Say what you will about sports stars being paid ludicrous wages - you can't deny they earn their way with the physical battering they put their bodies through week in, week out. A handful of athletes have been fortunate enough to cruise through an entire career injury-free. They're the lucky ones. Usually somewhere along the way there's some serious pain involved, be it season stopping, career ending or even life-threatening.
Sometimes it's a torn knee ligament, a dislocated shoulder or a broken arm. Painful, frustrating and halting yes, but certainly not the end of the world. Not quite as horrific as a leg being snapped clean in two, sometimes left flapping in the breeze, attached to the rest of its body only by a stubborn stretch of skin. A weight lift gone wrong can lead to all manner of disturbing outcomes, as can a boxing match when one fighter gets a hankering for some human ear. Olympic divers have suffered skull and facial injuries with mistimed leaps, while NASCAR and Formula 1 drivers have copped everything from whiplash to serious burns.
Depending on the sport, athletes will wear protective gear to prevent this sort of thing occurring. Despite the wonders of modern technology, not even this guarantees a pain-free existence. Football players are constantly battered and bruised by 350-pound linemen, something no amount of padding is likely to cushion. It's not entirely unlikely to wear an ice-hockey puck to the face, or possibly worse still a baseball. These things move at a frightening velocity. The case of former Australian Test cricketer Phil Hughes who was struck in the back of the head late last year is just one tragic example. He was hit on the base of the skull, the ball splitting a major artery which flooded his brain and claimed his life.
Here's a look at some of the more painful injuries you pray will never happen to you.
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15 Fractured coccyx
The lower three to five bones of the spine make up the coccyx, often referred to as the tailbone. If you manage to fracture anything in this area, you're in for a painful couple of months. Expect a lot of standing around, or sitting on a cushioned, elevated toilet-seat type device to keep the pressure off your backside.
The most common causes of a fractured coccyx in sport is by landing hard on one's bottom, or by blunt force, say after being tackled from behind. Cyclists and rowers are also at risk due to repetitive strain in the area. You'll still likely be feeling this injury three months after sustaining it.
14 Corneal abrasion
The clear film on the front of the eye is known as the cornea which covers the colored area (the iris) and the pupil. If a stray fingernail or other foreign object makes contact with the cornea it can cause a painful scratch which are really best avoided. Given the importance of the eye, the cornea is overloaded with a pile of nerve endings to detect foreign objects before it damages one's vision.
This also means an overload of pain if you're unlucky enough to sustain a corneal abrasion. Atlanta Braves center fielder Cameron Maybin was suffering vision problems back in September due to this type of injury.
13 Broken ribs
Very painful for the victim, usually an American or rugby footballer taking a huge hit, a boxer being pummeled by a series of body shots or a jockey whose been thrown from a horse. Swelling, tenderness and bruising follow in the aftermath, but its the lingering recovery that makes this injury one to be avoided. Ribs can't be splinted like most other bones, so they're usually just left to heal of their own volition.
This isn't a great situation for the injured athlete, who is still required to fill his or her lungs with air every few seconds providing a constant reminder that they're very much still in the recovery phase. Jockey Tony McCoy suffered two broken ribs in 2011 after tumbling from his mount, and claimed even the Morphine he was taking wasn't dulling the pain.
12 Collapsed lung
A natural follow-up from the broken ribs which can sometimes cause the puncturing that leads to a collapsed lung. When a lung is punctured, all of a sudden the air coming in is filling up the chest cavity around the lung. This build up of air can deflate the affected lung and usually requires medical treatment to remove the air from the chest cavity and allow the lung to re-inflate. Needless to say it's not something you want to go through.
A collapsed lung feels like a stabbing chest pain which becomes worse on breathing in. The agony sometimes spreads to surrounding areas like the shoulder or back. Just last month FSU's Mario Fender was hospitalized with a collapsed lung after making contact with a lineman in practice.
11 Ruptured Achilles Tendon
The Achilles is the thickest tendon in the body, attaching the calf to the heel. Victims of ruptured Achilles Tendon's have likened the experience to being shot in the back of the leg, sometimes complete with a loud popping noise. This moment is usually followed by a slightly delayed wave of pain to the lower leg. Swelling and bruising follow, and the ankle of that leg is rendered useless.
There's usually a handful of these each NFL season, and the recovery period is roughly six months. Best avoided if you enjoy walking and aren't fond of painkillers.
10 Dislocated knee
Frankly, it’s surprising these don’t happen a whole lot more often. The knee is a horribly illogical joint, probably the most useless in the human body. The kneecap itself is a triangular-shaped bone sitting in a small groove between the lower leg and the femur. In among the knee is cartilage, ligaments and all other kinds of jelly trying to hold it in place. When the balance is disturbed the knee pops out of its groove, usually to the outside and occasionally all the way around behind the knee.
The victim is left writhing in agony waiting for it to go back in. Daryn Cresswell of Australian Rules Football fame provides one of the more sickening examples of recent times. In 1997 Cresswell’s knee dislocated and he spent the next few seconds excruciatingly trying to punch it back into place.
9 Broken neck
A horrible injury given its potential lifelong consequences. Specifically this covers the seven vertebrae between the skull and the upper back and is most commonly caused by an athlete landing on their head upside down. Instant pain engulfs the victim, as does the risk of spinal cord damage which can cause paralysis. The spinal cord is very fragile and further injury is possible if a neck injury isn't contained properly on the sporting field, which is why medical staff often wrap the athlete in a neck brace before stretchering them from the field.
Australian rugby league player Alex McKinnon suffered a broken neck last season when upended in a tackle landing awkwardly on his head and leaving him paralyzed from the legs down.
The injury is also just about the highest risk in professional wrestling, which is why the piledriver is now banned in WWE.
8 Prolapsed rectum
I shan't be describing this in too much detail, that's one for your imagination. But this can happen, especially when muscles in the area are weakened. Of all athletes, weightlifters are most at risk but thankfully this isn't at all common. The pain is said to be agonizing, almost to the point of absolute paralysis. Indeed, if this happens to you when there's 400 pounds of dead weight above your head you're not likely to look back on the experience fondly, if you're lucky enough to look back on it at all. Understandably, sufferers of this injury tend to remain anonymous.
7 Double leg break
Utterly horrific for both the athlete, and anyone watching at the time. The tibia in the lower leg is one of the longest and strongest bones in the human body, connecting the knee with the foot. It's supported by a smaller parallel bone known as the fibula. A horrible challenge in football, or an awkward fall in a tackle sometimes causes both bones to snap simultaneously. David Busst of Coventry City fame was forced to end his career in 1996 after suffering this injury. Four decades earlier, another English footballer Derek Dooley contracted gangrene from an infection caused by a lower-leg break and had his leg amputated.
6 Ripped scalp
Rare, and unthinkably brutal. There have been examples of people's scalps, hair and all, being torn from their heads. Go karting is the main culprit, and most at risk are ladies with long hair. Indiana woman Shelbi Crouch was nearly killed in 2012 when her exquisite, long, strawberry-blonde hair became caught in the axle of the kart she was riding. About 80 per cent of her scalp was torn from her head and she was left fighting for her life with a skull fracture and brain injuries. A host of surgeries followed to repair her scalp, but unfortunately the affected area no longer bears hair.
5 Severed carotid artery
Highly freakish, and thankfully almost impossible, but this has happened. The carotid artery is responsible for taking fresh blood from the heart to the brain, kind of the opposite to the jugular vein which brings back the deoxygenated stuff. In 1989, goaltender Clint Malarchuk was patrolling the Buffalo Sabres' net when an opponent collided with him. The goalie's neck was inadvertently slashed with the opponent's skate, reducing Malarchuk to his knees as blood started spurting from his carotid artery onto the ice. A fast-acting team trainer saved his life by reaching in and pinching the artery shut. Malarchuk required 300 stitches to repair the gaping hole in his neck.
4 Broken femur
So bad an injury it's actually life-threatening - due to its proximity to the femoral artery, bleeding to death after sustaining a broken thigh bone is quite possible. The femur is the largest and strongest bone in the body, and it takes one hell of an impact, like a car crash, to break it. Or in the case of Vikings linebacker E.J. Henderson about six years ago, Cardinals running back Tim Hightower. The pain Henderson was in is unimaginable as his femur sat snapped in half, and it reduced several of his teammates to tears. Incredibly he was back on the field within eight months thanks to a permanent titanium rod.
3 Ruptured testicle
Every bit as horrible as it sounds gentlemen, and often leads to the affected nut being removed. Specifically speaking, a rupture in this sense is when the tough protective layer surrounding the testicle is torn. This particular injury has a surprisingly high occurrence in the southern hemisphere. Australian Rules footballer James Kelly ruptured a testicle in May this year. The pain caused is apparently almost as bad as childbirth, with Kelly describing the injury as excruciating.
While we're in the area, a much less common injury is that of a torn scrotum, suffered in 1986 by New Zealand rugby union hard man Buck Shelford. He was mercifully (the only time one will ever say this) concussed at the same time, having no memory of the incident.
2 Dislocated hip
This is usually associated more with car crash victims or elderly people, but it occasionally rears its head on the sports field. The hip joint is of the ball-and-socket variety, similar to the shoulder but on a much larger scale. When it is rotated enough internally it can pop out of place, and due to the size of the bones involved it often takes hours before the joint is reset. Dislocated hips have been recorded in soccer, football, basketball and rugby among others sports. The pain is severe and unforgiving. Some say the only thing more excruciating is a stray testicle being wedged between femur and pelvis when the joint is popped back together.
1 Burning alive
One of the latent dangers in almost all motorsport is that at any given moment a crash can turn into a fireball of destruction. Many drivers have been killed in this way, trapped inside their vehicle as it was engulfed in flames. Occasionally a flaming driver escapes with their life, like Giorgio Bartocci did. His Lamborghini went up in flames at a race in the Czech Republic and Bartocci was trapped in the driver's cabin for about a minute until he was finally pulled from the wreckage by crewmen who had run onto the track. He was rushed to hospital in a critical condition but miraculously survived, albeit with second-degree burns to 40 per cent of his body.
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