08/22/15 by Matthew S. Vandriak
With another weekend of NFL pre season games upon us, the biggest concern amongst fans, coaches, and players isn't the outcome of those games. The biggest concern is getting out of those games with no key injuries. Since the concern over injuries sustained in exhibition games seems to get more press each year, let's take a look at some of the worst injuries to ever occur during pre season football.
While the worst injuries most of todays fans think of when it comes to exhibition games are of the season ending variety, the two worst injuries sustained in pre season games occurred a long time ago and much more serious. The worst happening in 1963 when Stone Johnson was paralyzed and ultimately died. Johnson was a sprinter in the 1960 Olympics who was brought in by the Kansas City Chiefs to be a kick returner. He fractured his neck in a pre season game against Houston, was taken to the hospital where he was unresponsive and it was determined he was paralyzed from the neck down. Johnson would pass away from his injuries 10 days later.
In 1978 Darryl Stingley of the New England Patriots had his career ended and his life altered as well in a pre season game. Entering his 6th NFL season, Stingley was hit by Oakland Raiders defensive back Jack Tatum during an exhibition game that compressed Stingley's spinal cord and left him as a quadriplegic for the rest of his life. The Patriots had negotiated a new contract with Stingley prior to the trip to Oakland that would have made him one of the highest paid wide receivers in the NFL at the time. That contract was never signed. Stingley died in 2007 at the age of 55 from pneumonia and heart disease, which was complicated by his quadriplegia.
In 1972, two time Pro Bowl selection Bubba Smith was injured in a pre season game. It was bead enough Smith was injured in an exhibition game, but the way he was injured made it worse. Smith ran into the solid steel pole that was used as a yardage marker in the NFL at the time. He missed the entire 1972 season and was never the same player he was before the injury.
More recently there were some career altering injuries sustained during the pre season as well. In 1998, Jason Sehorn of the New York Giants, tore his ACL and MCL in an exhibition game against the Jets. Sehorn's career wasn't ended, he returned the next season and played 5 more seasons. But his speed was greatly diminished by the injury and he never put up the same numbers he did beforehand.
Trent Green went down for the Rams, which gave way to Kurt Warner and his Hall of Fame career. Green would go on to play well for the Kansas City Chiefs, but never came close to matching Warner in any shape or form.
Dustin Keller was signed by Miami in 2013 after spending his first 5 NFL seasons with the New York Jets. Keller was expected to play a big part in the Dolphins offense after having led the Jets in receptions in 2 of the previous 3 seasons. However, he would tear his ACL, MCL, and PCL in a pre season game against Houston. Not only did he miss the entire season for the Dolphins, he has yet to return to football since the injury 2 years ago.
Some feel the NFL is playing with fire continuing to have 4 meaningless pre season games, thus increasing the chance of more severe injuries to star players. Not to mention 4 pre season games equals additional contact, which increases the risks players face in regards to sustaining a concussion or CTE.
No matter what the feeling is about the pre season or what changes may lie ahead, here's hoping we don't add to this list of career altering or ending injuries through the remainder of the 2015 exhibition season.
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