Looking back at the gruesome injuries of basketball and football

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Is it just me, or has anyone else noticed that the number of gut-wrenching injuries has exponentially grown over the past couple of years? It seems that one of these “we can’t show the replay” injuries happens every couple of months nowadays.

While these gag-worthy breaks and dislocations are nothing new, I can’t remember seeing as many of these clips on Twitter before. The first major injury in recent history was the Kevin Ware injury, where his right leg made a second 90º angle that exposed his shin bone.

A year later, Paul George’s right leg got caught between the floor and the station of the basket during a Team USA scrimmage, and was left with a broken tibia and fibula, as well as a leg that was shaped like a hockey stick.

For a little while, all the talk about these horrific injuries seemed to have settled — until five minutes into his Boston Celtics debut in 2017, Gordon Hayward kicked off a year that was full of these unfortunate accidents. Hayward landed awkwardly from his alley-oop attempt and was left with a dislocated left ankle and a fractured tibia that required two surgeries to fix.

Since Hayward’s injury, numerous athletes have suffered similar injuries. A week later, Bears tight end Zach Miller dislocated his knee, popping an artery in the process that nearly led to an amputation.

Redskins quarterback Alex Smith suffered both compound and spiral fractures of his right tibia and fibula in November and was left with a leg that looked like Harry’s arm after Professor Lockhart botched the spell in Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets. What’s incredibly strange about Smith’s injury, was that 33 years ago to the day, another Redskins QB, Joe Theismann, suffered an identical injury.

Similar injuries since in the past year include then-Suns guard Isaiah Canaan, Nets wing Caris LeVert, Brampton native Tyler Ennis (playing professionally in Turkey), and most recently, Cowboys receiver Allen Hurns, who’s left ankle was dislocated in such a way that it pointed towards the sky while his face was looking into the ground.

This begs the question, why have there been so many of these gruesome injuries as of late? All of the examples I’ve listed have been in basketball or football, which is generally where most of the gross ankle/leg injuries have come from. Obviously, hockey has had more than its fair share of disgusting injuries (sharp blades + no helmets = bad outcomes), but it makes sense that the two sports with the most running and jumping would result in the highest number of these types of injuries.

Most of the football injuries come via a large man wearing heavy equipment trying to smush opponents into the ground — Miller’s was really just a freak accident, but Theismann, Smith and Hurns’ all came from unfortunate tackles.

In basketball, a majority of the Hayward-esque injuries result from jumping — and ultimately landing funny — off of one leg, whether it be contesting a shot like Ware, or attempting a chase-down block like George or LeVert. The success rate on chase-down blocks is very low (unless you’re LeBron), and I’m sure all of the victims would be quick to say it wasn’t worth it. Jumping off two feet will always be safer — and sometimes — it’s better to allow the layup than put yourself in a position of danger.

Funnily enough, baseball has actually been active about implementing rules to prevent serious injuries. The ‘Posey’ Rule, where a runner is no longer allowed to pummel through the catcher on his way home, protects the catcher from suffering what Buster Posey went through in 2011. The ‘Utley’ Rule, where a runner can no longer intentionally slide through the man at second to break up a double play, helps protect middle infielders (I actually despise that rule, but my thoughts on that are for a different article).

Unfortunately, no such rules will prevent these types of injuries from happening in basketball or football. All the athletes can do is hope that the basketball and football gods are on their side.

 

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