The Gory 1938 NFL Injury That Peeled A Player's Entire Scalp Off His Head

For millions around the world, "football" refers to soccer. For millions more, "football" is American football. Fans of both sports often have spirited debates about the virtues of each, and there are some significant differences between the two beyond linguistic semantics.

In soccer, the ball spends much more time at the feet of players than it ever does in football. Other than the goalkeeper in the penalty area and for throw-ins, a soccer ball should never be handled during play, and doing so constitutes a handball offense. In a split second, of course, it can be difficult to determine whether a player obstructed the ball with some portion of their arm on purpose or not. So much so, in fact, that a March 2021 meeting of The International Football Association Board saw FIFA attempt to clarify: "A player is considered to have made their body unnaturally bigger when the position of their hand/arm is not a consequence of, or justifiable by, the player's body movement for that specific situation."

While injuries are certainly common in soccer, American football injuries are often on a whole different level, which is the reason for many of the sport's rules and gear requirements. Players wear those iconic helmets for a very good reason,  as one player discovered during a shocking accident in an NFL match in 1938.

Every sport has its grisly injuries

As is plain to anybody who has watched the two sports, football is a great deal more physical than soccer. Though soccer players do seem to enjoy jostling for space during setpieces, just about any contact other than a clean tackle that claims the ball earns the ire of the referee.

Collisions do happen in soccer, though, and they can certainly be brutal. The Premier League's David Busst's infamous accident was perhaps the worst in the Premier League's history. The Times reports that, the Coventry player was engaged in a match against Manchester United at the latter's home ground on April 8, 1996, when opposing players Denis Irwin and Brian McClair both collided with his outstretched leg and he claimed the ball. "In the freak collision Busst's right leg buckled, his tibia and fibula splintering, with bits of bone breaking through his skin," the outlet reports.

26 operations later, Busst would recover enough to play casually with friends, and serves Coventry on the community side. His accident was harrowing, there's no denying, but it seems the NFL's Dick Plasman sustained an injury that was just as hard to stomach. He almost lost his scalp in a fateful collision.

Dick Plasman of the Chicago Bears was lucky to survive his collision with the wall

Dick Plasman, History reports, played for the Chicago Bears. At the end of the 1930s, according to the outlet, helmets were worn by almost all players. They were, however, rather uncomfortable and could restrict the player's view of the game, in Plasman's view.

Plasman was drafted by the team in 1937, and it seemed that he did wear a helmet in that year's championship game. He needed it, too: He got into a fight with several opposing players after striking their quarterback Sammy Baugh. This was nothing, however, compared to the grim fate that awaited him the next year, in a November 6 Green Bay Packers match, during which he went helmetless.

Via CBS, Plasman ran for a pass and struck the wall of Wrigley Field. "The collision knocked him cuckoo and left him with an ugly cut stretching across the top of his head," The Washington Times would later state, via CBS. "The outfield wall in Wrigley Field encroached two feet into the end zone in those days," The Southeast Missourian reported in October of 1974. According to History, Plasman knocked himself unconscious, and his head bled profusely from that scalp-long cut.

Some days in the hospital later, Plasman recovered with little more than a hole in his head to show for his ordeal. He even went on to marry the nurse who tended to him.