Kym Johnson and Hines Ward Kym Johnson and Hines Ward

Judge Carrie Ann Inaba wasn't the only one in tears Monday night after watching football great Hines Ward and Kym Johnson conquer the Argentine tango on Dancing With the Stars. Many in the audience were crying, too. Just before the dance, they had witnessed Friday's rehearsal footage and the dance trick that went horribly wrong, sending Johnson to the hospital. 

Johnson, trying an intricate move she'd never done before, had Ward pull her into a kind of backwards somersault with both arms.  She landed on the floor, upside down and on the back of her head and shoulders. Hines fell on top of her. When the producers played the accident in slow motion, it became abundantly clear that she could have been paralyzed.

After the show, Johnson came out of the ballroom wearing a long brown fleece robe, its collar stuffed with a large ice pack. Ward was at her side, looking whipped. They were both blaming themselves for the accident. "It was my stupid fault for trying to put this move in," says Johnson. "I guess the competition got the better of me. I said, 'Let's try this trick I saw — a trick I saw the world champions from Columbia do.' Who does that? Me."

"And I kept second guessing myself," says Ward. "I should've fallen to the side of her instead of over the top. To watch her being rolled off and taken to the hospital...to watch her with a neck brace being laid up in the hospital...  I didn't know if she would be able to dance. We were that close. That could've easily gone the other way. Far worse."

It was a terrible weekend for Ward, who was worried sick over Johnson and was left wondering until Monday morning who his dance partner was going to be. Pro Cheryl Burke stepped in to work with him on his routines. "Cheryl was amazing," says one of Ward's competitors, Chelsea Kane. "She was like, 'I will step in. I will learn the routines.' And Hines was like, 'I can't go out there without Kym.'"

"I didn't get no sleep," he adds. "I didn't really care about the dancing, to be honest. I was just worried about Kym." Johnson showed up to supervise rehearsals, wearing her neck brace but not dancing. Then on Monday morning, doctors cleared her to dance. She took a lot of intricate moves out of both routines, but it didn't hurt their scores. Both dances received perfect 30s.

"I don't do stupid things," says Johnson. "But I did do a stupid thing in that moment and I learned a big lesson. I'm not gonna try stupid things again. It's not worth it."

Subscribe to TV Guide Magazine now!