Deaths of Sportspersons on the Field

When one thinks of horrific deaths on the sports field the first name that comes to mind is Ayrton Senna. The legendary Formula One driver needs no introduction. Just as grand were his accomplishments on his chosen arena similarly gruesome was his death on the racing track on May 1, 1994. Even when the great one passed away he had been heading the leaderboard at the San Marino Grand Prix, being staged at the Autodromo Enzo e Dino Ferrari of Italy. Just the day prior to Senna’s demise, Roland Ratzenberger had lost his life in the same circuit while attempting to qualify for the final race. Incidentally, it was both Ratzenberger and Senna’s horrific deaths that caused the Formula One authorities to sit up and take notice to improve the safety arrangement in place during races.

The history of sports is filled with numerous such instances of sportsmen having died on the field or receiving critical injuries that eventually contributed to their death. While these athletes become immortalized their loss continues to rankle their colleagues and near and dear ones.

American Sportsperson who Died on the Field

Dale Earnhardt was one of the iconic sportsmen of NASCAR and his name is uttered in the same breath as the likes of Richard Petty. The great driver suffered a horrific accident in 2001 at Daytona when his car first collided with the wall, was then hit by another oncoming car and then crashed again into the wall. Even though the crash was supposed to be minor Earnhardt sustained grievous injuries that led to his death.

Reggie Lewis, a leading basketball player from 1987-1993 for Boston Celtics, passed away on July 27, 1993, during a game when he suffered a sudden heart attack.

Ed Sanders was a boxer who represented the U.S. in the 1952 summer Olympics. Soon afterwards he turned pro. On December 12, 1954, he fought Willie James in what turned out to be his last game as well as the day of his demise. He was a spent force by the 11th round and was then subjected to punch combination by his opponent, which felled him. He suffered bleeding inside his brain and died afterwards with the doctors attempting in vain to resuscitate him.

Scott Brayton, a racing car driver, was regarded as a contender for the Indie Racing Title when it was started in 1996. It was on May 17, 1996, when the driver passed away from the impact of hitting a wall at speeds of at least 230 mph while practicing.

Following are some other important names in this regard:


Date of Death

Reason of Death

Frank Hayes, Jockey

February 1923

Heart attack

Ray Chapman, Baseball

August 17, 1920

Hit in the head by a ball

Chuck Hughes, Football

October 24, 1971

Heart attack

Bill Masterton, Ice Hockey

January 13, 1968

Brain hemorrhage

Howard Glenn, Football

October 9, 1960

Spinal injuries

JV Cain, Football

July 22, 1979

Congenital heart failure

Soccer Players who Died on the Field

Thomas Blackstock is one of the earliest soccer players to have died on the pitch. He breathed his last on April 8, 1907, while playing for Manchester United against St Helens. He died after collapsing having headed a ball. It is believed he suffered a seizure or cardiac arrest.

John Thomson, regarded as one of the finest goalkeepers ever, died on September 5, 1931, when he collided accidentally with an opponent player named Sam English during a game between traditional Scottish rivals Celtic and Rangers. The incident took place at Ibrox.

Following is a brief list of other soccer players who have died on the pitch following critical injuries:


Date of Death

Cause of Death

Hrvoje Custic

April 3, 2008

Head injuries

Cristiano Junior

December 5, 2004

Collision with opponent goalkeeper

Jumadi Amdi

March 15, 2009

Collision with opponent player

Marc-Vivien Foe

June 26, 2003

Died due to hypertrophic cardiomyopathy

Cristian Gomez

May 24, 2015

Heart failure

Emanuel Ortega

May 14, 2015

Fatal head injury

Tim Nicot

May 11, 2015

Heart failure

Gregory Mertens

April 30, 2015

Heart failure

Peter Blaksangzuala

October 19, 2014

Spinal injuries

Akli Fairuz

May 19, 2014

Colliding with opposition goalkeeper

Cricketers who died on the field

Philip Hughes is one of the first and foremost names that come to mind when one speaks of cricketers who died on the field. Hughes was struck by a bouncer from fast bowler Sean Abbott while playing in a Sheffield Shield game between South Australia and New South Wales. He suffered a ruptured artery and had to be given mouth-to-mouth respiration at the boundary so that he could be revived. He was taken to the hospital afterwards where he fell prey to his injuries a couple of days later.

On November 21, 2015, Raymond van Schoor became the latest sportsman to have been critically injured while playing. On November 17 he was playing at Windhoek against Free State, a team in South Africa’s domestic cricket system, and collapsed while batting after he suffered a stroke owing to the oppressively hot conditions. He was taken to the hospital where he breathed his last.

On April 20, 2015, an Indian cricketer named Ankit Keshri died after suffering critical injuries after a collision with his teammate Sourav Mondal while trying to take a catch during a league game a few days back.

Darryn Randall, a South African domestic player, died during 2013 when he tried to play a pull shot and got hit on the side of his head. The wicketkeeper-batsman collapsed immediately and was taken to the hospital but in the end he could not be saved. He was 32 when he died. The same year also saw the death of a 22 year-old Pakistani cricketer named Zulfiqar Bhatti. While batting he was hit in the chest and collapsed. He was taken to the hospital but pronounced dead when he arrived.

A 33-year old English fast bowler named Richard Beaumont collapsed on the field when he suffered what was thought to be a heart attack. Previously he was enjoying having bagged a fifer. He was immediately admitted to the Queen Elizabeth Hospital at Birmingham but passed away shortly after he arrived there.

Following is a brief list of cricketers who breathed their last while on the field or because of injuries sustained over there:


Date of Death

Cause of Death

Wasim Raja

August 23, 2006

Heart attack

Raman Lamba

February 20, 1998

Struck on the head while fielding at short leg without helmet

Ian Folley

August 30, 1993

Heart attack

Wilf Slack

January 15, 1989

None discovered

Abdul Aziz

January 17, 1959

Hit in the chest

Andy Ducat

July 23, 1942

Heart attack

George Summers

June 29, 1870

Head injury suffered during match

Jasper Vinall

August 28, 1624

Struck by a bat on the head

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