MY STORY here today isn’t for the faint of heart.
If you had to watch the movie 300 through splayed fingers, then I suggest you stop reading now and just turn the page. Trust me.
That’s because today, I’ll be writing about some of the ugliest football injuries ever. We’re talking broken bones, severely dislocated ankles and kneecaps, open fractures, blood having to be washed off the pitch and stuff like that.
It’s not something that I take pleasure in writing at all, but after watching Manchester United player Antonio Valencia’s ankle getting twisted into an angle so unnatural that Fox Mulder would’ve liked to have a look, I thought to myself: “not again”.
There have just been way too many horror injuries in football over the last few years, especially in the English leagues.
Valencia’s injury might have happened in the Champions League, but consider how many others have happened in the Premier League over the past few years.
Just two weeks ago, Fulham’s Bobby Zamora was ruled out for five months with a broken leg, caused by a challenge from Wolverhamptons’ Karl Henry.
****UPDATE**** Moussa Dembele, Zamora’s replacement, was stretchered off with a suspected fracture on his leg after another hefty challenge last night, in the Carling Cup.
Arsenal manager Arsene Wenger alone has had to witness three of his young stars suffer broken legs in the last four years, and he’s quite understandably not putting it down to bad luck any more.
Some managers are putting it down to the turf (it’s getting more and more solid these days) or the boots (thoes with “blades” instead of studs), but buddies Sam Allardyce and Sir Alex Ferguson are both putting it down to the pace of the game. Here’s a story from dailymail.co.uk asking a few managers what they thought about the recent spate of injuries.
The game is just getting too fast, and too furious. The pace and physical intensity of the game in England has made terrible injuries seem almost inevitable every season.
The DailyMail article included a quote from leading physio Mark Leather, saying: “Tired bodies and tired minds can cause injuries. If you’re tired and the neuro pathways from your brain to your muscles slow, even if it’s only by a millisecond, it delays the reaction time of those muscles which, for example, might stop you turning your ankle.”
And as if the players haven’t been worn-out enough by the Premier League, with the stakes ever-increasing in the world’s most competitive league, teams appear to have been pressing and tackling harder than before this season.
Need proof? Here’s a list of the six most horrific injuries of the Premier League era (and only one of them happened before 2005):
****WARNING**** Some of the embedded videos below contain some extremely graphic images of football injuries.
6. Alan Smith
Okay, so maybe this one has nothing to do with the league being too physical. Smith was simply charging down a free-kick when he landed awkwardly, breaking his leg and dislocating his ankle; but it was a horrific injury nonetheless.
His then-Manchester United teammate Ruud van Nistelrooy turned away in shock after catching a glimpse of the damage, while Alex Ferguson called it one of the worst injuries he’d ever seen.
In Smith’s own words, his leg was facing one way, and his ankle was “facing Hong Kong”. I guess humour can be the best medicine after all, because Smith made a good recovery, returning in seven months, earlier than expected.
5. Djibril Cisse
The former Liverpool striker was chasing a ball with Blackburn’s Jay McEveley in close attention when one of his boots got stuck in the turf. McEveley, running at full speed, accidentally kicked into Cisse’s stuck leg, causing a clean break.
As they both tumbled to the ground, replays showed the part of Cisse’s leg below the break flailing around limply, and he even landed on it.
Doctors said Cisse could be out for up to 18 months, but the Frenchman made a miraculous recovery, coming on as a substitute in a Champions League tie against Juventus just six months later.
He would, however, suffer another broken leg a year later, this time on international duty with France. It wasn’t pretty either.
4. Aaron Ramsey
Earlier in February this year, Arsenal’s 19-year-old Welsh prodigy had his tibia and fibula (both the bones in your lower leg) snapped like twigs after Ryan Shawcross mis-timed an almighty swing at the ball and caught Ramsey’s leg instead.
The damage was so ugly that the red-carded Shawcross was immediately reduced to tears, and Cesc Fabregas, one of the closest to the incident, looked like he could barely contain himself as he pleaded with the medical team to rush over.
It was initially feared he would be out for 13 months, but Wenger recently said he could be back in competitive action as early as November.
3. Jimmy Bullard
In 2006, Bullard had just arrived in Fulham from Wigan, where he had impressed with the newly-promoted side.
Unfortunately, during a match against Newcastle United just a month into the new season, Scott Parker fell on one of Bullard’s standing legs as they were challenging for the ball, and he landed right on the side of his left knee.
The knee immediately collapsed inwards at about 90° and down to the ground, dislocating the kneecap and causing cruciate ligament damage. The medics on the pitch had to pop the knee back in place, and some news reports say his screams were heard way up in the stands.
Fulham striker Colins John threw up when he saw the incident, and Parker was so devastated by the damage he caused that he tearfully asked to be substituted by manager Glen Roeder.
In the five minutes it took to get Bullard secured and stretchered off, Roeder had managed to convince Parker to continue, and funnily enough, he scored in the 54th minute after having checked on Bullard during half-time.
Bullard missed 16 months of first team action, only making his return on Jan 12, 2008 as a substitute.
In February 2008, during a match against Birmingham, Arsenal striker Eduardo had the misfortune of being quick enough to ghost the ball past Martin Taylor. The problem was, Taylor was already in mid-air, lunging for the ball.
So instead of getting the ball, Taylor’s boots smashed straight into the side of Eduardo’s lower leg, which immediately buckled almost to a 90° angle under the full weight of Taylor’s giant frame. The incident was so graphic that the live broadcaster refused to show replays.
Eduardo suffered a broken fibula and an open dislocation of his ankle. It took almost a year for Eduardo to recover enough to start a game for Arsenal, but he was never quite the same player again.
1. David Busst
Just two minutes into a match against Manchester United in 1996, Coventry City defender Busst burst into the United penalty area to meet a corner.
But instead, he found himself colliding with United players Dennis Irwin and Brian McClair, who were both coming towards him from opposite directions.
The collision resulted in Busst suffering from extensive compound fractures to his fibula and tibia.
Basically, what the Old Trafford crowd saw that day was Busst’s lower right leg broken in the middle and twisted backwards in an L shape.
Blood poured from where the bone was sticking out, and there was so much that it took match stewards 12 minutes to wash it off before play could resume.
It all happened right in front of United goalkeeper Peter Schmeichel, who immediately threw the ball out of play and ran several yards away from the scene with his head in his hands, looking visibly traumatised. He was one of several players who would require counseling after the incident.
Busst underwent 22 operations to save his leg, which at one point seemed like it would have to be amputated, but he never played professional football again. He retired several months after the incident, and found a job with Coventry’s back-room staff.
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