Top 10 Most Tragic Deaths In Sports

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Sports have flourished to be the field with exceptional care in today’s modern world as it seeks thrilling validation. Indeed, killing to win has been long gone; however, as everything comes with the exception, one in hundreds of athletes at the time falls to death on the field. 

As per me, it is one of the most tragic death ever to face while pursuing one’s passion in the field. Additionally, it is also heart-wrenching to witness our favorite athlete succumb to death in front of us. 

Today, we will discuss the top ten tragic deaths of athletes that the sports industry has faced to date. 

Top 10 Most Tragic Deaths In Sports

Even with routine fitness tests and physiotherapy sessions, several unfortunate athletes have met their ends. Many reasons follow for the death, such as lethal punches, hard blows, and many more.

Ray Chapman (January 15, 1891 – August 17, 1920)

 Full Name: Raymond Johnson Chapman (Nickname: Chappie)
MLB Statistics: 17 home runs, 364 runs batted in, a batting average of .278
Burial Site: Lake View Cemetery

Ray Chapman died young after eight years of service on the MLB field. Initially, Ray made his MLB debut on August 30, 1912, for the Cleveland Indians and his last MLB appearance on August 16, 1920, for the Cleveland Indians. 

His last appearance on the field was when Ray played against the New York Yankees at the Polo Grounds. The game was still ongoing in the late afternoon, and most of the ball delivery was a submarine. 

Ray Chapman injured during the game
Ray Chapman injured during the game

Back then, pitchers would use tobacco juice, soil, or licorice to dirty the ball for swift swing. However, it is also the same reason at times; the ball would be hardly visible.

As per the sources, Ray had difficulty figuring the ball as it was passed towards him, which struck him hard. 

The sound of struck was so loud that everyone assumed that Ray’s bat had strung the ball. However, home plate umpire Tommy Connolly noticed bleeding from Ray’s left ear and screamed for the doctor. 

Following it, every player started running towards him while Ray couldn’t even take a single step forward and fell unconscious. Right after it, they rushed him to St. Lawrence Hospital, where he took his last breath about 4:40 AM and passed away from brain damage.

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Ed Sanders (March 24, 1930 – December 12, 1954)

Full Name: Hayes Edward “Big Ed” Sanders
Boxing Record: six wins (3 TKO), two losses, and one draw

Ed Sanders has always been an athletic man since high school. He has played for the Olympics and tried different sports before devoting himself professionally to the field. 

On December 11, 1954, Ed fought at Boston Garden in Boston, Massachusetts. This fight was against his sparring partner Willie James, the New England Heavyweight Champion, which became his last fight ever.

Ed Sanders
Ed Sanders cemetery (Source:

Few days before this fight, Sanders struggled with headaches and X-rayed his shoulder just a few weeks before. Nevertheless, the match flourished till the eleventh round, where they both shared loads of punches. 

Later, Garden passed a simple punch combination to Ed in the eleventh round as he fell. After falling, he lost consciousness immediately and commenced breathing laboriously. 

In the end, they took Ed out on a stretcher; however, he never regained his consciousness. Lastly, the doctors concluded that he had aggravated a previous injury and hence, died after a long surgery to relieve pressure on the brain.

Bill Masterton (August 13, 1938 – January 15, 1968) 

Full Name: William Masterton (Nickname: Bill)
NHL Statistics: four goals, eight assists, twelve points, and four penalty

Bill Masterton was an NHL Champion and also one of their most valuable athletes on the field. The date January 13, 1968, became the last gameplay of Bill Masterton, which was against the Oakland Seals at the Met Center. 

During the game, Bill suffered an internal brain injury. When Masterton carried the puck up the ice at full speed; however, he got knocked down and fell on his head. This led him to bleed from his nose, ears, and mouth as he lost his consciousness. 

Bill Masterton in a stretcher before his death
Bill Masterton was in a stretcher before his death

Herewith, they rushed him for treatment at Fairview-Southdale Hospital. There, three doctors and two neurosurgeons checked his wound and concluded that the injury was too severe for surgery. 

After thirty hours of the incident, Bill Masterton took his last breath. 

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Chuck Hughes (March 2, 1943 – October 24, 1971)

Full Name: Charles Frederick Hughes
NFL Statistics: fifteen receptions, 262 yards

Chuck Hughes took his last breath on October 24, 1971, at Tiger Stadium, which was also his very last game. That day, he played alongside his team against the Chicago Bears. 

While on the field, as Hughes ran with the turf, he suddenly fell on the ground, clutching his chest around the 20-yard line. As he fell down, the doctors and team assistance ran up to help him as they took him to Henry Ford Hospital. 

Chuck Hughes lies on the Tiger stadium field
Chuck Hughes lies on the Tiger Stadium field (Source: Sporting News)

Not long after it, they pronounced him dead, and he was later buried in San Antonio, Texas. Well, Chuck was struggling with undiagnosed and advanced arteriosclerosis, which played a role in his death. 

As for the direct matter, coronary thrombosis is a cause that caused myocardial infarction and cut off the blood flow to his heart.  

Duk Koo Kim (July 29, 1955 – November 18, 1982)

Nickname: “Gidae” (English: Anticipation)
Boxing Record: seventeen wins (eight KO), two losses, one draw

Kim Duk Koo was a world champion level boxer and a folklore hero in the South Korea. However, he bumped in an unfortunate event; the Las Vegas ring for a world championship bout. 

This much-awaited fight stretched an incident that ended with Duk Koo Kim’s death, followed by a suicide. Indeed, this same incident also changed the way of the sports altogether. 

Duk Koo Kim collapsed with blow
Duk Koo Kim collapsed with blow

Well, the fight was indeed brutal that ended in the thirteenth round. Both of them were bruised, swollen, and bleeding. However, as the thirteenth round ended, the start of the fourteenth round fight snapped Kim’s head back. 

As Kim collapsed on the ring, they took him on a stretcher to the hospital, where he underwent immediate surgery. Unfortunately, right then, he suffered a blood clot on his brain and fell into a coma, and on the fourth day, he died. 

Well, this didn’t end the incident’s outcome as four months later, Kim Duk Doo’s mother took her life by drinking pesticide. Likewise, the referee Richard Green also took his life while Mancini endured a prolonged period of depression. 

Reggie Lewis (November 21, 1965 – July 27, 1993)

Full Name: Reginald C. Lewis (Nickname: Reggie)
NBA Statistics: 7,902 points (17.6 ppg), 1,938 rebounds (4.3 rpg), and 1,153 assists (2.6 apg)
Burial Site: Forest Hills Cemetery 

Reggie Lewis was a professional basketball player who faced an early death at the young age of 27 on the court. However, before his death on July 27, 1993, Reggie stumbled upon a similar incident against the Charlotte Hornets in a playoff series. 

Initially, he fell on the court and remained on the ground for several seconds. Later, he got up and left the game. Following it, he made a few follow-up checkups to the hospital and later joined the game again.

Reggie Lewis
Reggie Lewis

During the off-season practice at Brandeis University in Waltham, Massachusetts, Reggie suffered a sudden cardiac arrest and fell to the ground. Right there, a police officer opted to give him mouth-to-mouth respiration but to no vain. 

Altogether, the cause of Reggie’s death is a heart defect, hypertrophic cardiomyopathy.

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Ayrton Senna (21 March 1960 – 1 May 1994)

Full Name: Ayrton Senna da Silva
Career Statistics: three championships, 41 wins, 80 podiums, 610 (614) career points, 65 pole positions, 19 fastest laps

The 1994 San Marino Grand Prix became the last racing event for Ayrton Senna. However, except for Ayrton, this event witnessed another death of Austrian rookie Roland Ratzenberger during the Saturday qualifying. 

Roland was driving 310 km/h (190 mph) before his car hit the concrete retaining wall. Indeed, Senna was present there, and FIA Medical Chief Professor Sid Watkins had asked him to stop racing as he might also end the same way.

Ayrton Senna faced a car crash
Ayrton Senna faced a car crash. 

However, as we all know, Ayrton had a great passion for his sport, so he stood to keep going. Following it, the event also had several other injuries along the way. Senna met an accident on lap seven while rounding at the high-speed Tamburello corner. 

Right then, he was driving 307 km/h (191 mph) before he ran in a straight line off the track, hitting the concrete retaining. It took them around two minutes for them to take him out of his car. 

By the time he was taken, Ayrton had showcased a weak heartbeat and had a blood loss from his ruptured temporal artery. Later, he was taken to Bologna’s Maggiore Hospital and died after his brain stopped functioning.

Altogether, Senna had undergone a fatal skull fracture, brain injuries, and a ruptured temporal artery. 

Dale Earnhardt (April 29, 1951 – February 18, 2001) 

Full Name: Ralph Dale Earnhardt Sr.
Nickname: Big E, Man In Black, Mr. Chevrolet, The Intimidator
Career Statistics: 21 wins, 75 top tens, seven poles

Dale Earnhardt was a former stock car driver and team owner, a notable race driver in his time.

On February 18, 2001, Dale partook at the Daytona International Speedway, and he got into a three-car crash. After the crash, Dale’s car slammed into the wall on the final turn of the race. 

Dale Earnhardt
Dale Earnhardt graveyard

This three-car crash included first with Sterling Marlin, followed by Ken Schrader. Right after it, they took him to the Halifax Medical Center at 5:16 PM, and he died after sustaining a fatal basilar skull fracture. 

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Marc Vivien Foe (1 May 1975 – 26 June 2003) 

Career Statistics: 30 goals, five assists

Marc Vivien Foe is a decorated athlete that devoted more than a decade to the field. During his last period of time, Foe was playing for the 2003 FIFA Confederations Cup in the international arena. 

Well, Foe was at the Stade de Gerland in Lyon, France, playing against Colombia in the semi-final match.

Marc Vivien Foe taken out of the field in a stretcher
Marc Vivien Foe took out of the field in a stretcher

During the 72nd minute, he collapsed on the ground at the center. Right then, there were no players near him, and hence, he was stretched out of the ground. 

Following it, they gave him mouth-to-mouth resuscitation and medical support; however, he died shortly. Altogether, they revealed that Foe died of heart-related disease, hypertrophic cardiomyopathy.

Antonio Puerta (26 November 1984 – 28 August 2007) 

Full Name: Antonio José Puerta Pérez

Antonio Puerta was a professional soccer athlete who devoted more than a decade to his career. However, he didn’t have many appearances on the field as he only played once for Spain. 

Initially, Antonio stumbled into the injury on 25 August 2007 that eventually took him to his grave three days later. Well, within 35 minutes of the game, Antonio collapsed and lost consciousness in the penalty area due to a cardiac arrest. 

Antonio Puerta collapsed on the ground
Antonio Puerta collapsed on the ground (Source:

During that time, he was playing against Getafe CF at home ground Sánchez Pizjuán. As he collapsed, all the team members and players ran towards him and took him to the dressing room. 

Following it, they gave him cardiopulmonary resuscitation in intensive care, and three days later, he was gone. In the end, the doctors stated that Antonio had faced several organ failures and irreversible brain damage. 

Well, he had struggled with arrhythmogenic right ventricular dysplasia that caused him the pre-mature death. 


Every single death is painfully hard though no one may talk about it. A heart aches even after hearing of a slight injury, and hence, a death tears us apart.

Not only the athletes included on the list are the ones who had a sorrowful death but many others. 

Athletes like Matt Gadsby, Miklós Fehér, Renato Curi, Serginho, and Phil O’Donnell died prematurely. 

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Rajani Gurung
Rajani Gurung
Hey, I'm Rajani! As a digital content writer, I write for several websites on a wide range of topics. At Playersbio, I cover to write about hot trending celebrities and news. My professional experience makes me write the hard topics in a simplified manner for easiness.

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