While professional athletes are in top physical condition, sometimes the sports the play can have adversely affect their health. There’s sadly been many athletes who died while playing the sport they loved.
With all the pummeling football players endure, you’d think that there would be more deaths out on the field. But, surprisingly, there’s only been one death that occurred during a game in all of NFL history. In 1971, Lions wide receiver Chuck Hughes suffered a heart attack during the game. He was pronounced dead at the hospital later that afternoon. He was only 28-years-old.
Hockey is a violent sport. Just ask a hockey player to smile so you can get an idea of how rough it is. Missing teeth aside, hockey players take a beating out on the ice (usually from other players). But, in all of NHL history, there’s only been one death that resulted from injuries sustained during a game. On Jan. 15, 1968, Bill Masterton, player for the Minnesota North Stars, died during a game against the Oakland Seals. He was checked by a defending player and fell backwards, slamming his head on the ice. He was not wearing a helmet. He suffered from a severe brain hemorrhage and was taken off life support two days later. He helped spawn the movement that made helmets mandatory in the NHL.
Dancers are probably among the fittest athletes out there, and yes, dancing is a real sport. But, it can also put a strain on your heart. In August 2012, Stephen Hevenor was competing with his partner and girlfriend Dani Atkins at the Killick Klassic in Florida when he had a heart attack. He was 43-years-old.
Boxing is the deadliest sport there is, with around 500 fighters dying from injuries they sustained in the ring. Duk Koo Kim is one of the most famous boxers to have died as a result of a fight. One night in November 1979, Duk Koo Kim had an impressive record and was the No. 1 lightweight contender when he went into his last fight against Ray "Boom Boom" Mancini in the world championship. Kim sustained several injuries, and at one point got hit 39 times in a row. In the 14th round, got knocked out and fell into a coma. He died four days later. Because of his death the total number of rounds in championship fights decreased from 15 to 12. He was 23-years-old.
All but one of the boxers to have died because of the ring were men. On April 5, 2005, 34-year-old amateur boxer Becky Zerlentes died in the second round after being struck in the head by her opponent, Heather Schmitz. She was wearing headgear, but the punch proved to be fatal.
While wrestling may be fake, the wrestlers can still sustain very real injuries. There have been several wrestlers who died in the ring. But, the most shocking death happened during the buildup to the fight. In his routine, Hart would normally descend into the ring connected to a wire. In May 1999, Owen Hart fell 50 feet to his death when his wire accidently released.
When you are traveling up to speeds of 150 miles per hour, you’re going to get seriously hurt when you come to an abrupt stop. That’s what happened to speed skater Nicholas Bochatay on Feb. 23, 1992. The 24-year-old was doing a practice run before his event in the Albertville Winter Olympics. He was going 84 miles per hour when he crashed into a snow-grooming machine.
When you’re riding an animal that weighs a ton and has two sharp horns on its head, something tragic is bound to happen. In July 1989, Lane Frost was competing in the Cheyenne Frontier Days Rodeo and rode the bull, Bad to the Bone, for eight seconds. When he dismounted, the bull turned on him and ran it’s horn into Frost’s ribs. The 25-year-old died from a torn artery.
Again, when you’re competing in a high-speed sport, you’re bound to have some accidents. There have been many cyclists who have died during a race. In 2011, Belgian cyclist Wouter Weylandt died during the Giro d’Italia. In the third stage of the race, Weylandt fell during a high-speed descent. His head took most of the impact. He was only 26-years-old.
In 1993, Boston Celtic and NBA All-Star Reggie Lewis shocked basketball fans everywhere when he died during practice. There were rumors that his death was due to a cocaine overdose, but the autopsy revealed that Lewis suffered from hypertrophic cardiomyopathy. It is a condition that affects the heart beat.
While many soccer players may act like they’re dying when they’re injured, the sport has actually claimed the lives of over 100 soccer player. In 2013, Alex Marquez was playing for Portuguese third division Tourizense against Carapinheirense had a heart attack and died on his way to the hospital. He was only 20-years-old.
While racecar drivers aren’t the most athletic out of the people on this list, they still participate in a very dangerous sport. The most famous racecar driver to die in the history of the sport has to be Dale Earnhardt. He died in Feb 2001 when he was side-swept forcing him to lose control of his vehicle, which caused him to crash into a wall. Because of his death, NASCAR installed the HANS (head and neck support) device in all their racecars.
While the luge seems like a deadly sport, it actually hasn’t claimed so many lives. Among the most shocking of those deaths though, has to be Georgian luger Nodar Kumaritashvili. He died in a practice run during the 2010 Winter Olympics in Vancouver. Close to the finish line, he lost control and slammed into a barrier. He was 21-years-old.
Golf is the most relaxed sport on this list, but people still have died playing it. No, nobody got hit in the head with a golf ball. Bert Yancey was 56-years-old when he collapsed while practicing for the opening of the Senior PGA Franklin Quest Championship in 1994.
Surfing has claimed the life of several gifted and tanned athletes. In 2005, Tahitian surfer Malik Joyeux was competing in Honolulu at the Banzai Pipeline. He tried to pull up over a wave, but it ended up crashing onto him and forcing him underwater. His board was broken into pieces and his body was found after 15 minutes about 100 yards away.