originally by  20,874 votes 2,156 voters 208,972 views 137 items tags f p @

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.

Athletes Whose Careers Ended Too Soon People In Sports
  • 17 ReRanks
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  1. 1
    + 946
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    the people's #1 & most listed
    age 53

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  2. 2
    + 694
    - 119


    Died at 38 (1903-1941)

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  3. 3
    + 606
    - 114


    Died at 38 (1934-1972)

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  4. 4
    + 743
    - 143

    added by Frostbite
    age 47

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  5. 5
    + 565
    - 89


    age 72

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  6. 6
    + 668
    - 142


    Died at 28 (1976-2004)

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  7. 7
    + 438
    - 100


    age 80

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  8. 8
    + 375
    - 113


    Died at 32 (1947-1979)

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  9. 9
    + 395
    - 99

    added by KirkSaw
    Died at 27 (1943-1970)

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  10. 10
    + 275
    - 92

    added by MadameLil
    Died at 72 (1921-1993)

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  11. 11
    + 387
    - 123

    added by wiabux

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  12. 12
    + 431
    - 123


    Died at 33 (1967-2000)

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  13. 13
    + 376
    - 144

    added by wiabux
    Died at 23 (1963-1986)

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  14. 14
    + 283
    - 118


    Died at 42 (1957-1999)

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  15. 15
    + 321
    - 184

    added by Pallknowing1
    age 43

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  16. 16
    + 311
    - 164

    added by KirkSaw
    age 79

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  17. 17
    + 256
    - 115

    added by BobBrooks
    Died at 46 (1960-2006)

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  18. 18
    + 383
    - 218


    age 56

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  19. 19
    + 250
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    Died at 23 (1967-1990)

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  20. 20
    + 217
    - 99

    added by DouglasShibut
    Died at 45 (1945-1990)

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  21. 21
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    - 78

    added by KirkSaw
    Died at 24 (1939-1963)

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  22. 22
    + 246
    - 95

    added by Kenne_W
    Died at 24 (1983-2007)

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  23. 23
    + 142
    - 102

    often listed & added by KirkSaw
    Died at 55 (1954-2009)

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  24. 24
    + 169
    - 61

    added by willyboymcoy
    age 60

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  25. 25
    + 171
    - 101

    added by dsylvia
    Died at 28 (1965-1993)

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  26. 26
    + 255
    - 93

    ranked low on reranks & added by willyboymcoy
    age 67

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  27. 27
    + 271
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    age 35

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  28. 28
    + 103
    - 21


    Died at 64 (1887-1951)

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  29. 29
    + 222
    - 150


    age 50

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  30. 30
    + 97
    - 109

    often listed & added by bojanthebest
    Died at 28 (1950-1978)

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  31. 31
    + 160
    - 85

    added by Harry W

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  32. 32
    + 173
    - 102

    added by KirkSaw
    Died at 24 (1951-1975)

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  33. 33
    + 118
    - 111

    added by KirkSaw
    age 50

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  34. 34
    + 146
    - 95

    ranked low on reranks
    age 66

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  35. 35
    + 88
    - 75

    added by psytce2
    Died at 20 (1980-2000)

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  36. 36
    + 92
    - 94

    added by bojanthebest
    age 35

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  37. 37
    + 92
    - 119

    added by thething256
    age 55

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  38. 38
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    added by PW Punk
    age 31

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  39. 39
    + 76
    - 69

    added by willyboymcoy

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  40. 40
    + 89
    - 80

    added by Dave_7672
    age 42

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  41. 41
    + 86
    - 87

    added by Foxcream
    Died at 34 (1955-1989)

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  42. 42
    + 87
    - 97

    added by toycannon18
    age 77

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  43. 43
    + 37
    - 23

    added by StephenOsgood
    age 59

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  44. 44
    + 42
    - 35


    age 50

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  45. 45
    + 77
    - 86

    added by KirkSaw
    age 68

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  46. 46
    + 63
    - 65

    added by willyboymcoy
    age 50

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  47. 47
    + 92
    - 95

    added by PW Punk
    age 44

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  48. 48
    + 80
    - 99

    added by PW Punk
    age 34

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  49. 49
    + 23
    - 18

    added by udontneedtoknowmyname
    age 65

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  50. 50
    + 25
    - 19

    added by themightyjobu
    Tony Oliva

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