A Brief History
On April 30, 1993, Hungarian (by ancestry) tennis star, Monica Seles, was stabbed in the back by a fan obsessed with Steffi Graf, another well known female tennis star. Seles was number one in the world for the previous 2 years, but unfortunately was absent from pro tennis for 2 years after the stabbing. She had already won 8 Grand Slam titles had become the youngest ever French Open winner at age 16. She was only 20 years old at the time of the attack and never regained her championship form, playing her last professional match in 2003. Athletes have been hurt, sometimes severely in many ways, some of those ways could be described as bizarre, or even cracked. Here are 10 cases of athletes injured in bizarre ways.
10. Anderson Silva, Mixed Martial Arts.
Considered by most experts to be the greatest mixed martial arts fighter in history, he certainly is the greatest the Ultimate Fighting Championship (UFC) has produced. While holding the middleweight title for a record 10 defenses, Silva also has the record for 16 consecutive wins in the UFC. While attempting to regain his championship belt in December of 2013, Silva attempted to kick his opponent’s leg, which his opponent “checked” causing Silva’s left shin to break in spectacular fashion, bending around his opponent’s leg like Silva’s leg was made of rubber. Both his tibia and fibula were broken, with his tibia requiring a metal rod to hold it in place. It is unknown if Silva will ever fight again, although he claims he wants to.
9. Owen Hart, Professional Wrestling.
Fighting as Owen Hart and also The Blue Blazer, Hart was zip lining into the ring at a WWF pay-per-view even held in Kansas City when the equipment malfunctioned allowing him to fall 78 feet to his death. The pay-per-view event was not cancelled, although television viewers were told of Hart’s death and the live audience was not. Oddly, the live audience had watched it happen, and the television audience did not. Hart, a Canadian, was only 34 years old when he died. His family sued the WWF and won an $18 million settlement.
8. Kellen Winslow, Jr., Football.
While a Cleveland Brown in the spring of 2005, and having a contract that forbade riding motorcycles, Winslow was seriously injured while attempting trick riding on his Suzuki motor cycle. Not only did he miss the entire 2005 season, he also suffered a serious staph infection in his injured knee. Although one of the best tight ends in the game, at 31 years old he is currently without a team and is accused of masturbating while sitting in his car in public. (The last incident seems to be unrelated to the motorcycle accident.)
7. Ray Chapman, Baseball.
The only major league baseball player ever killed because of an injury in a game, Chapman, of the Cleveland Indians, was hit in the head with a pitch by Carl Mays of the Yankees in 1920, and died 12 hours later. Other famous baseball players suffering severe injury from being hit by pitches include Tony Conigliaro (Red Sox, 1967) who had been the youngest home run champ ever at age 20 in 1965, and the second youngest ballplayer to 100 home runs. He had a heart attack and stroke in 1982 at age 37 and was in a coma the rest of his life, dying at age 45. Kirby Pucket (Twins, 1995) got a broken jaw from a pitch, and had to retire a year later. He died at age 45 in 2006 of a stroke. There is no way for us to know if Conigliaro’s and Puckett’s early deaths had anything to do with the severe injuries from being hit by pitches.
6. Richard Zednik, Hockey.
While plying in an NHL hockey game in 2008, Zednik’s team mate, Olli Jokinen, tripped over another player causing Jokinen’s skate to slash Zednik’s throat. With a carotid artery sliced open, Zednik left a massive trail of blood as he skated to his team bench, where he was attended to by the team trainer and taken to the hospital. Doctors later explained that the carotid artery was cut open but not completely severed in two. Had it been so, Zednik would have been in much more danger of dying and surgery would have been more complicated. Cracked fact: It took over 20 minutes and help from the Zamboni to clean the blood up enough to continue the game.
5. Nancy Kerrigan, Ice Skating.
The 1992 Olympic Bronze Medalist and the 1993 US National Champion, Kerrigan was the best hope for a US gold medal in the 1994 Olympics. In a truly bizarre case of poor sportsmanship, the ex-husband of her rival, Tonya Harding, along with a buddy, waylaid Kerrigan as she was leaving a practice for the 1994 National Championships and beat her on the knee with a police nightstick. Surveillance cameras captured the attack, and Kerrigan crying, “Why, why?” Although unable to compete in the National Championships (which are basically the Olympic team tryout), Kerrigan was named to the team anyway, and finished aclose second to Oksana Baiul of Ukraine.
4. Dana Bowman, Sky Diving.
A member of the US Army’s elite skydiving team, the Golden Knights, Bowman was practicing in Arizona in 1994 when a team mate collided with him, killing the other soldier and severing both of Bowman’s legs. Incredibly, Bowman’s parachute opened and he was rushed to a hospital when he landed. After 9 months of treatment and rehabilitation, Bowman became the first ever double amputee allowed to reenlist in the Army. Bowman parachuted into the reenlistment ceremony!
3. Mickey Mantle, Baseball.
Mantle was one of the game’s brightest young stars, and was not only a great power hitter, but was the fastest man ever clocked from home to first base. This incredible speed was forever taken from “The Mick” when during the 1951 World Series he stepped in an unintentionally left open drain pipe in the outfield, tearing his ACL (a major knee ligament). Knee surgery was not even in its infancy then, and Mantle never got his knee fixed. One of the all time great baseball players, how much greater he may have been without that freak injury is open to speculation.
2. Monica Seles, Tennis.
As described above, Seles was young and in her prime when the obsessed fan with a nine inch knife effectively ruined her career. Nonetheless, she was named by Time Magazine in 2011 as one of the “30 Legends of Women’s Tennis: Past, Present, and Future.”
1. Payne Stewart, Golf.
In 1999 Stewart was on a Learjet chartered to fly from Florida to Texas, when the jet apparently lost pressurization (air rapidly leaked out of the plane) causing all on board, including the pilots, to pass out. The pilot-less jet continued on a 1500 mile flight with no one on board regaining consciousness. When the jet ran out of fuel over South Dakota, it fell uncontrolled out of the sky and crashed, killing all aboard. US Air Force F-16 fighters took turns observing and flying with the doomed Learjet, reporting that the windshield was iced over and no control surfaces were moving. It is unknown if the fighters were prepared to shoot down the Learjet if it threatened a populated area. Stewart was a top notch golfer who had won 11 tournaments and 3 major tournaments. He had finished 7th in money winning the year before his death.
Question for students (and subscribers): What cases would you add to this list? Please let us know in the comments section below this article.
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For more information, please see…
Gotlin, Robert. Sports Injuries Guidebook. Human Kinetics, 2007.