The Day Def Leppard Drummer Rick Allen Lost His Arm in Car Crash
Def Leppard drummer Rick Allen was nearly killed in a car accident on Dec. 31, 1984. He escaped with his life but lost his left arm in one of the scariest and ultimately inspiring stories in recent rock history.
The crash occurred when Allen was speeding on a country road near Sheffield, England. He misjudged a curve, smashed through a stone wall and flipped his car several times. Wearing an improperly fastened seat belt, the drummer was ejected from the vehicle – although as he told the BBC, "I think my arm was left in the car."
A medical professional who lived nearby packed Allen's limb in ice, but attempts to re-attach it to his body failed due to infection.
He was lucky to survive, but Allen's position in one of rock's biggest bands – still riding high on the back of their 1983 commercial breakthrough Pyromania – was obviously in jeopardy. Amazingly, neither Allen nor his Def Leppard bandmates gave up: The drummer said he realized while still in the hospital he could play the parts to many of his favorite songs with his feet.
Watch Def Leppard's Rick Allen Discuss His Journey
Allen set about learning to play on a customized drum kit with his bandmates' full support, triggering the snare drum with the foot normally used for his hi-hat pedals. Just 20 months later, he triumphantly returned to the stage with Def Leppard for 1986's Monsters of Rock festival at Castle Donington, following a test run at a small pub.
Def Leppard's long-awaited follow-up Hysteria arrived in 1987, and not only solidified their place in the rock hierarchy but sold even better than Pyromania. They remain among rock's most popular concert draws to this day.
Since an inspiring visit to the Walter Reed Army Medical Center in 2006, Allen has dedicated himself to helping war veterans who suffer from Post Traumatic Stress Disorder as a result of incurring injuries similar to his own.
"I didn’t know what my life would be like after that terrible day. It was the darkest time in my life," Allen told ABC News in 2012. "My desire is to encourage a support system for warriors, de-stigmatize PTSD, share their stories and offers alternative ways to pave the road to resiliency and health."
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