10 Career Ending NFL Injuries That Shocked Fans And Cut Careers Short

James Johnson - Author

Sep. 9 2013, Updated 8:06 a.m. ET

NFL Injuries are a daily occurrence. From quarterbacks and wide receivers to linebackers and corners, we sadly report on far too many career ending accidents.

In some cases, injuries are so bad that surgery can’t save a players NFL career. In other cases, the injuries sustained can leave a player unable to walk. In the wort case scenario some players never regain use of their arms or legs.

Just take a look at the photo above and realize that such a big hit wasn’t even one of the devastating collisions that ended an NFL dream!

From spinal injuries and bad breaks to freak accidents nobody could have predicted, here is our list of 10 NFL injuries that abruptly ended NFL careers.

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Daunte Culpepper – Minnesota Vikings

Vikings fans had reason to celebrate after Daunte Culpepper had a breakout season in 2004. Unfortunately, that celebration quickly turned sour when in 2005 Culpepper injured his knee in a game against the Carolina Panthers.

Culpepper was put on the injured reserve list and then released by the Viking in 2006.

The Miami Dolphins attempted to give Daunte Culpepper another chance, but he never got back to pre-injury form. During his last four years in the NFL Culpepper played in just 24 games.

Joe Theismann – Washington Redskins

An 11 year career in the NFL is a lifetime for many players, but Joe Theismann could have kept playing had it not been for a brutal break to his leg.

The two-time Super Bowl champion was playing in a Monday night game in 1985 when he suffered a brutal break in both bones on his lower right leg.

Thiesmann’s career ended courtesy of not one but two linebackers, Lawrence Taylor and Harry Carson.

Theismann never stepped out to play on an NFL field again.

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Sterling Sharpe – Green Bay Packers

After six seasons in the NFL Sterling Sharpe was doing everything right. He was a capable receiver with soft hands, speed, agility, and the smarts for the game.

Unfortunately in 1994 Sharpe was hit and suffered a neck injury that ended his career.

A Hall of Fame career sidelined by a single hit only goes to highlight the ferocity of the NFL.

Michael Irvin – Dallas Cowboys

During his 11-year career in the NFL Dallas Cowboys wide receiver Michael Irving ruled the game. He was flashy, he was fast, and his hands seemed to feature superglue for super feats of catching.

In 1999 Irving was playing against the Philadelphia Eagles when he was rushed by Tim Hauck. Irvine actually saw Hauck coming but ducked to avoid a collision and instead hit his helmet on the astroturf at Philadelphia’s Veteran’s Stadium.

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Darryl Stingley – New England Patriots

Darryl Stingly only managed four years in the NFL before his time with the New England Patriots and the National Football League came to a sudden end.

In 1978 Stingley was involved in a bad collision with Raiders defensive back Jack Tatum. That collision left him with a compressed spinal cord and two broken vertebrae.

While he managed to regain limited movement in his arms, he spent the rest of his life in a wheelchair. Stingley passed away in 2007 from complications associated with his gradriplegia.

Mike Utley – Detroit Lions

Mike Utley is one of two Detroit Lions players on our list. The former offensive lineman’s career came to an end in his third season for Detroit.

The Lions were playing the Rams when Utley suffered damage to both his sixth and seventh vertebrae.

As he was carted off the field Mike Utley gave a brave thumbs up to his fans. Doctors later determined that Utley was paralyzed from the chest down.

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Mack Strong – Seattle Seahawks

Mack Strong defied the odds in just making it to the NFL. While he entered the league as an undrafted free agent for the Seahawks he would go on to play for 15 seasons.

It was in Week 5 of the 2007 season that Strong’s career came to an abrupt end. Strong was hit several times during the game and doctors soon discovered a herniated disk.

With doctors warning of potential paralysis Mack Strong hung up his cleats.

Strong was a Pro Bowl Player in 2005 and 2006 and held the the team record for the longest rush in a playoff game with a 32-yard run in 2005 against the Washington Redskins.

His career might have come to an abrupt end but what an unlikely career it was.

Kevin Everett – Buffalo Bills

Tight End Kevin Everett has what might be the quickest end to an NFL career on our list. After transferring from All-Southwest Junior College to the University of Miami he was picked up by the Buffalo Bills.

In Week 1 of the 2007 season Everett was attempting to tackle Denver Broncos’ Domenik Hixon when he suffered a neck injury.

Everett spent months attempting to rehabilitate his neck. While he was eventually able to walk again, his NFL career had ended less than one game into the action.

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Chris Spielman – Detroit Lions

Chris Spielman was drafted by the Detroit Lions in 1988 and he enjoyed eight seasons with the franchise as a defensive linebacker. Spielman even helped the team win two NFC Central titles and lead the Lions as the teams all-time leader in career tackles with 1,138.

Spielman would go on to play in four Pro Bowls and win the team’s defensive MVP two times. IN 1996 and 1997 Spielman played for the Buffalo Bills where he set a team record of 206 tackle.

In 1997 Spielman suffered a neck injury and left the NFL. In 1999 he returned to the Cleveland Browns but collided with Chicago’s Casey Wiegmann and re-injured his neck.

Despite two neck injuries in a few short years it was still reluctantly that Chris Spielman left the game he loves.

Vincent “Bo” Jackson

Bo knows baseball, Bo knows football, and Bo knows injury.

Famous for his decision to play in both the MLB and NFL Bo Jackson was forced out of the NFL in 1991. Bo was playing in an NFL playoff game when he was tackled by Cincinnati Bengals linebacker Kevin Walker and suffered a hip injury.

Bo Jackson left the NFL but returned to baseball.

Jackson spent four years in the NFL and spurred one of the most memorable ad campaigns of all time.

His injury also led to a lot of football fans joking about how injured NFL players can still make a go at it in professional baseball.

Injuries are part of the NFL equation and even with new rules and regulations those injuries are not going away anytime soon. Some players arrive in the league and then fade away because of injuries. This list however showcases the fact that some players are just happy to literally walk away from the sport when their professional career draws to its inevitable end.

Do you have another injury that should be added to this list of NFL players whose careers ended because of major injury?


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