Death on the Job: Sports Stars Who Died Doing Their Job

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The sports we play in the modern age are not as deadly or as violent as the sports our early ancestors played. Still, many of them can be brutal on the human body, and even the seemingly tame sports — such as soccer — have recorded long lists of on-field deaths from injuries, heart attacks, and even lightening strikes, as this shows.

Philip Hughes
Crave Online

Philip Hughes

Hughes was a young cricketer who played for Worcestershire and had also won a number of caps for the Australian national team. He was far from the best player in the world, or even in the country, and he wasn’t a regular feature for Australia towards the end, but by all accounts he was a great teammate.

This is part of the reason his demise shook the sport as it did, but another reason was the sheer bad luck of it. Hughes was playing for South Australia in a match against New South Wales and had hit 63 runs before missing a swing and being struck in the neck by a ball. It seemed innocuous at first and Hughes didn’t react negatively straight away. However, within a matter of days, he had died from this impact.

Despite wearing a helmet, the ball had struck an unprotected part of his neck and the weight of the ball, along with the speed at which it was traveling, was enough to dissect an artery and cause a hemorrhage. He was rushed to the hospital and placed in an induced coma, before dying two days later.

Wikipedia
Wikipedia

Ayrton Senna

When deaths do occur on-field or on-track, we rarely see the demise of the greatest. All deaths are tragic and should be viewed equally, but when the best of the best die doing what they love and what everyone loves to watch them do, it hits home a little harder. That’s exactly what happened in 1994 when the world of motor racing witnessed the death of Formula One champion and crowd-pleaser Ayrton Senna.

Senna liked to push boundaries in a sport that had yet to learn how to make its drivers truly safe. He was reckless on the track, despite being a gentleman off the track, and during a race at the Autodromo Enzo e Dino Ferrari, home to the San Marino Grand Prix, he met his match. Senna hit an unprotected crash barrier doing close to 150 miles per hour. The impact was catastrophic, with Senna suffering fatal head trauma and dying there and then, in front of millions of TV viewers.

Duk Koo Kim
Wikipedia

Duk Koo Kim

Young boxing fans may wonder why current fights last for a maximum of 12 rounds, when contests of old ran for 15. This change occurred during the 1970s, and it all comes down to Duk Koo Kim. The South Korean boxer had an impressive record and a bright future. He had already done enough to earn a title fight with Ray Mancini and win or lose, he was set to be a very successful and wealthy boxer in the years that followed.

Duk Koo Kim came very close to winning that fight. He did significant damage to his opponent, giving the referee an excuse to end the fight in his favor if he had any doubts. However, Ray landed a powerful punch in the 14th round and he was declared the victor by TKO after Duk Koo Kim looked unable to continue.

After the fight, whilst Mancini and his people celebrated, Duk Koo Kim slipped into a coma. It seems the winning punch had done some serious damage, and within four days the talented young boxer had died. For the World Boxing Commission, this incident was all they needed to reduce contests from 15 rounds to 12 rounds, and this nifty and technically gifted Korean fighter was able to leave his mark on the sport after all.

Ray Chapman
Wikipedia

Ray Chapman

As one of the most promising baseball players of his time, Chapman was earning quite a hefty salary by 1920’s standards. He played for the Cleveland Naps and was a top hitter, breaking a record for the most walks and runs. During a game against the Yankees, though, his career came to an abrupt end.

Chapman was pitched a spitball and as far as the crowd was concerned, he had managed to hit it. After all, they heard the sound of the ball hitting the bat as he gave it all he had. Only, that wasn’t the sound they heard. They had actually heard the sound of the ball cracking Chapman’s skull and killing him almost instantly.

As with Duk Koo Kim 5 decades after him, Chapman left a legacy on his sport that remains to this day; it is because of Chapman that all baseball hitters are required to wear helmets.