Professional athletes and prospective pro athletes are primary candidates for disability insurance coverage. Many elite college football, basketball, baseball and hockey players who will likely turn pro and sign big contracts take advantage of the NCAA’s Exceptional Student-Athlete Disability Insurance Program (or secure private DI policies) to protect their potential future earnings against the possibility of a career-ending injury.
Read Chris Lack’s feature, “How do high-priced athletes protect themselves after the final buzzer sounds?”
Here is a list of professional athletes who we hope had good DI policies, because each one of them suffered a career-ending injury while competing.
Two-time Super Bowl champ Joe Theismann served all of his 11 years in the NFL as quarterback for the Washington Redskins. His career came to a widely witnessed and abrupt end in 1985 during an ABC Monday Night Football game against the New York Giants after a hit by linebacker Lawrence Taylor very obviously broke both bones in his lower right leg. Many people still can’t bear to watch the replay.
Next: Kirby Puckett
Star centerfielder Kirby Puckett played his entire 12-year Major League Baseball career for the Minnesota Twins. In 1995, Puckett suffered a broken jaw when he was hit by an errant fastball. He tried to rehab in the minors, but was diagnosed with glaucoma in 1996 and was forced to retire after three failed surgeries to repair his vision. He died in 2006.
Next: Dave Dravecky
In 1989, San Francisco Giants pitcher Dave Dravecky rallied back to The Show in inspirational fashion after a cancerous tumor was removed from his pitching arm in 1988. In his first game he pitched eight solid innings and notched what would be his last victory on the mound. Five days later, his humerus bone snapped in two while throwing a pitch in the sixth inning against the Expos, thus ending his seven-year career. He broke his arm a second time later that year celebrating the Giants’ pennant-clinching win, and a doctor examining his X-rays noticed a mass in his arm. Cancer had returned, and his arm was amputated two years later. Dravecky is now a motivational speaker.
Next: Dikembe Mutombo
Dikembe Mutombo, a center for the Houston Rockets, blocked more shots in his 18-year NBA career than Kareem Abdul-Jabbar and was a four-time Defensive Player of the Year (who also speaks nine languages and is known for his humanitarian efforts). But in the second game of the first round of the 2009 NBA Playoffs — the oldest player in the league at the time — Mutumbo suffered a knee injury that forced him into retirement. After the game, he said, “It’s over for me for my career.”
Next: Michael Irvin