The most notable life-threatening injuries in the NFL


CINCINNATI, OH – DECEMBER 04: Ryan Shazier #50 of the Pittsburgh Steelers reacts as he is carted off the field after a injury against the Cincinnati Bengals during the first half at Paul Brown Stadium on December 4, 2017 in Cincinnati, Ohio. (Photo by John Grieshop/Getty Images)

(NewsNation) — Buffalo Bills safety Damar Hamlin was in critical condition early Tuesday after the Bills say he suffered a cardiac arrest on the field during the first quarter of Monday night’s football game against the Cincinnati Bengals.

Hamlin’s severe injury has brought to mind previous life-threatening NFL injuries. Here are some of the most notable injuries in NFL history:

Darryl Stingley
Darryl Stingley (Credit: The Associated Press)

August 12, 1978: New England Patriots wide receiver Darryl Stingley was paralyzed after a hard hit against the Oakland Raiders, ending his career.

Stingley has begun his sixth season with the team when Oakland Raiders’ safety Jack Tatum crashed into him — in what was called an “intentionally violent hit” by The New York Times — as he reached for a pass during a preseason game, KIRO reported.

The hit left him paralyzed from the neck down after it broke two vertebrae in his neck and severely damaged his spinal cord, The New York Times said. However, extensive therapy helped him regain some control over his hands and arms.

“I have relived that moment over and over again. I was 26 years old at the time and I remember thinking, ‘What’s going to happen to me? If I live, what am I going to be like?’ And then there were all those whys, whys, whys,” Stingley told the Associated Press in a 1998 interview.

According to multiple reports, Stingley and Tatum never met or talked about the incident or injury, nor did Tatum ever apologize for the hit.

Jeff Fuller

October 22, 1989: San Francisco 49ers safety Jeff Fuller suffered a career-ending spinal injury after a helmet-to-helmet hit against the New England Patriots.

Fuller was also in his sixth season with the team when he was partially paralyzed after colliding with New England Patriots John Stephens, SFGate reported.

The collision fractured three vertebrae and tore nerves near his shoulder and neck, affecting his right shoulder, arm and elbow, the report stated.

“The most significant part of this injury is the possible pulling apart of nerve endings connecting the neck to the right arm,” San Francisco team physician Michael Dillingham told the Washington Post. “It’s possible he may not recover full use of his right arm.”

The SFGate reported that Fuller was never able to regain full use of his right shoulder, arm, elbow, wrist and hand.

Mike Utley
Former Detroit Lions Mike Utley. Credit: Getty Images

November 17, 1991: Detroit Lions offensive lineman Mike Utley was paralyzed during a game against the Los Angeles Rams, ultimately ending his career.

Utley lost the use of his legs after “an otherwise routine blocking play” when a Rams player ended up on top of him, WDIV reported.

But Utley told WDIV, 30 years after the incident, that he has no regrets and that he would do everything all over again.

The report said Utley stretches out his body three times a week and is standing.

Dennis Byrd
Credit: Rick Stewart /Allsport

November 29, 1992: New York Jets defensive end Dennis Byrd broke his neck and was temporarily paralyzed during a game against the Kansas City Chiefs. His injuries ended his career.

He slammed head-first into his teammate Scott Mersereau’s chest, causing extensive damage to his neck and spinal cord, ESPN reported.

His fifth vertebrae shattered into hundreds of pieces, Sports Illustrated reported.

Byrd never fully recovered from his injury but was able to walk again — returning to the Jets’ opening game the next season as an honorary captain, the report said.

Byrd died in 2016 after a head-on vehicle collision near his home in Oklahoma, ESPN reported.

Reggie Brown
Members of the New York Jets kneel in a circle and pray as Detroit Lions linebacker Reggie Brown is taken away in an ambulance by medical personnel 21 December after he was knocked unconscious in the fourth quarter of their game at the Silverdome. Brown was taken to the hospital with a possible head or neck injury. The Lions beat the Jets 13-10 and advance to the NFL playoffs. AFP PHOTO/Matt CAMPBELL (Photo by MATT CAMPBELL / AFP) (Photo by MATT CAMPBELL/AFP via Getty Images)

December 21, 1997: Detroit linebacker Reggie Brown suffered a serious spinal cord injury during the Lions’ regular-season finale against the New York Jets.

The 23-year-old lost complete control of his body and was left paralyzed, unconscious and near death, The Detroit News reported.

According to that report, when he dove to tackle Jets running back Adrian Murrell, the crown of Brown’s helmet crashed into the back of Lamont Burns, falling to the ground. Brown was in his second year and had started all 16 games.

The Washington Post reported that Brown stopped breathing on the field and experienced numbness in his extremities.

Korey Stringer
1 Nov 1998: Korey Stringer #77 of the Minnesota Vikings looking on during the game against the Tampa Bay Buccaneers at the Raymond James Stadium in Tampa, Florida. The Buccaneers defeated the Vikings 27-24. Mandatory Credit: Scott Halleran /Allsport

August 1, 2001: Minnesota Vikings player Korey Stringer died of exertional heat stroke during training camp.

At 27 years old, Stringer succumbed to complications from exertional heat stroke, ESPN reported. At the time, it was a condition that sports medicine largely ignored, the report said.

The day before his death, Stringer and five other players suffered from heat illness due to a combination of high temperatures and humidity, the report said.

While Stringer lost his life that day, his death changed influenced the NFL to make changes to their policy and the Korey Stringer Institute was founded in 2010 to provide research ad education on how to maximize performance but optimize safety for athletes, ESPN reported.

Kevin Everett
ORCHARD PARK, NY – SEPTEMBER 7: Former Buffalo Bills player Kevin Everett receives the George Halas award during halftime of the Seattle Seahawks and Buffalo Bills game at Ralph Wilson Stadium on September 7, 2008 in Orchard Park, New York. Everett t received a severe spinal cord injury during Buffalo’s first game of the 2007 season against the Denver Broncos. (Photo by Rick Stewart/Getty Images)

September 9, 2007: Buffalo Bills tight end Kevin Everett was temporarily paralyzed after a hit during the second-half kickoff in a Monday night game against the Denver Broncos, ultimately ending his career.

Evertt suffered a spinal cord injury and was paralyzed from the next down, Memorial Hermann Health System reported.

The team physician at the time, Dr. Andrew Cappuccino, said that Everett suffered from a fractured dislocation between his third and fourth vertebrae, the Rochester Democrat and Chronicle reported.

The surgery was successful in realigning his spine, but it was uncertain if he would ever walk again. He eventually regained his ability to walk after months of aggressive therapies.

Johnny Knox
DENVER, CO – DECEMBER 11: Johnny Knox #13 of the Chicago Bears looks into the stands before a game against the Denver Broncos at Sports Authority Field at Mile High on December 11, 2011 in Denver, Colorado. (Photo by Justin Edmonds/Getty Images)

December 18, 2011: Chicago Bears wide receiver Johnny Knox took a devastating hit in a game against the Seattle Seahawks, ending his career.

Knox suffered a horrific back injury after being hit by defensive end Anthony Hargrove at full speed during a scramble to the loose ball, a report from Pro Football History.

The hit folded Knox’s spine backward and severely damaged his nerves, the report said.

Knox pushed himself into rehabilitation, a report from the NFL said. The report also said that the only time he is not in pain is when he lying down.

Hargrove apologized to Knox for the incident, the Chicago Tribune reported.

Ryan Shazier
GREEN BAY, WI – AUGUST 16: Ryan Shazier #50 of the Pittsburgh Steelers walks off the field following a preseason game against the Green Bay Packers at Lambeau Field on August 16, 2018 in Green Bay, Wisconsin. (Photo by Stacy Revere/Getty Images)

December 12, 2017: Pittsburgh Steelers linebacker Ryan Shazier suffered a spinal contusion that left him temporarily paralyzed during a Monday night game against the Cincinnati Bengals.

Shazier collapsed on the field and underwent stabilization surgery two days after his injury, People reported.

It took Shazier months to walk again.

He officially retired from the NFL on September 9, 2020, announcing his retirement on Twitter.

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