By Mitch Calvert
The recent news that St. Louis Blues’ defenceman Erik Johnson tore the anterior cruciate and medial collateral ligaments in his knee during a team golf outing is almost too bizarre to comprehend.
The former No. 1 pick in the 2006 NHL entry draft got his right foot caught between the accelerator and the brake of his golf cart, and now his sophomore season is history (somehow the stars of “Jackass” can survive a barrel roll in a golf cart without injury, yet Johnson gets hurt in this fashion?)
It’s a huge loss for the Blues and is a big setback for the 20-year-old, but the randomness of the injury is not in a category of its own. Staying with that same team, Doug Wickenheiser also once tore both his ACL and MCL (only in his left knee) during a team hazing event in 1985.
The victims of their prank were newcomers Gilbert Delorme and Kevin LaVallee, who Wickenheiser and co. had “arrested” by local authorities for violating a local hunting law.
While Delorme and LaVallee sat in jail, Wickenheiser and the other Blues went out for some pizza. But upon leaving (presumably to break their teammates out of jail), the Blues’ players began climbing into a pickup truck, but Wickenheiser fell backward—into a 17-year-old driver’s oncoming car.
Wickenheiser was thrown onto the windshield and rolled off into the street, missing an extended period of time before rejoining the team midway through the 1986 season.
More recently there was the freak injury to Vancouver Canucks’ Brent Sopel, who suffered a back injury during the playoffs two years ago after pulling a muscle picking up a cracker for his daughter. Whether it was a Ritz or a Nabisco never was confirmed, but the injury was serious enough to force him out of a playoff game.
Last fall, then-Tampa Bay Lightning defenceman Dan Boyle dropped a skate on his wrist in the dressing room, slicing a few tendons which required surgery and a long recovery.
According to wikipedia.org, major-league pitcher Joel Zumaya developed inflammation in his right arm and missed three games of the 2006 American League championship series because he played too much “Guitar Hero.” In 2004, Sammy Sosa had a bout with back spasms after sneezing too hard before a game—resulting in a week-long stint on the disabled list.
And baseball isn’t done there. Atlanta Braves’ hurler Steve Smoltz once scalded himself trying to iron his shirt. Seemingly innocent on the surface, the twist was, in fact, that Smoltz was wearing the shirt at the time (those newfangled things called ironing boards must be out of his price range).
Another pitcher, Steve Sparks, tried to tear a phone book in half after watching a motivational speaker do it in 1994. Sparks ended up dislocating his shoulder, but thankfully the phone book still was in good enough shape for him to contact a doctor if he felt the need.
It’s not just the players who are vulnerable to these seemingly random and embarrassing injuries, either.
Former San Francisco Giants’ manager Roger Craig cut his hand on a bra strap (no word on whose bra strap it was) in the early 1990s. But being a trooper, Craig still suited up on the bench for the following game.
These are just some of the things that actually have been leaked to the media. Oh, to be a professional athlete.