Any coach or player will tell you that injuries are part and parcel of football. In the modern era, footballers can consider themselves lucky if they go through their careers without having a break, tear or rupture, but there are some injuries that should just never happen to a professional player.
As we’ll discover as we go through this cavalcade of calamity, they can occur at any time, night or day. A prime recent example featured Valencia star Ever Banega. Filling up his car at a petrol station, the highly rated Argentinian forgot to apply the handbrake and, when he stepped out, the vehicle rolled backwards and trapped his ankle, fracturing both the tibia and fibula in his left leg. Banega has since undergone surgery and is out for the season, with a six-month period of rehab predicted.
A footballer is not even safe in his own bed, as former England Under-21 international Leroy Lita discovered. The Reading striker damaged a leg muscle through stretching after waking up one morning.
Players should also watch out for pitfalls in the bathroom. Spain goalkeeper Santiago Canizares missed out on a place at the 2002 FIFA World Cup Korea/Japan after accidentally shattering a bottle of aftershave in his hotel sink. A piece of glass fell on his foot, severing a tendon in his big toe.
Alan Mullery missed England’s 1964 tour of South America putting his back out while brushing his teeth, while Brazilian Ramalho was forced to stay in bed for three days after swallowing a suppository meant to treat a dental infection.
People say that dogs are man’s best friend. Not so. Take the example of Wales international Darren Barnard, who slipped in a puddle of his puppy’s urine on the kitchen floor. The resulting knee ligament damage kept him out for five months.
Stoke City midfielder Liam Lawrence was recently injured when falling over his dog, both Carlo Cudicini and Julien Escude were injured while out walking theirs, and in 1969, Schalke’s Friedel Rausch was bit in the bottom by the German shepherd of a guard during a derby match against Borussia Dortmund.
But spare a thought for former Brentford goalkeeper Chic Brodie. His career came to a premature end when he collided with a sheepdog which had run on to the pitch. Brodie shattered his kneecap while the dog got the ball. “The dog might have been a small one, but it just happened to be a solid one,” he reflected.
Perhaps footballers should not work around animals or children in general. During the 1970s, Norway’s Svein Grondalen had to withdraw from an international match after an accident which happened while he was out jogging. He collided with a moose. England midfielder David Batty’s return from an Achilles tendon injury was put back when he was run over by his toddler on a tricycle, and Denmark’s Allan Nielsen missed several matches after his daughter poked him in the eye.
Another message should be to avoid home improvements and household chores. Arsenal hero Charlie George never fully recovered from cutting off his big toe with a lawnmower. France’s Gregory Coupet was out for two weeks after cutting two of his fingers while trying to install a shelf at home. Former Liverpool reserve goalkeeper, Michael Stensgaard, was forced to retire after suffering an injury to his shoulder while he attempted to fold down an ironing board.
Goalkeepers at city rivals Everton have not fared much better. Richard Wright was ruled out of the Toffees’ FA Cup replay at Chelsea after suffering a freak injury during warm-up. He ignored a notice warning him not to practice in the goalmouth and promptly fell over the sign, suffering a twisted ankle. Earlier in his Goodison career, Wright also damaged his shoulder falling through a loft as he was trying to pack away his suitcases.
Perhaps there is just something special about goalkeepers. German international Norbert Nigbur’s football career was all but finished when he managed to tear the meniscus cartilage in his knee, locking it in the process, while standing up to leave the table at the end of a meal in a restaurant in 1980, and five years earlier Manchester United’s Alex Stepney managed to dislocate his jaw while shouting at his defenders during a game against Birmingham City.
There are some injuries which are just too bizarre to categorise. Milan Rapaic once missed the start of Hajduk Split’s season after sticking his boarding pass in his eye at the airport. While playing Scrabble, Paris Saint-Germain’s Lionel Letizi strained his back trying to pick up a piece from the floor, while Sascha Bender from lower division side Stuttgart Kickers suffered a face injury thanks to passing wind. His team-mate Christian Okpala had punched him, offering the following explanation to the media: “He permanently provoked me by farting all the time.”
Players should also watch how they celebrate goals. Both Thierry Henry and Marco Tardelli have been injured by corner flags hitting them in the face after scoring, and Arsenal substitute Perry Groves once knocked himself unconscious after hitting his head on the roof of the dug-out while jumping up after an Arsenal goal.
But perhaps the strangest goal-related injury occurred in December 2004, when, after scoring against Schaffhausen, Servette midfielder Paulo Diogo jumped into the crowd. On the way, he managed to catch his wedding ring on a fence and tore off the top half of his finger. The referee had little sympathy, booking him for excessive celebration.
Former Real Madrid team-mates David Beckham and Emerson also sustained high-profile injuries. Beckham needed stitches above his left eye after Sir Alex Ferguson kicked a boot at him after Arsenal’s FA Cup win at Old Trafford in 2003, while the day before Brazil’s Korea/Japan 2002 opener against Turkey, Emerson took part in a relaxing training session, going in goal during a kick around. However, the Seleçao captain injured his shoulder, causing him to miss the tournament, which Brazil went on to win.
However, despite all of these trials and tribulations, the lesson to any footballer reading these tales should be – if you get injured, leave your treatment to the professionals.
In 2003, Darius Vassell injured himself while attempting DIY surgery on his own foot. He had a blood blister under the toenail on his big toe, and used a power drill to break through the nail and drain the wound. Drilling to drain such blisters is not an uncommon procedure, but normally it is conducted by a qualified person under sterile conditions. Vassell made it worse, picked up an infection, and had to have half the nail removed.