The Worst Knee Injuries in Football

Greg Evans March 25th, 2015

Watching an athlete being carried off the field on a stretcher has become an all-too-common sight for avid sports fans. What onlookers often forget is how an injury that momentarily distracts from the game can also be the downfall of a powerful athlete’s career.


It’s easy to dismiss how significant these injuries can be in the lives of our favorite athletes. Any injury is a bad one, but some of the most career-ending blows are those that occur in the knee. With constant changes in direction and brutal blows, knees are especially susceptible to injury during games.

Let’s take a look at some of football history’s worst career-ending knee injuries.

NaVorro Bowman, San Francisco 49ers Linebacker
NaVorro suffered one of the worst possible types of knee injury when Seahawks receiver Jermaine Kearse was pushed into him, knocking NaVorro to the ground and buckling his knee inwards. Both his ACL and MCL were torn, forcing NaVorro to step out of the spotlight. Thirteen months after his injury, NaVorro has still not stepped foot on the field for a game. Watch the video of his injury here.

Duante Culpepper, Vikings Quarterback
Fans cringed when Duante suffered damage to three of the four major ligaments in the leg – his ACL, PCL, and MCL – during a game against the Carolina Panthers in October of 2005. Two years and multiple surgeries later, Duante was able to return to the field with the Dolphins. However, his performance was never quite the same and his career ended with starting only 24 games in his last four seasons. Read more about his injury here.

Marcus Lattimore, 49ers Running Back
Nothing makes us recoil more than the description of Marcus Lattimore’s all-encompassing knee injuries. While playing for the University of South Carolina, Lattimore dislocated his knee cap and tore every ligament in his right knee. The 49ers selected him during the 2013 draft, but he spent the season trying to recover. In the end, Lattimore never made a significant debut on the team as he was forced to announce his retirement from football due to his injuries. Watch a video of the injury here.

Napoleon MaCallum, Raiders Running Back
In 1994 during the opening game of the season, MaCallum was taken down by the 49ers linebacker. As he went down, his cleat got stuck in the ground, which forced his knee to dislocate. McCallum had a complete hyperextension of his left knee, a ruptured artery in his left knee, and three torn ligaments. He tore the calf and hamstring from the bone and suffered nerve damage in the knee. He hoped for just a lengthy rehab, but McCallum’s surgeon told him that there was no chance of him ever being medically cleared to play again. His career was over. Watch a video of the injury here.

Wendell Davis, Bears Receiver
When you hear the phrase “his kneecaps were pushed all the way into his thighs,” it will make you cringe every time. But that’s exactly what happened to Wendell Davis. His career ended in 1993 in a game against the Philadelphia Eagles. While attempting to catch a pass, his cleats got stuck in the turf, and the force of being pulled back to the ground completely severed both patella tendons. He spent several months in a wheelchair, with his legs encased in casts from thigh to ankle. He attempted a comeback with the Indianapolis Colts in 1995 but did not appear in a single game. Read more about the injury here.


While these types of injuries can be debilitating for an athlete’s career, they don’t have to be as destructive for you. If you’re suffering from knee pain or recovering from a knee injury, give our AcuKnee system a try.

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