Of course, you’ve heard about all the long-term risks associated with playing professional football. Furthermore, the sport used to be far more hazardous than it is now; in 1905, 18 players died, and most of them were high school students. Yet only one player has perished on the field in the NFL’s history.
On October 24, 1971, Chuck Hughes of the Detroit Lions passed away at the age of 28. Hughes sat on the sidelines for the first three-quarters of their contest with the Chicago Bears. He entered the game in place of a (not critically hurt) player with 10 minutes remaining. He collected a pass with two minutes remaining to play. Then, with 62 seconds remaining, he passed out.
Some Bears players began shouting and cursing at Hughes because they believed he was fabricating an injury to earn an additional timeout, as they subsequently admitted. He wasn’t pretending. He was taken off the field on a stretcher after a team of medical professionals tried CPR on him. At the hospital, the doctors would keep trying to revive him, but he was already dead.
Play then began once more. We’re not criticizing the other players here; at this point, none of them were concerned about the result of the game; instead, they were content to run out at the last minute. When Hughes was injured, the Bears were leading 28 to 23; they kept that advantage since no one attempted to score after that. However, the way that the last minute ended must have been absurd. Since there was no provision in the regulations for early game termination due to player death, they had allowed the timer to run out completely.
Hughes did not pass away as a result of a brain injury. Since one of his arteries was almost completely blocked just before he passed away, he suffered a heart attack. The attack was initiated by exertion rather than contact with another player. His family held the hospital accountable for failing to recognize his condition sooner rather than the game of football. They secured an out-of-court settlement after filing a $21.5 million lawsuit against the hospital.