Athletes Whose Careers Ended Too Soon People In Sports
Ultimate List
18,749 votes 186,522 views by  Power
Ranker
more info

Athletes Whose Careers Ended Too Soon

List Criteria: Only athletes whose career was cut short by injury or worse

This list of athletes whose careers ended too soon includes dozens of promising athletes who for one reason or another were forced to leave the sports they loved well before they should have. Their stories are often tragic and leave their family members, teammates, opponents and fans wondering what could have happened had their careers continued. Sadly, we'll never know the answer to that one as these athletes all left their respective sports prematurely.

Some of the greatest players to ever compete in sports like football, basketball, hockey and baseball were forced into retirement due to an injury. Even others were taken not only from professional sports but also from this life following a tragic incident which caused their death. Be it an injury or a complete loss of life, all of these athletes had plenty left to give but a catastrophic event changed all that.

For many of these players, retiring at the top of their game was their decision after repeated injuries made it difficult to compete at a top level. Legendary Boston Bruins hockey player Bobby Orr, NBA star Yao Ming and Super Bowl-winning quarterback Troy Aikman are just a few who fall into that category. Others suffered a one-time injury, sometimes on national television during a big game, that gave them no choice but to retire. Joe Theismann, a legendary National Football League quarterback, fell into that category following what is perhaps the most memorable hit in league history.

While those players retired and often remained in the sport in a broadcasting role, others were not so lucky. Sadly, this list also includes athletes who died suddenly during their professional athletic careers. Those stories are heartbreaking, such as the up-and-coming Los Angeles Angels pitcher Nick Adenhart who was killed by a drunk driver and NFL-player turned U.S. Army soldier Pat Tillman who was killed serving his country.

As hard as it is to find something positive from these career-ending tragedies, each of them have raised awareness about ways that incidents like this can be prevented in the future. I can't think of any better way to honor these fine athletes than making the world a brighter place.
  • 16 ReRanks
    • Women
    • Men
    • Age
    • Region
  • See list ranked by
The List
Comment
Embed
Options
rerank list
  1. 1
    Up 840
    Down 136

    most listed 1962

    open
  2. 2
    Up 635
    Down 100

    the people's #1 1903

    open
  3. 3
    Up 558
    Down 98

    1934

    open
  4. 4
    Up 677
    Down 126

    added by Frostbite 1968

    open
  5. 5
    Up 619
    Down 130

    1976

    open
  6. 6
    Up 513
    Down 84

    1943

    open
  7. 7
    Up 408
    Down 91

    1935

    open
  8. 8
    Up 346
    Down 107

    1947

    open
  9. 9
    Up 359
    Down 93

    added by KirkSaw 1943

    open
  10. 10
    Up 253
    Down 85

    added by MadameLil 1921

    open
  11. 11
    Up 291
    Down 148

    added by KirkSaw 1936

    open
  12. 12
    Up 390
    Down 114

    ranked low on reranks 1967

    open
  13. 13
    Up 303
    Down 166

    often listed & added by Pallknowing1 1972

    open
  14. 14
    Up 355
    Down 107

    ranked low on reranks & added by wiabux Dale Earnhardt

    open
  15. 15
    Up 265
    Down 108

    1957

    open
  16. 16
    Up 345
    Down 133

    added by wiabux 1963

    open
  17. 17
    Up 239
    Down 101

    added by BobBrooks 1960

    open
  18. 18
    Up 357
    Down 203

    1959

    open
  19. 19
    Up 233
    Down 109

    1967

    open
  20. 20
    Up 132
    Down 90

    often listed & added by KirkSaw 1954

    open
  21. 21
    Up 199
    Down 92

    added by DouglasShibut 1945

    open
  22. 22
    Up 87
    Down 101

    often listed & added by bojanthebest 1950

    open
  23. 23
    Up 198
    Down 74

    added by KirkSaw 1939

    open
  24. 24
    Up 217
    Down 86

    ranked low on reranks & added by Kenne_W 1983

    open
  25. 25
    Up 253
    Down 173

    1980

    open
  26. 26
    Up 155
    Down 90

    added by dsylvia 1965

    open
  27. 27
    Up 143
    Down 55

    added by willyboymcoy 1955

    open
  28. 28
    Up 161
    Down 90

    added by KirkSaw 1951

    open
  29. 29
    Up 199
    Down 139

    1965

    open
  30. 30
    Up 108
    Down 101

    often listed & added by KirkSaw 1965

    open
  31. 31
    Up 147
    Down 72

    added by Harry W

    open
  32. 32
    Up 231
    Down 85

    ranked low on reranks & added by willyboymcoy 1948

    open
  33. 33
    Up 78
    Down 14

    1887

    open
  34. 34
    Up 125
    Down 85

    1949

    open
  35. 35
    Up 77
    Down 64

    added by psytce2 Adam Petty

    open
  36. 36
    Up 82
    Down 84

    added by bojanthebest 1980

    open
  37. 37
    Up 100
    Down 103

    added by PW Punk 1984

    open
  38. 38
    Up 82
    Down 112

    added by thething256 1960

    open
  39. 39
    Up 80
    Down 88

    added by toycannon18 1938

    open
  40. 40
    Up 78
    Down 72

    added by Dave_7672 1973

    open
  41. 41
    Up 28
    Down 61

    often listed & added by willyboymcoy 1951 1951

    open
  42. 42
    Up 53
    Down 90

    often listed & added by PW Punk 1972

    open
  43. 43
    Up 57
    Down 59

    added by willyboymcoy 1965

    open
  44. 44
    Up 70
    Down 59

    added by willyboymcoy Alan Kulwicki

    open
  45. 45
    Up 82
    Down 79

    added by Foxcream

    open
  46. 46
    Up 30
    Down 30

    1965

    open
  47. 47
    Up 25
    Down 40

    added by Brandy 1944

    open
  48. 48
    Up 73
    Down 91

    added by PW Punk 1981

    open
  49. 49
    Up 70
    Down 77

    added by KirkSaw 1947

    open
  50. 50
    Up 49
    Down 73

    added by Pallknowing1 1972

    open
80 +

Something missing? Add it!

think you can do better?

Rerank This List

got a blog or website?

embed this list

viewers of this list also saw...

more popular lists