Ten Deaths on the Sports Field
Athletes have always been considered as one of the fittest people around. However, there are instances when they have succumbed to injuries or illnesses while on the field of play. While shocking, these deaths have been but a reminder about the reality that sportsmen are often treated as commodities, by their team owners, and are subjected to unrealistic desires and performances.
Here is a list of 10 famous athletes who fell victim to sports in one form or another.
- J. V. Cain
A tight-end for the St. Louis Cardinals during the 1970s, Cain had racked up some impressive numbers during his six years in the NFL. In July, 1979, while preparing for the new season, Cain was running a normal pass route in training when he suddenly took a few steps back, fell over and died. Cain had a congenital heart failure.
- Howard Glenn
A part of the impressive New York Titans’ offensive guard in the 1960s, Glenn became the only player to die from injuries suffered during a normal season football game. Glenn’s future was promising however, he suffered a broken neck against the Houston Oilers. He died a few hours later.
- Bill Masterston
An All-American who was signed by the Montreal Canadians, right out of college, Bill Masterston had it all in his bag. After spending most of his time in the minors, Masterston quit ice hockey to work for a corporation. In 1967, Masterston joined the North Stars and a few months later, while playing against the Oakland Seals, Masterston was checked by two players. He fell backwards on the ice and slammed his head against it. Masterston died of brain haemorrhage as doctors were unable to operate on the injury.
- Ray Chapman
An MLB player, Chapman is only the second player to have died due to injuries received in a game of baseball. Playing for the Cleveland Naps, Chapman was hit on the head by a Carl Mays spitball. He was taken to the hospital but died 12 hours later. Chapman’s death was a sign that helmets needed to be compulsory while the spitball had to be banned from the sport.
- Cristiano Junior
Playing for Dempo Sports Club, in the Federation Cup finals, in India, Cristiano Junior ran towards the Mohun Bagan goal at the Sree Kanteerava Stadium, in Bangalore. In a bid to score his second, Junior ran past the defence and moved towards goal with only goalkeeper Subrata Pal to beat. The advancing goalkeeper quickly realised that Junior would get past him, and decided to take the player out. Pal deliberately hit Junior and the latter fell to the ground and died, almost instantly. Post mortem reports showed that Junior died of cardiac arrest, although it was found that Junior had a spinal injury before going into the finals.
A defender playing for the Brazilian club Sao Caetano, Serginho was playing in the Brazilian top-flight, against Sao Paolo, in October 2004 when he suffered a cardio-respiratory arrest on the pitch. Serginho died instantly on the playing field.
- Dale Earnhardt
One of the greatest racing drivers in the NASCAR series, Dale Earnhardt had 76 wins to his name as well as seven championship titles. At the 2001 Daytona 500, Earnhardt died in the final lap of the race when his car slid off the track and onto the flat apron. As Earnhardt tried to turn the car back out onto the track, it slid too far off and veered towards the outside wall. Earnhardt’s car was hit by another and both cars went into the wall, at a critical angle. At 150mph, the car was in ruins but everyone still thought that the injuries would be minor. However, Earnhardt succumbed to the injuries.
- Marc-Vivien Foe
A Cameroonian international footballer, and a player for French giants Olympique Lyonnais, Foe was one of the top footballers from his country. In June 2003, while playing for Cameroon in the FIFA Confederations Cup game against Colombia, Foe collapsed in the centre circle in the 72nd minute. Despite a 45-minute effort spent in trying to revive his heart, Foe died after arrival at a nearby medical centre. His cause of death was stated to be Hypertrophic Cardiomyopathy, a hereditary condition known to increase risk of heart failure due to physical exercise.
- Gilles Villeneuve
In a short career, Gilles Villeneuve was one of the most promising drivers in the history of Formula One. After winning a seat in Formula One, with McLaren, Villeneuve moved to Ferrari to partner Jody Scheckter. Finishing second in the 1979 season, behind Scheckter, Villeneuve was quickly becoming a promising contender for the Formula One title. In 1982, during the final qualifying session at the Belgian Grand Prix, Villeneuve was using poor tyres in his final attempt to usurp 6th place.
With just 8 minutes to go, Villeneuve came over the rise and caught Jochen Mass travelling slowly at the Terlamenbocht corner. The Ferrari hit the back of the Mass’ car and was launched into the air at 200 to 225 kmph. After flying and rotating through the air for over 100 metres before crashing nose-first into the ground. Villeneuve lost his helmet but was still strapped in the seat of his car. He was thrown another 50 metres onto the fence.
A fatal fracture of the neck led to his death after reaching the hospital. Villeneuve died later that night.
- Ayrton Senna
There hasn’t been a sportsman who has commanded as much respect from his/her peers, as Ayrton Senna. The three time world champion in the world’s most elite racing format, Senna was considered to be the greatest driver of all time. However, his reign was not meant to last too long and during the third race of the season, at the San Marino Grand Prix, Senna began from pole position. A day after the death of Roland Ratzenberger during qualifying, Senna’s mind wasn’t completely on the race.
A major accident marred the start of the race as J. J. Lehto’s car stalled with Pedro Lamy ramming into him from behind. A wheel was torn of the car and landed in the stands, injuring 8 spectators. Once the race resumed, after the safety car had come & gone, Senna resumed his charge at the front of the track but flew off at the Tamburello corner, hitting the concrete wall at 217kmph. The right front wheel had hit the wall, shot up and struck Senna on the head, causing fatal skull fractures. A piece of metal had also pierced his helmet and made a major indent on his forehead.
Senna was pronounced dead on arrival! Upon removal of his body from the wreckage, track officials had found an Austrian flag that Senna was going to raise in memory of Ratzenberger, who had died the day before.
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