By: H. Esteves
With the peak of the Halloween season, it’s only fair we talk about the scariest element of sports: injuries. What every player of every sport dreads after a harsh stop, a quick turn or a sharp elbow to the face. Hence, to honour this tough but present part of the sporting world, we decided to analyse two of the worst, most shocking, and most unexpected injuries from several sports—and the effects it had on the players and the league.
Rudy Tomjanovich is a former professional basketball player who played exclusively for the Houston Rockets in the NBA between 1970 and 1981. The 6’8 power forward was a former 25 points per game scorer going into his 11th season as a vet, when in a regular season game versus the Lakers, a fight broke out.
It’s crucial now to mention that this was a time in the NBA where fighting was just about encouraged, it was even considered entertainment to the fans. This was such a point that you can see how commentators spoke in an excited tone during fights and how the cameras pointed directly to the fight during old broadcasts of the 1970s and 80s. Managers of teams would even consider trying to bring players that were ‘enforcers’ to the team—essentially players that were large, tough and willing to get in a fight to protect their team.
Anyway, a fight broke out between one player from each team at halfcourt, and quickly Kareem from the Lakers came to pull back the Rocket player to stop the fight. However, what actually happened was that he held his arms back and the other Laker player, Kermit Washington, was able to punch him directly in the face. At this point, Rudy rushed from behind Washington to break up the fight, and, as Washington said “I saw a blur of red. I grew up in the streets. You learn there that if you’re in a fight and someone is coming up from behind you, you swing first and ask questions later.”
Kermit Washington then hit the sprinting Rudy in the face with an incredibly strong punch. The result being that Rudy suffered a broken face and skull and had to undergo life-saving surgery. Luckily, Rudy recovered well and after an early retirement he worked as a consulting coach in the NBA for several years. Rudy’s teammates and coaches urged him to get back at Washington, but he refused, and insisted they wouldn’t do anything on his account. Hence, he was incredibly influential in how his attitude, and his injury, catalysed a major culture shift in the NBA away from a fighting league and towards the more civilised culture we see today.
Many have heard of the recently retired world class goalkeeper, yet not everyone knows the truth about his iconic protective headwear. Čech wore the accessory for nearly thirteen years of his professional, after one particular incident. The date was the 14th of October when Chelsea played an ordinary league match against Reading, and at a mere 15 seconds into the game, Reading player Steven Hunt went for a 50-50 ball with the Chelsea goalkeeper. They collided, and as the ball calmly slide past the end line and Hunt questioned the referee for a penalty, the keeper was slow to get up. It was not long before they noticed that he was unconscious. Turns out, Čech had a fractured skull and he would have to spend 10 days in the hospital and undergo surgery.
After several months, he returned successfully to his professional career, despite the major event, with the headwear being the only different aspect about him. He says it took some adjusting to using the headwear, as it made him “less aware” of the environment around him. In any matter, it didn’t stop him from winning multiple premier leagues, FA cups and Europa leagues—and of course, winning the Champions league. The record-holding goalkeeper thus remains an example in the sporting world of how one can recover from a massive injury, and rise to glory all the same.