered by many to be the greatest MMA (mixed martial arts) fighter the world has ever seen. Silva, a Brazilian-American, racked up 16 UFC wins on the trot, and holds the record for the longest title reign in UFC history (2,457 days as UFC Middleweight Champion). However, perhaps more than any other sport, MMA is a very rough form of entertainment and sports injuries are plentiful. And this is what ultimately led to the end of Silva's reign.

Silva had already decided to retire after defeating Stephan Bonnar, but went for one more bout, this time against Chris Weidman. He was heavy favorite, but got cocky, and it did not end well for the champ, who lost by KO in round two. At the rematch, things went from bad to worse, with a check from Weidman fracturing both Silva's tibia and fibula, ending the fight with a TKO and requiring surgery for the former title holder.


Akil Mitchell

An Injury That Almost Cost The Player His Eye

This might be the grimmest of the top 10 worst sports injuries so far, so if you're of a squeamish disposition don't say we didn't warn you. Akil Mitchell is a professional basketball player, and while the stars who shoot hoops can suffer injuries just like any other elite sportsman it must've been a gruesome shock when his eyeball popped out.

In January 2017 he was playing for the New Zealand Breakers and fought for a rebound. So far, so normal. Only Mitchell was unlucky enough to receive a poke in the face from Taipans centre Nnanna Egwu. In a freak turn of events, this caused his left eyeball to come free from its socket. Naturally, Mitchell was rushed to hospital but the early news was positive, and this was backed up when he was able to rejoin his team just a month later. Perhaps unsurprisingly, Mitchell decided wearing protective glasses was a good idea just to stop it happening again.


Clint Malarchuk

Most Horrifying Injury in the Sports of Hockey

Clint Malarchuk is a former goaltender in the NHL (in which he played from 1981 to 1992) later becoming a coach for various ice hockey teams. But most NHL fans remember neither his playstyle or coaching capabilities half as well as a horrific sports injury that could easily have ended not his career, but his life.

In 1989 Malarchuk was playing for the Buffalo Sabres, at home to the St. Louis Blues. Steve Tuttle and Uwe Krupp (of the Blues and Sabres respectively) crashed into the goal crease, and Tuttle's skate blade sliced into Malarchuk's neck. It was something from a horror film, with the carotid artery severed and damage to the jugular vein as well. Astonishingly, Malarchuk was able to leave the ice under his own steam, even as blood gushed from his potentially lethal neck wound. The spectators suffered fainting, a pair of heart attacks, and even three players were physically sick. Malarchuk himself thought he was going to die. Fortunately for him, Jim Pizzutelli was on the scene. Pizzutelli had once been a combat medic with the US Army and was present as the athletics trainer for the Sabres. He pinched off the blood vessel and didn't let go until doctors were on the scene. The six inch wound took 300 stitches to close. But Malarchuk survived.


Steve Moore

Several Sports Fractures and Damaging Injuries

Steve Moore was one of the most famoust Canadian hockey players and was playing for the NHL's Colorado Avalanche when one of the top 10 worst sports injuries put an end to his playing days. It was up against the Vancouver Canucks that Moore suffered his injury, the result of a deliberate and vicious attack by forward Todd Bertuzzi. In the preceding meeting between the two sides, Moore had hit Canucks team captain Markus Näslund and caused a concussion. Moore incurred no penalty for the hit, which was deemed legal.

Todd evidently disagreed, and did so in violently unacceptable fashion when the two sides met again a month later. Moore and Vancouver's Matt Cooke engaged in a brawl. Bertuzzi joined the ice in the third period and tried, but failed, to provoke Moore into another bout. Bertuzzi grabbed Moore by the jersey and punched him in the back of the head, knocking him (unconscious) to the ice. A pile on ensued, and Moore suffered three fractures in his neck, on top of a concussion and cuts to his face.


Laquon Treadwell

One of the Worst Knee Injuries

There are certain body parts you just know can be seriously damaged, and one of the top 10 worst sports injuries happened to Laquon Treadwell's knee. Treadwell is a popular American football player who was studying at, and playing for, Ole Miss when he suffered his agonizing injury. He was brought down by an Auburn Tigers defender. Treadwell fumbled the ball, but that's eminently forgivable given his knee was bending backwards. He went on to make a full recovery and ended up playing in the NFL for the Minnesota Vikings as a wide receiver, but that was one deeply unpleasant sports injury. Luckily, to the satisfaction to many NFL fans, Treadwell was able to bounce back. (As a side note, if he'd kept hold of the ball that would've won the game for Ole Miss).


Joe Theismann

Horrifying Leg Injury in the NFL

Another player known to many NLF fans and USA online casino players, who makes the top 10 worst sports injuries list, is Joe Theismann. Theismann spent a dozen seasons with the Washington Redskins (as was), leading the team to two Super Bowls on the bounce (winning one). But this talented quarterback's career came to an abrupt end courtesy of a serious injury in 1985.

The Redskins were playing the Giants, with the scores level when the incident happened. The blitz defense of the Giants went for Theismann, and a tragic turn of events made a serious tackle into a gruesome injury. Linebacker Lawrence Taylor pulled Theismann down, his knee fracturing the latter's tibia and fibula. To make matters worse, Giants linebackers Gary Reasons and Harry Carson joined in and Theismann's right leg snapped. Taylor quickly called for medical aid. Despite that prompt action, Theismann's playing career had come to a sudden halt, although he remained connected with the sport as a broadcaster in the decades after.


Willis McGahee

Most Damaging Knee Injury in Sports

Willis McGahee is a former running back, who played for a number of NFL teams during his career including the Buffalo Bills, Cleveland Browns, and Baltimore Ravens. A low point in his career was when he suffered a serious injury that bent his knee backwards. It was during the 2003 Fiesta Bowl National Championship Game that it happened, just after McGahee had caught a pass from team mate Ken Dorsey. It turned out to be a hospital pass, as he was immediately flattened by Buckeye safety Will Allen. The power of the impact bent McGahee's left knee backwards, and tore his ACL, PCL, and MCL (the footage is definitely not for the faint of heart). Happily, McGahee was able to recover from this appalling sports injury, but it did take multiple surgical interventions and a prolonged period of rehabilitation. His good standing and promising talents meant that he did end up joining the NFL the next season as Americans saw at Bovada Casino, being signed up by the Buffalo Bills in the 2003 NFL Draft.

There we have it, the top 10 worst sports injuries, from damage to the central nervous system to slit throats and knees bending backwards. Just be thankful that these sorts of grim events are blissfully few and far between.

 James Donnelly
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James Donnelly Content Writer

James has been a part of for almost 4 years and in that time, he has written a large number of informative articles for our readers. James's keen sense of audience and unwavering dedication make him an invaluable asset for creating honest and informative casino and game reviews, articles and blog posts for our readers.

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