If you’re a professional athlete, injuries are almost guaranteed. Whether it’s a repetitive stress injury from tennis, a torn ACL from football or something more brutal like a hockey stick to the face, sports injuries are simply a part of life for the professional athlete.
Those who spend their hours on the field may court blunt force trauma, but that doesn’t mean they can’t injure themselves off the field as well. During this year’s baseball spring training, New York Yankees pitcher Joba Chamberlain suffered an open dislocation of his right ankle while playing with his son on a trampoline at a play center in Florida, undergoing surgery on the injury immediately afterward. Chamberlain was released from the hospital three days later and is expected to spend six weeks wearing a cast, although his doctors and coaches are optimistic that he’ll be fit to play this year.
Chamberlain’s injury is another example of how professional athletes suffer the same stubbed toes, paper cuts and tumbles down the stairs as the rest of us, and sometimes he or she suffers off-field injuries so bizarre that they become noteworthy.
What follows is a list of professional athletes whose boo-boos came while they were off-duty. In some cases, the injuries cost the teams the athlete’s services, and in other cases they simply cost the athlete his dignity. Read ahead and see which athletes had the costliest encounters with inanimate objects when they were supposed to be safe and sound.
By Daniel Bukszpan
Posted 22 March 2012
One year after outfielder Glenallen Hill joined the Toronto Blue Jays in 1989, he suffered a freak accident off the field that temporarily put him out of commission. He had a nightmare in which he was being menaced by spiders, and the terrified arachnophobe jumped out of bed, fell down the stairs and tore through his apartment in full berserker mode, all while still asleep.
'When I woke up I was on a couch, and my wife, Mika, was screaming, 'Honey, wake up!''' he said, according to The Associated Press. In the course of tearing through the apartment, he had suffered cuts to his arms and feet, and the injuries put him on the 15-day disabled list. Eerily, one year earlier teammate David Wells had injured himself while sleepwalking, necessitating five stitches.
Opening the cellophane wrapping on a newly purchased DVD is a frustrating chore that can exasperate even the most stoic person. After giving it the old college try, such an individual will normally give up on the bare-hands approach, grab the nearest sharp object and slash the cellophane to ribbons, setting the disc free.
Former San Diego Padres pitcher Adam Eaton found himself in this very situation in 2001, and produced a pocketknife to open the packaging. Unfortunately, he put a little too much English into it, and accidentally stabbed himself in the stomach. He only missed one game, but the injury cost him some respect when it was revealed that the DVD he was trying to open was the Adam Sandler film “Happy Gilmore.”
Coaches must constantly devise new ways to inspire their teams, and sometimes the average pep talk just doesn’t cut it. Former linebacker Jack Del Rio was aware of this, and when he became coach of the Jacksonville Jaguars he devised a unique method for rallying the troops. He would place a wooden log and an ax in front of his team and advise them to “keep chopping wood,” a statement meant to symbolize the slow and methodical way that challenges and adversity are overcome.
Not content to go for mere symbolism, Del Rio would then have his charges come up and take a few inspirational swings of the ax, thereby instilling the player with a sense of purpose. One such player was punter Chris Hanson, whose expertise in sports did not extend to ax-wielding. He took a swing at the wood and promptly gashed his own foot, requiring surgery and costing him the rest of the 2003 season.
During a March 8 spring training game, Tampa Bay Rays pitcher David Price adjourned to the dugout to towel off his sweaty neck, but somehow he did so with such enthusiasm that it caused a neck spasm that sidelined him for five days. "I was just drying my head off in between innings,'' he said, according to the Tampa Bay Times.
Manager Joe Maddon joked that in the future he would eye the towels of competing teams with suspicion. "You never know,” he said, according to USA Today. “The Orioles may have thrown that little extra towel hardener in there of some kind."
Parents often tell their children that playing videogames for too long is unhealthy. What they sometimes neglect to mention is that it can also be career-threatening, as it almost was in the case of former Detroit Tigers pitcher Joel Zumaya.
The pitcher was set to appear in the 2006 American League Championship Series, but he had to sit it out due to a sore right wrist. The culprit, it turned out, was not his fastball — he had caused inflammation to his wrist through endless hours of playing “Guitar Hero” on PlayStation 2. He stopped playing “More Than A Feeling” long enough to return to his team for the World Series. But the Tigers lost the championship to the St. Louis Cardinals.
In 2003, Baltimore Orioles outfielder Marty Cordova fell asleep in a tanning bed and burned his face. Doctors advised him to stay out of direct sunlight while healing, an impossibility for an outfielder like Cordova, whose next games were to be played in California. He missed only one game, but his reputation as Major League Baseball’s answer to Snooki lives on.
During his 12 years with the Chicago Cubs, right fielder Sammy Sosa was a virtual stranger to the disabled list, visiting it only four times. It was his final injury in a Cubs uniform that was the most bizarre.
In 2004, “Slammin’ Sammy” was speaking to reporters in the locker room before a game in San Diego. He sneezed twice, and they were so powerful that they caused spasms and a sprained ligament in his lower back, sidelining him for a full month.
Professional hockey is a famously violent sport. This is especially true for the goaltender, whose job is to position himself between the net and a vulcanized rubber puck flying through the air at over 100 mph. Former National Hockey League goalie Glenn Healy performed this service for four different teams, and would de-stress by playing the bagpipes.
While he was in the process of changing the bag, he suffered a deep cut to his hand that required multiple stitches. The upside was the injury took place in 2000 during the off-season, costing him no time on the ice whatsoever.
There is a common saying that 95 percent of all accidents happen at home. While the accuracy of this statement is debatable, it was certainly true at least once in 2004 for then-San Diego Padres pitcher David Wells.
While hanging out in his kitchen, a friend slapped him on the back of the neck. According to Wells, he turned to respond and accidentally tripped over a barstool. On the way down, he knocked over a bottle of wine, which shattered on the floor. He fell on it and severed a tendon in his wrist and cut his hand, landing him on the disabled list for 15 days.
In 1996, then-Baltimore Orioles shortstop Cal Ripken Jr. was on the American League All-Star team. Prior to the game, the players posed for their team photograph, and after it was taken, the platform on which they were posing buckled, throwing Roberto Hernandez of the Chicago White Sox off balance. While steadying himself, he accidentally hit Ripken in the nose with his forearm, breaking it.
Ever the trooper, Ripken simply had his nose reset and went ahead and played the game anyway. If he hadn’t, he would have jeopardized his streak of over 2,000 consecutive regular-season games. But he had another good reason for forging ahead with the game. "The last thing you want to do is go down in the history of All-Star Game competition as the only injury sustained during the team picture," Ripken said, according to The New York Times.