Ranking the 25 Weirdest Sports Injuries of All Time
World No. 1 golfer Dustin Johnson was forced to withdraw from the 2017 Masters after falling down a flight of stairs and suffering a back injury, leading many to wonder where it ranks on the list of the weirdest injuries in the history of sports.
The verdict: Nowhere close to the top 25.
But at least there's a golf injury at No. 1, as well as a NASCAR driver who suffered an injury on a golf course. Throw in a football player who tried to be a lumberjack, a baseball player injured while swimming and a basketball player who missed two games for playing too much Game Boy, and this list is full of bizarre crossovers.
These injuries are ranked in descending order of how believable or probable they are.
An oft-injured pitcher who hurt himself trying to rip a phone book in half? Not that weird.
But a rarely injured pitcher who burned his face on an iron certainly caught our attention.
We hope you enjoy this walk through the strangest hospital wing of sports.
In addition to our top 25 weirdest injuries, here are a few honorable mentions that barely missed the cut.
Sammy Sosa sneezed so violently that the 35-year-old slugger sprained a ligament in his back. However, if you've never injured something while sneezing, congratulations on your allergy-free life.
Trevor Bauer injured his pinkie finger while attempting to repair a drone, but it wasn't until the finger started hemorrhaging blood in a playoff game three days later that the incident became bizarre. This is just a more modern lawnmower injury, of which there have been plenty throughout the years.
Kevin Mitchell allegedly needed emergency dental work on a tooth that was damaged when he tried to eat a microwaved chocolate doughnut. The specifics of the food item make this a comical tale, but a root canal hardly qualifies as a bizarre injury.
Joba Chamberlain suffered a nasty ankle injury from jumping on a trampoline, but trampolines are just springy death traps once you hit a certain age and weight. It'd be weirder if a 230-pound guy in his mid-20s didn't get hurt on a trampoline.
Footballer Darren Barnard evidently wasn't keeping a close enough eye on his new puppy. Legend has it he slipped in a piddle puddle, tearing a knee ligament and missing five months of action. However, we were unable to find any primary sources to corroborate what easily would have been a top-25 weird injury.
Olympic swimmer Ryan Lochte once tore his MCL while catching a teenage fan who tried to jump into his arms. As far as bizarre stories involving Lochte go, though, that's a tame one.
Last, but not least, MLB catcher Brent Mayne was once sent to the disabled list following back spasms triggered by trying to look both ways before crossing the street.
25. Steve Sparks: Phone Book
What Happened: According to Tom Haudricourt of the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel, knuckleball pitcher Steve Sparks dislocated his non-throwing shoulder 15 times in his career. But one time in particular stands out. During spring training in 1994, Sparks attempted to rip a phone book in half. The only tearing accomplished was further cartilage damage.
Severity of the Injury: The 28-year-old was hoping to make his MLB debut that season, but the injury kept him in Milwaukee's farm system for another year.
Weirdness Factor: 6.1. For anyone with two healthy shoulders, this would be bizarre. If anything, you'd expect a pulled muscle or maybe some joint damage in the wrist or fingers. But for Sparks, this was almost to be expected, even though it does make for a comical headline.
24. Chris Hanson: Ax
What Happened: Head coach Jack Del Rio had a motivational slogan for the 2003 Jacksonville Jaguars: Keep chopping wood. He kept a tree stump and an ax in the locker room as a reminder. But punter Chris Hanson apparently misheard his coach's saying as "Keep chopping foot." While fooling around with the ax, he accidentally gashed his leg, requiring immediate surgery.
Severity of the Injury: Hanson missed the final 11 games of the season, but he ended up signing a contract extension that summer. He played six more years without missing a single game.
Weirdness Factor: 6.2. Ax-related injuries are fairly common, but in a football locker room? The weirdest part of it is that, according to Associated Press writer Eddie Pells, Hanson, his wife and a former teammate were badly burned by a dropped fondue pot a little over a year prior to this incident. Some people seem to have a propensity for bizarre injuries.
23. Adam Eaton: Shrink Wrap
What Happened: While packing all the essentials for a 10-game road trip, San Diego Padres pitcher Adam Eaton found himself on the wrong end of a battle with a new DVD case, stabbing himself in the stomach with a pocketknife.
According to the AP (h/t the Los Angeles Times), Eaton said: "They're in those plastic packages that no one can get open. I was using a little knife to cut it and it slipped. You learn when you're little to cut away from yourself."
Severity of the Injury: Eaton needed two stitches for a cut that was less than an inch deep. His next start was pushed back two days, but it turned out to be one of his best outings of the season.
Weirdness Factor: 6.5. Everyone knows you run the risk of injury when knives are involved, but who uses a knife to get the shrink wrap off a DVD? That's what fingernails and teeth are for.
22. Derrick Rose: Apple Knife
What Happened: Long before Derrick Rose became synonymous with devastating injuries, he was just a rookie who wanted to enjoy a healthy snack in bed. But after cutting up an apple with a sharp knife, Rose neglected to put the blade in a safe location.
"It was a silly incident," Rose told the Chicago Tribune. "I was cutting up some food, and I laid on a knife getting lazy in bed. I went to get a bottle of water, came back, forgot the knife was there, then sat down and sliced my arm."
Severity of the Injury: Rose's arm required 10 stitches, but he didn't miss any playing time.
Weirdness Factor: 6.6. Again, anytime knives are involved, you're putting yourself at risk. But how sharp was this knife? And why didn't he cut up the apple before getting into bed?
21. Joel Zumaya: Guitar Hero
What Happened: Rookie flamethrower Joel Zumaya was unavailable for much of the 2006 ALCS due to wrist inflammation. No one thought much of it until a couple of months after the season when GM Dave Dombrowski attributed the injury to playing too much Guitar Hero. True or not, the developers of the game ran with it, putting this in the credits of Guitar Hero II: "No pitchers were harmed in the making of this game. Except for one. Joel Zumaya. He had it coming."
Severity of the Injury: After two weeks of rest, Zumaya returned for the World Series, pitching one inning in three consecutive games. It was just the first of many strange injuries in Zumaya's five-year career, though.
Weirdness Factor: 6.9. This one sounds ridiculous and is often mentioned among the most bizarre sports injuries, but it's plausible. I played far too much Guitar Hero in college—enough that I once crushed eventual NL MVP Andrew McCutchen while playing behind my back on the expert difficulty. (True brag.) Thus, I can attest to the fact that wrist inflammation is inevitable if you spend enough hours trying to keep up with the colored dots that stream down the screen.
20. Ronald Belisario: Swimming Pool
What Happened: Offseason rest and relaxation turned into required rehabilitation for Ronald Belisario. The relief pitcher was attempting to get out of his swimming pool when he fractured his non-throwing shoulder. Roughly a month passed before he reported to spring training to discover the full extent of the pain.
Severity of the Injury: This effectively ended Belisario's career. He had appeared in 335 MLB games over the previous six seasons, but he pitched in just six games in June 2015. He hasn't been seen in the big leagues since.
Weirdness Factor: 7.1. Depending on how old you are, this either sounds like a bizarre injury or seems like something that would absolutely happen to you if you tried to lift yourself out of a swimming pool like you constantly did as a child. Either way, a 32-year-old professional athlete ought to be able to handle a day at the pool without disaster.
19. Chris Coghlan: Shaving Cream Pie
What Happened: When someone gets a walk-off hit, it's inevitable that a teammate is either going to douse him with a bucket of water or hit him in the face with a shaving cream pie. It happens at least 100 times every season without any problem. But Chris Coghlan's attempt to pie teammate Wes Helms turned into a self-inflicted wound. Coghlan twisted his left knee when he landed, tearing the meniscus.
Severity of the Injury: He needed surgery to repair the damage and missed the final 10 weeks of the 2010 season. It wasn't until 2014 that he was able to again carve out something close to a full-time gig in the majors.
Weirdness Factor: 7.3. For the Marlins, it was their fourth walk-off win in the span of a week. You'd think they would have had this thing down to a science.
18. Kendrys Morales: Home Plate
What Happened: Hitting a walk-off grand slam is an incredible feeling, but only if you actually get to walk off the field. As Kendrys Morales approached home plate to be mobbed by his teammates, he jumped into the air to stomp down onto home plate—a celebratory move that has happened hundreds of times after a game-winning homer. But when Morales landed, he broke his left ankle, turning jubilation into devastation.
Severity of the Injury: Morales hit the grand slam on May 29, 2010. He didn't play in the minors or majors again until April 2012. He did eventually bounce back, hitting at least 22 home runs in four of the next five seasons. However, he was robbed of much of his prime, suffering the fluke injury less than a month before his 27th birthday.
Weirdness Factor: 7.5. Sooner or later, the home-plate mosh pit was bound to claim an injury victim. But everyone expected it to be something minor, like a sprained ankle, a strained neck or a black eye. For it to cause a budding star to miss 22 months of action was a shocking development.
17. Turk Edwards: Coin Toss
What Happened: Turk Edwards was a Hall of Fame lineman for the Boston/Washington Redskins, but it wasn't a chop block or any sort of contact injury that led him to hang up his cleats for good. Rather, it was the cleats themselves.
According to ProFootballResearchers.com, "During the coin toss ... Edwards was standing at midfield with Giants center Mel Hein. ... After shaking hands with Hein, Edwards whirled to trot toward the Redskins bench. But his spikes got stuck in the turf, and his often-injured knee gave way."
Severity of the Injury: Edwards never played another game. As far as playing careers are concerned, this was as severe as it gets.
Weirdness Factor: 7.7. In the pre-World War II era, cleat manufacturers and grounds crews weren't what they are today. But it boggles the mind that this man lasted more than eight seasons in a leather helmet only to be forced into retirement by a coin toss.
16. Jimmie Johnson: Golf Cart
What Happened: During a celebrity golfing event, NASCAR driver Jimmie Johnson decided that sitting inside a golf cart going a few miles an hour wasn't his speed. Instead, he was sprawled out on top of the cart when his driver hit a berm that sent him flying several feet.
Severity of the Injury: Johnson broke his left wrist in the fall, but the offseason injury didn't stop him from winning the second of his five consecutive NASCAR Cup Series championships.
Weirdness Factor: 7.9. Horsing around in a golf cart is a great way to get yourself hurt. Just ask the cast of the original Jackass movie. However, it's a little bizarre that Johnson has dedicated his life to driving as fast as humanly possible, only to suffer the worst injury of his career in/on a vehicle that probably had a max speed of 20 mph.
15. Milton Bradley: Ejection
What Happened: Milton Bradley didn't play in enough games to become MLB's all-time leader in ejections, but he sure did get thrown out often. Only one of the blowups resulted in an injury, though. While with the San Diego Padres in 2007, Bradley tore his ACL when manager Bud Black spun him to the ground during an argument with an umpire.
Severity of the Injury: Bradley missed the final few weeks of the season, but he was somehow back in time for the start of the following year and better than ever. He made the only All-Star appearance of his career in 2008.
Weirdness Factor: 8.0. Suffering a season-ending injury during an argument is one thing, but the fallout after the fall might have been the strangest part of all. The umpire who ejected Bradley was later suspended for the remainder of the regular season and the playoffs for the harsh language he used to incite the incident.
14. Dustin Penner: Pancakes
What Happened: Our mothers have always told us that breakfast is the most important meal of the day. Unfortunately for Dustin Penner, it's also the most dangerous.
"I just leaned over to dip into some delicious pancakes that my wife made," Penner told Rich Hammond of LA Kings Insider. That's when his back seized up. Somehow, he managed to drive to the rink to receive treatment.
Severity of the Injury: Penner only missed one game. He returned to the ice two nights later and recorded an assist and four hits. We've come to expect no less from our hockey players.
Weirdness Factor: 8.1. Back spasms are no joke. I once threw my back out simply getting up from a chair. But I wasn't a 29-year-old professional hockey player at the peak of physical fitness. And, sadly, there were no pancakes involved, which is what made Penner's tale so intriguing.
13. Clint Barmes: Venison
What Happened: Clint Barmes was well on his way to being named the 2005 N.L. Rookie of the Year when some gamy protein had other ideas. Barmes received a bag of venison from teammate Todd Helton and was carrying it down a flight of stairs when he fell and broke his collarbone.
"I will definitely be known for deer meat," Barmes told Steve Campbell of the Houston Chronicle six years after the injury. "And that will probably stick with me for the rest of my life."
Severity of the Injury: Barmes missed about three months after having a titanium plate and several screws surgically implanted. The real extent of the injury, though, is that he was never the same again. He managed to stay in the big leagues for another decade, but the .329 hitter disappeared under that bag of venison. He his .239 over his final 10 seasons after the fall.
Weirdness Factor: 8.2. There have been a lot of injuries throughout the history of staircases, but there's just something about the variable of the deer meat that makes this one stand out as the tumbling creme de la creme.
12. Orlando Brown: Penalty Flag
What Happened: Cleveland Browns right tackle Orlando Brown was whistled for a false start in a December 1999 game. Referee Jeff Triplette threw a penalty flag at the infraction with aim that was either stupendous or horrendous. The yellow bean bag went straight through Brown's facemask, striking him in the right eye.
Severity of the Injury: Brown was legally blind in the eye for several years. Three full seasons passed before he was medically cleared to return to action, during which time he sued the NFL and settled for more than $15 million.
Weirdness Factor: 8.4. With thousands of flags thrown at the spot of the foul every year, this is the type of long-odds thing that was bound to happen to someone. Suffice it to say: Brown would've rather been the one-in-a-million person who wins the lottery.
11. Plaxico Burress: Gunshot
What Happened: Everyone remembers this one, right? Hard to believe it was almost a decade ago that Plaxico Burress accidentally shot himself in the leg while trying to bring a cocked and loaded handgun into a nightclub.
Severity of the Injury: Burress was able to walk within a couple of days and likely could have played by the end of the year. However, he was suspended without pay for the remainder of the 2008 season and missed the following two years while serving jail time for criminal possession of a weapon. He appeared in just 20 more games in his career.
Weirdness Factor: 8.5. A precursor to Jason Pierre-Paul's fireworks injury, this one had more to do with the aftershock than the actual event. The New York Giants were the reigning Super Bowl champions and were well on their way to another deep postseason run when their leading receiver's self-inflicted gunshot wound became the focal point of a late-season collapse.
10. Gus Frerotte: Headbutt
What Happened: You've heard of the Lambeau Leap, right? Well, Gus Frerotte invented the Jack Kent Cooke Stadium Concussion. It's a mouthful, but at least it never became a trend to celebrate a second-quarter touchdown by slamming your own head into the wall so hard that you're forced to spend the second half of the game in the hospital.
Severity of the Injury: Frerotte returned to action the following week, but he was never the same. He made the Pro Bowl in 1996, the year before the injury, only to bounce around the league as a back-up for the next 11 seasons.
Weirdness Factor: 8.6. Self-inflicted pain as a result of anger at least makes a little bit of sense. Amare Stoudemire cut his hand punching a fire extinguisher case. Enes Kanter broke his arm punching a chair. But being so excited about a one-yard touchdown that you literally try to run through a wall is beyond anyone's comprehension.
9. Kirk Broadfoot: Poached Egg
What Happened: Kirk Broadfoot wanted a poached egg, but who has 10 minutes to make that happen? Rather than cooking it on the stove in a pot of boiling water, Broadfoot attempted to do it in a fraction of the time in the microwave. However, he was so eager to consume the egg that when he opened the microwave to check its status, it exploded and squirted hot liquid onto his face.
Severity of the Injury: Broadfoot was treated for a scalded cheek, but we'll never know if the incident would have caused him to miss any time. He had already been ruled out for the rest of the season due to a foot injury.
Weirdness Factor: 8.7. Things pop and fizzle in the microwave all the time, but not for more than a couple of seconds after the machine has stopped. As a result, the mechanics of this injury are astounding. Did he put his head in the microwave to see if the egg was finished?
8. Clarence Blethen: Dentures
What Happened: Clarence "Climax" Blethen was a pitcher in the 1930s who lost most of his teeth at a young age. Oftentimes, he would remove his dentures and keep them in his pocket in hopes of intimidating opposing batters with his toothless sneer. But that strategy literally came back to bite him in the ass. One time while running the bases for Knoxville Smokies, he slid into second base with his teeth in his pocket and had a chunk of his own rear end removed in the process.
Severity of the Injury: At 39 years old and playing in the minor leagues, Blethen reportedly stayed in the game. No word on whether the teeth required any repairs.
Weirdness Factor: 8.8. Click-bait articles didn't come around until about seven decades after this happened, but the headline for this injury might be the weirdest of this entire list. If you run around with teeth in your pocket, you're just asking for trouble.
7. Jason Pierre-Paul: Fireworks
What Happened: On July 4, 2015, Jason Pierre-Paul was celebrating Independence Day with friends and family when one of the fireworks exploded near his right hand. JPP recounted the fateful night to Jason Buckland of Sports Illustrated the following year, saying, "You see all your ligaments, your tendons, everything. I saw how the hand really is without skin on it."
Severity of the Injury: Pierre-Paul's index finger was amputated, his thumb was broken and his palm required multiple skin grafts. He missed the first eight weeks of the regular season and recorded just one sack in the eight games he was able to play.
Weirdness Factor: 8.9. Weirder than the injury itself were the circumstances surrounding it, as the following days were spent trying to piece together what happened to the two-time Pro Bowler. Two hospital workers were fired for leaking information to ESPN's Adam Schefter.
6. Bill Gramatica: Celebration
What Happened: In possibly the most famous in-game injury in sporting history, Bill Gramatica was celebrating a made 42-yard field goal when he crumpled to the ground in agony. It was a well-executed jumping fist pump, but he failed to stick the landing, tearing the ACL in his plant leg.
Severity of the Injury: Gramatica missed the final three games of the 2001 season, but he was back for a full 16-game slate the following year.
Weirdness Factor: 9.1. It'd be one thing if it were a 60-yard kick to win the Super Bowl, but this was a rather mundane first-quarter scoring play for a 5-7 team. Gramatica always celebrated his makes like he had just won the lottery, but he will forever be known for his one celebration fail.
5. Lionel Simmons: Game Boy
What Happened: In the past 32 years, no men's college basketball player has scored more career points than La Salle's Lionel Simmons. But in his first year in the NBA, Simmons was evidently trying to set the all-time high score on his Nintendo Game Boy. According to Susan Moffat of the Los Angeles Times, the rookie developed tendinitis, causing his wrist to become so inflamed that he couldn't grip the ball.
Severity of the Injury: Simmons missed two games, but that's nothing in the NBA. In fact, he appeared in more games that year than in any other season in his career. If anything, that two-game break in February was probably a welcome respite from a Sacramento Kings team that lost 57 games.
Weirdness Factor: 9.3. If you grew up in the 1990s, chances are there were a couple of days during your childhood dedicated entirely to the Game Boy. And you almost certainly weren't afflicted by tendinitis as a result. He must have had a unique grip on that handheld console.
4. Brian Anderson: Iron
What Happened: There are plenty of ways to figure out if an iron is hot. Spritz a drop of water on it. Put your hand near it and check for warmth. Or, if you're former Arizona Diamondback Brian Anderson, just check it with your face.
"I picked up the iron, held it to my face to feel the heat and was trying to look around the corner to watch the game (on TV)," Anderson told MLB.com (h/t Tom FitzGerald of SFGate.com). "I just put my cheek right on it. It didn't take much, and it fried the side of my face."
Severity of the Injury: Anderson didn't miss any time due to the burn, so it probably wasn't too severe. But speaking from the experience of having sunburn on one's face, it's safe to assume he had a miserable few days of trying to shave and shower—and was berated to no end in the clubhouse.
Weirdness Factor: 9.4. Plenty of players have missed time due to things being too hot or too cold. Marty Cordova infamously suffered burns after falling asleep in a tanning bed. Rickey Henderson went the opposite route, missing several games due to frostbite suffered when falling asleep with an ice pack applied to his ankle. But consciously burning your own face with an iron? Anderson wins.
3. Paulo Diogo: Wedding Ring
What Happened: After recording an assist on a goal, Swiss soccer player Paulo Diogo jumped onto a metal perimeter fence to celebrate his achievement with the fans. But the recently married Diogo didn't realize his wedding ring got stuck on the fence. One-third of his ring finger was ripped off (warning: NSFW, don't click if you're squeamish) when he jumped down, and then he was given a yellow card for delaying the game while searching for it.
Severity of the Injury: Doctors were unable to reattach the finger and had to amputate it down to the first joint. And it seems Diogo wasn't even getting paid at the time. Servette FC filed for bankruptcy two months later amid reports that it hadn't been paying its players since two months before Diogo lost a finger.
Weirdness Factor: 9.5. It's hard to believe the silicone wedding ring boom didn't begin until nearly a decade after this incident.
2. Glenallen Hill: Arachnophobia
What Happened: Arachnophobia can be a debilitating fear, particularly when combined with sleepwalking. Toronto Blue Jays outfielder Glenallen Hill was trying to run away from spiders in a nightmare when he started unconsciously running through his house. He crashed through a glass table and wound up with cuts and bruises all over his limbs.
Severity of the Injury: Hill spent 20 days on the disabled list, but he came back better than ever. He only hit 12 home runs on the season, but he hit two of them in his first three games back.
Weirdness Factor: 9.7. Hill later attributed the incident to a combination of stress, diet and lack of sleep rather than spiders. But regardless of whether he was trying to escape from a black widow or Freddy Krueger, sleepwalking one's way onto the DL is a remarkable feat.
1. Bobby Cruickshank: Golf Club
What Happened: In the final round of the 1934 U.S. Open, Bobby Cruickshank appeared to be on his way to winning his first major on the PGA tour. He had the lead on the 11th hole when a wayward shot miraculously bounced off a rock and onto the green.
According to Scotsman.com, "Overjoyed, Bobby threw his club in the air exclaiming 'Thank you Lord!' only for it to clatter down on his head. This required several stitches and meant he played the final seven holes in five over par to finish third."
Severity of the Injury: Compared to most of the injuries on this list, stitches are no big deal. But it should be noted that concussion protocol wasn't a thing in 1934. It's a minor miracle he only shot plus-5 on those final seven holes, considering he was probably seeing three golf balls on every swing. Cruickshank never did win a major.
Weirdness Factor: 10.0. First of all, what are the chances that a golf ball would hit a rock in a pond before ricocheting onto the green? Multiply those slim-to-none odds by the likelihood of throwing a golf club into the air and having it land on one's own head, and this had to have been at least a one-in-a-billion situation. For it to happen in the final round of the U.S. Open only adds to the legendary nature of this fluke injury.