Sports is a rough business, with players putting their bodies on the line every time they suit up. Injuries are inevitable just from the mere act of participating in the game. But sometimes, players have to miss time for the most peculiar reasons.
That’s what Denver Nuggets forward Aaron Gordon is experiencing right now, as he needed 21 stitches after suffering lacerations to his face and right shooting hand after being bitten by a family dog on Christmas. Gordon’s absence is expected to be short, but it’s still a scary experience for anyone, and it’s good that he’s on the mend.
Gordon joins a bizarre club: athletes who were injured in extremely odd ways. From off-field accidents to celebrations gone wrong, here’s a list of the strangest ways players have missed time over the past 20 years.
While playing for the Arizona Cardinals in 2001, Bill Gramatica hit a routine field goal to put his team up 3-0 in the first quarter of a mid-December matchup against the New York Giants. The place-kicker jumped up in celebration, landed awkwardly and tore his ACL. “I couldn’t tell you right now what I’m going to do,” Gramatica said about his celebrations a few months later, “but I know it’s not going to be jumping around.”
Looking to fire up his team, Jacksonville Jaguars coach Jack del Rio brought an ax and an oak stump into the locker room to remind the squad to “keep choppin’ wood.” Jaguars punter Chris Hanson accidentally gashed himself while wielding the axe, and he missed the remainder of the 2003 season as a result.
Sammy Sosa hit 35 home runs for the Chicago Cubs in 2004, but the moment many people remember from that season was when he strained his back from sneezing too hard.
Clint Barmes was hitting .329 in a breakout 2005 campaign for the Colorado Rockies when the unthinkable happened: He fell and broke his collarbone while carrying a package of deer meat given to him by teammate Todd Helton. Barmes would miss three months and finish the season at .289.
At the 2008 Miami Masters tennis tournament, Mikhail Youzhny hit a return against Nicolas Almagro into the net. Youzhny responded by smashing his forehead with his racket three times, drawing blood. The truly odd thing? Youzhny ended up winning the match.
In 2008, Detroit Tigers catcher Brandon Inge was adjusting a pillow behind his 3-year-old son’s head when he somehow pulled an oblique muscle and landed on the 15-day injured list.
Kendrys Morales hit a walk-off grand slam against the Seattle Mariners in May 2010. When he reached home plate, he jumped in the middle of his Los Angeles Angels teammates in celebration … and broke his lower left leg when he landed. Morales would miss the remainder of the season.
The pancakes that former Los Angeles Kings forward Dustin Penner’s wife makes must be delicious, because he suffered back spasms while eating them back in 2012. Fortunately, he only ended up missing a single game.
Then with the Oakland Raiders, wide receiver Antonio Brown used improper foot protection at a French cryotherapy clinic in 2019 — and developed severe frostbite. In July.
Summer frostbite isn’t an unprecedented reason for a player to miss time — it famously happened to Rickey Henderson once, after he fell asleep on an ice pack — but it’s certainly not something anyone expected to happen.
Cleveland Indians pitcher Zach Plesac went on the injured list with a non-displaced fracture of his right thumb — a relatively normal thing for a pitcher to suffer in the course of his job. The thing is, according to Indians manager Terry Francona, Plesac didn’t get hurt fielding a comebacker or throwing too hard; he fractured his thumb by “rather aggressively ripping off his shirt.” We’ve all been there.
Cleveland Browns tight end David Njoku has had a pretty solid 2023 season, but it was nearly derailed by burns he suffered to his face and arm while trying to light a fire pit before September’s game against the Baltimore Ravens. Njoku recovered in time for the game, however, and seemed in good spirits about the whole thing, tweeting “the flesh is weak” the night before playing and wearing a full face mask on his arrival to the stadium.