Every pro sport provides it’s fair share of gruesome injuries, but few of them can match football. In the NFL, with huge men hurling themselves at each other at ridiculously high speeds, we see serious injures every single week. And sometimes, these injuries can be downright stomach-churning.
Today we’re going to take a little stroll down memory lane and look at some of the most gruesome injuries in the history of the NFL. If you have already had your lunch and don’t want to lose it, you might want to proceed with caution. Some of the injuries you’ll see here are going to make you squirm in your chair.
But with that word of warning out of the way, let’s get started…
On Week 1 of the 2011 NFL season, back when he still played for the Rams, New England wide receiver Danny Amendola suffered an arm injury when his elbow bent in a way neither God nor nature ever intended for it to bend. He missed the remaining 15 games of the season.
20. Danny Amendola
While playing for the Patriots at the end of his Hall of Fame career in 2006, the late great Junior Seau suffered a pretty nasty arm break against the Chicago Bears. After starting 10 of first 11 games that year, he would miss the remainder of the season.
19. Junior Seau
In 2008, former Vikings cornerback/punt return specialist broke his ankle on a return against the Green Bay Packers. (You kind of knew there was a problem when you saw his foot pointing out at an angle greater than ninety degrees)
18. Charles Gordon
It's actually hard to tellhow badly 49ers safety Ronnie Lott injured his finger when he tackled Cowboys running back Timmy Newsome in 1985. It may have been totally fine. But Lott didn't want to wait to find out. He just went ahead and had it amputated so he could get back to playing football.
(The whole clip is pretty entertaining, but skip to the 1:52 mark to see the most relevant part. FYI, this story has been greatly embellished over the years, so don't believe everything these guys say.)
17. Ronnie Lott
Retired Giants and Broncos receiver Ed McCaffrey was a favorite target of John Elway who helped Denver finally win its two Super Bowls in 1998 and 1999. However, he still might be more famous for the compound fracture he suffered on Monday Night Football on September 10, 2001.
16. Ed McCaffrey
Remember this one? In 2010, on his first carry of the season, Eagles fullback Leonard Weaver suffered what they called a "severe" ACL tear in his left knee—which we can only assume, based on the footage, means he tore the thing clean in half.
15. Leonard Weaver
Former New York Jets defensive end Dennis Byrd didn't suffer the kind of injury that tests your gag reflex. He suffered the kind of injury that makes you suddenly turn your head away from the screen. On November 29, 1992, Byrd broke his C-5 vertebra and suffered temporary paralysis. Eventually he was learn to walk again (and become an excellent motivational speaker), but his football career was over.
14. Dennis Byrd
Unlike Dennis Byrd, Darryl Stingley would never walk again after his gruesome neck injury. During a preseason game against the Raider on August 12, 1978, the star Patriots receiver broke his fourth and fifth cervical vertebrae on a devastating hit from Jack Tatum. He would eventually regain some use of his right arm, but he remained a quadriplegic the rest of his life.
The really depressing thing, though? He was at the pinnacle of his career and had just finished negotiating a new contract with New England that would have made him one of the highest-paid receivers in football. Instead, after this injury, the contract was never signed.
Luckily, a settlement was reached with the NFL, according to which the Patriots had to pay Stingley's medical bills for the remainder of his life and pay for the education of his children.
13. Darryl Stingley
Ever wonder why the NFL banned horse-collar tackles? Well, it was primarily because of this incident. During a 2004 game against the Cowboys, Ravens running back Musa Smith was brought down in such a manner by Roy Williams, resulting in a compound fracture of his right tibia that kept him out of action for the better part of two years.
12. Musa Smith
Broncos offensive guard Chris Kuper pretty much snapped his leg in half in the 2011 season finale against the Chiefs. He missed all of 2012 and has only seen light action so far in 2013.
11. Chris Kuper
Wilson did his part to help the Patriots beat the Eagles in Super Bowl XXXIX by recovering a fumble. Then he suffered this nasty injury while defending a kickoff return.
10. Eugene Wilson
We told you about this earlier this season. Somehow Cardinals safety Rashad Johnson managed to tear the rip of his finger off inside his glove. Then he tweeted pictures for all to see.
9. Rashad Johnson
Destry Wright was signed by the Steelers as an undrafted free agent out of Jackson State in 2000. Unfortunately, he never appeared in a regular season game for Pittsburgh after this happened to him in the preseason against the Cowboys on July 30, 2000. He dislocated his right ankle and broke his right leg and never played football again.
8. Destry Wright
Current Bills center Wood suffered a compound fracture against the Jaguars on November 22, 2009. The footage was so bad that NBC elected not to show the replays.
7. Eric Wood
The actual injury Henderson suffered in 2009—a broken femur—was bad. But it's the speed at which it occurred that really makes the footage hard to watch.
When you think about it, it's actually pretty amazing this kind of thing doesn't happen more often.
6. E.J. Henderson
Titans wide receiver Marc Mariani made the Pro Bowl in 2011 as a punt return specialist. Then, in the 2012 preseason, he did this to his leg. As a result he missed all of 2012 and is going to miss all of 2013.
5. Marc Mariani
You have to be patient to see this one. It's not obvious at first glance or in the first replays. Then...you see it.
After this injury in 2010, he made four appearances at the end of 2011, was waived in 2012, and has not caught on with another team since.
4. Deon Butler
Former Bengals tackle Tim Krumrie suffered what is almost certainly the most gruesome injury in the history of the Super Bowl against the 49ers at Super Bowl XXIII.
3. Tim Krumrie
Raiders running back Napoleon McCallum just about snapped his leg in half live, on Monday Night Football in 1994. He suffered a ruptured artery, three torn ligaments, and tore his calf and hamstring from the bone. Afterward McCallum's surgeon said he usually only sees injuries like this from car accidents.
He never played again.
2. Napolean McCallum
The injury that ended Joe Theismann's career in 1985 may not be the most gruesome to behold in the history of the NFL, but...well, actually, it might be. And it certainly is the most famous. All these years later and it's still hard to watch.