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May 20, 2009

Football's freak injuries

Injuries are part and parcel of the game of football and every professional player is well aware that a career threatening problem could be just around the corner. It would therefore seem reasonable to assume that these perfectly tuned athletes would take great care of themselves but, as Rangers midfielder Kirk Broadfoot highlighted this week, that does not seem to be the case.

The 25-year-old Scotland international became another on the ever growing list of unfortunates to suffer bizarre injuries when he managed to explode an egg in his own face.

The peckish Gers star was poaching the offending oeuf in the microwave but when he opened the oven's door scalding hot liquid squirted onto his face and had to be taken to an Ayrshire hospital. But as the Scot faces up to the barrage of banter that will surely follow his misfortune, Broadfoot can console himself with the fact that he is not the only player to suffer an embarrassing food-related injury.

Back in 2001 veteran goalkeeper Dave Beasant, who famously became the first player to save a penalty in an FA Cup final as Wimbledon stunned Liverpool 1-0 in 1988, hungrily loaded up with provisions only for a bottle of salad cream to slip from his grasp. With his hands full, the Southampton stopper stuck out a foot to catch the bottle and severed the tendon in his big toe; leaving him sidelined for two months.

German international Norbert Nigbur suffered a worse fate when dining with his fiancée. At the end of the meal, the goalkeeper tried to stand up only to find his knee had locked and he'd suffered a torn meniscus. The injury required immediate surgery on the eve of Euro 1980 and Harold Schumacher took the Schalke 04 player's place between the posts as West Germany won the championships.

But football's hapless players are not limited to just food faux pas; animals also play an amusing part and there is a whole range of sub categories, ranging from sheer stupidity and extreme misfortune.

Paolo Diogo falls into the latter category. His goal celebration with the Servette fans back in December 2004 ended when the midfielder's moment of ecstasy turned to agony. The Swiss player jumped into the crowd to celebrate his goal against FC Schaffhausen only to tear off the top half of his finger as his wedding ring caught on the perimeter fence.

Diogo, who had the remainder of his finger amputated down the first joint on doctors' advice, is not the only player who has found celebrating a little tricky. In February 2004, Fenerbahce's Volkan Demirel was sidelined for three weeks after he dislocated his shoulder when he fell over whilst throwing his shirt to fans following a 2-1 win against arch-rivals Galatasaray.

In May 2000, Thierry Henry caught one in the eye when he went to the corner of the pitch to celebrate scoring Arsenal's winning goal against Chelsea and required treatment after hitting himself in the face with the corner flag - as did Italy's Marco Tardelli at the 1982 World Cup finals in Spain

If those poor souls can be classed as unfortunate then the next category could certainly come under the banner of 'stupidity'.

Top of the pile has to be former England striker Darius Vassell who back in 2003 injured himself whilst attempting to perform surgery on his own foot with a power tool. The Aston Villa forward had a blood blister under the toe-nail on his big toe and used a power drill to bore through the nail and drain the wound. The DIY operation failed but Vassell, now playing his football with Manchester City, succeeded in picking up a toe infection that required medical attention and resulted in having his nail removed.

In another medical calamity, Brazilian striker Ramalho was once bed-ridden for three days after swallowing a large pill doctors had given him to treat a dental infection. The problem was the suppository should have been taken anally.

And whilst we have lowered the tone a mention must also go to Stuttgart Kickers' Sascha Bender, whose persistent flatulence resulted in a facial injury after disgruntled team-mate Christian Okpala punched him. "He permanently provoked me by farting all the time," Okpala explained.

Eye injuries also seem to be a common theme amongst the wounded footballers of the world. Antigua goalkeeper, and landscape gardener, Janiel Simon was forced to miss his side's World Cup qualifier against Cuba in 2008 after damaging his right eye with a "weed-whacker", which left him needing surgery and 50/50 chance of regaining his sight.

And Croatia forward Milan Rapaic, capped 49 times for his country, once missed the start of Hajduk Split's season after sticking his boarding-pass in his eye at the airport.

Quite why anybody would do such a thing is baffling and it is diffcult to feel sympathy for players who wound themselves, but the next two characters had the extreme misfortune to encounter animals hell bent on destruction.

During the 1970s, Norway defender Svein Grondalen, who is widely remembered for the tough tackle that injured Swede Ralf Edström in 1977, went for a jog as he prepared for an international match only to collide with a moose. Although he had to pull out of the game he did recover and go on to represent his country in four World Cup qualifying campaigns.

However, Indonesian footballer Mistar wasn't so lucky. The 25-year-old was tragically killed by a stampede of pigs which overran his team's training pitch before a fixture in 1995.

With all that danger on and off the pitch it might be tempting for footballers just to lay-low at home but even their multi-million pound houses are fraught with danger.

Simply sitting still can cause all manner of problems as England international Rio Ferdinand can attest. In January 2001 the Leeds United star managed to damage his knee while relaxing in front of the telly with his feet up on a coffee table. The £18m signing, now playing for Manchester United, strained a tendon because he kept his knee in the same position for a number of hours.

And hunting for the TV remote can be equally painful as sitting still. Italian goalkeeper Carlo Cudicini and Ireland striker Robbie Keane have both injured their knees hunting for the channel changer and former England No.1 David Seaman, who once put his shoulder out reeling in a 26lb carp whilst fishing, broke a bone reaching for his TV remote.

Over in Spain Valencia goalkeeper Santiago Canizares wrecked his dream of playing at the 2002 World Cup finals after an incident with an aftershave bottle that resulted in serious tendon damage. The Spaniard accidentally smashed a bottle of cologne on the side of his sink and cut into the tendon in his big toe.

It would seem that nowhere is safe for the modern-day footballer and even if they do actually make it onto the pitch unscathed there is no guarantee they will make it to the start of the match. Numerous players have been injured warming up for the main event, but none so comically as Richard Wright.

Whilst at Everton the goalkeeper, who had previously been sidelined after falling from his loft, ignored a sign warning players not to warm up in the goalmouth. He promptly tripped over the sign and injured his ankle.

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