Evel Knievel: Dedicated to Defying Death, Lost To IPF

Patrícia Silva, PhD avatar

by Patrícia Silva, PhD |

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The name Robert Craig might not ring a bell, but the stage name Evel Knievel is universally recognized.

Born Oct. 17, 1938, Evel Knievel grew up to be a famous motorcycle stunt performer and entertainer who dedicated his life to defying death. In fact, he became known not only for his amazing skills, but also for rapidly recovering from a seemingly endless litany of life-threatening injuries.

But no matter how many times Knievel came close to dying in front of countless cheering crowds, it was an often silent and still incurable disease that took his life.

With an outstanding career in entertainment, Evel Knievel attempted more than 75 ramp-to-ramp motorcycle jumps between 1965 and 1980 – and in 1974, a failed canyon jump across Snake River Canyon in a team-powered rocket.

Dubbed a ‘daredevil’, he suffered more than 433 known bone fractures during his career, which earned him a spot in the Guinness Book of World Records as the survivor of “most bones broken in a lifetime.”

However, the life of Evel Knievel was not only about fame. His health suffered with the lifestyle he lived.

In 1999, the stunt-man underwent a liver transplant due to deadly hepatitis C, thought to have been contracted in a blood transfusion needed after a spill. He also struggled with diabetes, and in 2004, he was diagnosed with idiopathic pulmonary fibrosis (IPF).

After a living a famous life dedicated to defying death, he struggled for three years with IPF, then on Nov. 30, 2007, he succumbed to the disease that most people had never heard about.

Evel Knievel died of complications related to idiopathic pulmonary fibrosis.

At the time, the Coalition for Pulmonary Fibrosis has issued a statement using his fame to raise awareness for the disease that is characterized by scarred tissue in the lungs. There was no cure for IPF in 2007 and almost a decade later there still is not. More than 128,000 people suffer from IPF in the United States alone; 40,000 people die from it every year.

Coalition for Pulmonary Fibrosis (CPF), Chief Executive Officer Mark Shreve offered sympathy to the Evel Kneivel’s family in a press release.

“We know first hand the tragedy of IPF,” Shreve said. “It is devastating news to IPF patients and their families that viable treatments for IPF still do not exist. We desperately need to increase awareness of IPF and fund research that will lead to new treatments, and ultimately a cure.”

Last year, Pulmonary Fibrosis News remembered the story of Evel Knievel in its #TBT series. Watch here the TV public service announcement recorded by the entertainer right before his death here.

Learn more about Idiopathic Pulmonary Fibrosis.

Pulmonary Fibrosis News is strictly a news and information website about the disease. It does not provide medical advice, diagnosis or treatment. This content is not intended to be a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment. Always seek the advice of your physician or other qualified health provider with any questions you may have regarding a medical condition. Never disregard professional medical advice or delay in seeking it because of something you have read on this website.

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