Looking back at the freak injuries of freak athletes

Mame Bonsu '14 as the RA in the Orientation PlayPhoto by Elena Ruyter '14
Mame Bonsu '14 as the RA in the Orientation Play
Photo by Elena Ruyter '14

From the first Greek Olympics to modern times with all of today’s technological advancement, athletes have always represented the pinnacle of human physical prowess, modeling their physique and majesty through their unique set of skills. To that end, athletes prepare their minds and bodies regularly and painstakingly to be able to perform at their best. Sometimes, however, despite this readiness, athletes injure themselves in the clumsiest ways in an ironic display of their humanity. Their fall from grace in this fashion immortalizes them in a surprisingly long list of hilarious freak injuries for athletes. These are a few of their stories.
Most recently, Kansas City Royals catcher Salvador Perez fell while carrying luggage on a trip with the team and tore his left M.C.L. Perez is widely regarded as one of the best catchers in the MLB and served as a key contributor to the Royals 2014 World Series berth and subsequent 2015 World Series victory. Perez will miss four to six weeks, and since this injury occurred just days before the Royals first game, Perez has yet to even play a game for the Royals. Famous Chicago Bulls forward Carlos Boozer tripped on a bag in his own home, breaking his finger, and former San Francisco Giants second baseman Jeff Kent slipped and broke his foot while cleaning his truck just after his 2002 M.V.P. run as well. Tripping seems to be the most common off-field injury for athletes, making them seem more human and attainable.
Former Washington Nationals pitcher Ryan Mattheus broke his hand punching a locker in frustration after a disappointing performance on the mound in 2013. To add insult to injury, two years later, another Nationals pitcher, Drew Storen, failed to learn from Mattheus’ mistake and punched another locker, breaking his hand as well. Both missed significant playing time, especially given the close timing to Nationals’ playoff pushes.
One of the best defensive ends in the N.F.L., the New York Giants’ Jason Pierre-Paul, blew off part of his hand with a firework while celebrating the Fourth of July with his family. After days in the hospital, doctors eventually had to amputate Pierre-Paul’s index finger and graft skin to the area. Pierre-Paul returned that next season to have another solid year, despite his missing finger, and still famously lines up on the defensive line with only nine fingers.
Another New York Giants player, wide receiver Plaxico Burress, famously accidentally shot himself in the leg just months after his integral role in winning Super Bowl XLII over the New England Patriots in 2008. Burress rushed to the hospital, where doctors managed to save his leg, critical to his ongoing N.F.L. career. Again, adding insult to injury, Burress subsequently  received charges for unlawful possession of a firearm among others. This double stinger haunted Burress for the rest of his career, as he never fully returned to the same prominence. Along the same lines, former M.L.B. pitcher Adam Eaton once stabbed himself in the abdomen while attempting to open a DVD and top N.H.L. player Joe Sakic suffered significant damage to his hand while using a snow blower.
A number of athletes also injured themselves playing pickup games not even in their respective sport sometimes, including wide receiver Steve Smith, golfer Rory McIlroy, skier Bode Miller, and now Yankees manager Aaron Boone. Hall of Fame outfielder Ken Griffey Jr. even broke his hand wrestling with his son. It is understandable to want to show off a little, alleviate some of the pressure of playing professional sports, or even just play with your kids, but these injuries have profound implications on the course of a team’s season or a player’s career.
Another M.L.B. Hall of Fame member, the strikeout king Nolan Ryan once missed time after a coyote bit his hand. Ryan apparently stuck his hand into a coyote enclosure — begging the question of why — but nonetheless persisted to have one of the most successful careers in MLB history.
Although technically on the field, designated hitter Kendrys Morales once hit a walkoff grand slam that proved to be one of the best and worst moments of his career. After hitting the bomb, Morales rounded the bases before making the final turn to head to home plate to celebrate with his teammates. However, when Morales jumped dramatically onto home plate, ready for his teammates to mob him, his leg snapped, causing him to miss a number of games. Morales would return but apparently could not live down the irony of his injury among his teammates. In a similarly tragic story, Arizona Cardinals kicker Bill Gramatica once jumped in celebration of a crucial field goal, but landed oddly, tearing his A.C.L. Gramatica’s untimely departure from the game resulted in a loss for his team.
While athletes may inspire us to be our best physically, they quickly fall from that pedestal with these definitively odd off-field injuries. These few examples and so many more remind us that professional athletes can suffer the same plagues that we do: clumsiness, human error, and general stupidity. Hopefully we can learn from their examples, both good and bad, to maximally succeed at whatever we do and stay healthy even in the seemingly safest of circumstances.

Adam Schauer

Adam is Swarthmore Baseball's 2017-2018 runner-up in saves and a sports writer for the Phoenix. A lifelong sports nut from the nation's capital, Adam channels all of his anger of the Nationals failing to win a single playoff series into motivation to write for The Phoenix. He hopes that his readers do not feel the same reading his articles as he does every MLB postseason: disappointed.

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