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The 20 Most Brutal and Gruesome Football Injuries in NFL History

Updated September 23, 2021 51.4k views20 items

Football is a pretty rough sport, there's no denying that. The hits can be positively bone crushing. . . literally! While there haven't been any football deaths directly caused by on-field injuries, there have been some pretty shocking football accidents that will make even the toughest fans cringe. But there are some people who can't help watching these kind of football player injuries on the field, and those people might be wondering which are the worst football injuries of all time. Wonder no more, because this collection contains pictures and descriptions of the sport's most gruesome blows.

With all the hits to the head, broken limbs, and neck injuries over the years, some people may be surprised that there haven't been any deaths. Football equipment has progressed drastically over the years, and even now the league is pushing for better concussion policy. That being said, its hard to keep injuries out of such a physical sport, and many players pay the price.

Be warned, the footage shown here is incredibly graphic, and not for those with weak stomachs. After all, these are the worst nfl injuries of all time, so be prepared for some hard hits, broken limbs, and even a little blood.

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  • Napolean McCallum's Knee Bends the Wrong Way

    Video: YouTube

    This is another injury that looks so much worse thanks to slow motion. Running Back McCallum was playing for the Los Angeles Raiders against the 49ers, when Ken Norton Jr. got ahold of him during a play. As the two men went down, McCallum's left foot didn't move with the rest of him, dislocating the knee, hyperextending it, and rupturing an artery.

    The calf muscle and ligaments were ripped off the bone, and surgery was required to fix his leg, even up to possible amputation. Amputation was eventually avoided, but doctors told McCallum right away that his career was definitely over.

  • Darryl Stingley Is Permanently Paralyzed By an Awkward Hit

    Video: YouTube

    There are a lot of head and neck injuries in the NFL, and this has got to be one of the worst. On Aug. 12, 1978, in the Oakland-Alameda County Coliseum, New England Patriots player Daryll Stingley was going up to catch a pass when Jack Tatum ran into him with both speed and intent. After Stingley went down, he didn't get up, and he didn't move, even as medical professionals rushed onto the field.

    When doctors looked at him, they found that he could not feel anything in his limbs, and that two of his vertebrae had been crushed. From that moment on the field, Stingley became a life-long quadriplegic.

    Tatum never apologized for the hit.

  • Dennis Byrd is Paralyzed on the Field

    Video: YouTube

    Stingley wasn't the only one to suffer paralysis on the field. During a game against the Kansas City Chiefs on November 29, 1992, Dennis Byrd went in to attempt a sack on Chief's quarterback, Dave Kreig. Unfortunately, he ran into his own teammate, ducking his head as he did so to try to avoid the hit.

    Instead, the hit broke one of his vertebrae, and Byrd found that he couldn't get up or walk. He was paralyzed, and left without the use of his legs for some time. Miraculously, in 1993, Byrd was able to walk to mid-field for an honorary coin toss, as he continued intensive rehab.

    His career was ended and Byrd was killed in a car accident in 2016. 

  • Jeff Fuller Breaks His Neck Right After an Earthquake

    The Loma Prieta earthquake of 1989 left the Bay Area of California in tatters, but things were actually about to get worse for one young football player. Jeff Fuller was playing for the 49ers, at Stanford Stadium, on October 22, just a few days after the devastating earthquake, when there was an awkward helmet-to-helmet collision with an opposing player. The impact with a Patriot's player broke his neck and partially paralyzed him on one side, and he was unable to rise from the field.

    The play ended the young man's career, and though he went through decades of rehab, he still does not have use of one of his arms. While there is no graphic footage of the injury, it is still regarded as one of the worst in history.