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Everybody hurts sometimes





World number one Dustin Johnson missed the Masters because he fell downstairs and hurt his back. It was a timely reminder that calamity is always just around the corner and that we should celebrate every healthy day.

Twelve years ago, when Ernie Els was still in the world top 10 and contending on a regular basis, he tore knee ligaments whilst tubing behind a speedboat in the Mediterranean. He missed the last two majors of the 2005 season.

In 2012, Ernie won the Open Championship at Lytham, earning a five-year exemption to the Masters that ended this year. But later that season he sprained his ankle playing tennis with his daughter. It was an injury that forced him to miss the Grand Slam of Golf, the end-of-season money spinner that only that year's major winners got invited to.

Golf is not unique as far as bizarre injuries go. Cricket has produced some of the worst, with former England all-rounder Derek Pringle winning the prize for the most mundane task producing the worst injury.

On the evening before the 1982 Headingly test against Pakistan, Pringle was putting complimentary tickets into envelopes in his room when he leaned back in his chair to stretch. The chair gave way, and Pringle's back went into spasm, forcing him to withdraw from the match.

A close second to Pringle's feat was fellow England pace bowler Chris Old, who cracked a rib whilst sneezing! Old was a famous hypochondriac, who might have been a legend if he had ever stayed fit. A friend of mine once introduced him as an after-dinner speaker by saying, "Chris will be entertaining us with his reminiscences, but I've got another speech prepared, just in case he breaks down."

Rugby also has its fair share of left-of-centre mishaps. Ahead of a French Top 14 game, Johan Goosen managed to injure his knee getting off the team bus. Italian prop Martin Castrogiovanni missed a Six Nations game after being bitten on the nose by a friend's dog. But my favourite is a story told to me by the former Maties and France tighthead Pieter de Villiers.

He had gone to France after graduating from Stellenbosch and found himself turning out for a low-level club side. In the dressing room before the game, his fellow front rankers were psyching themselves up for the contest by headbutting each other. Inevitably, it ended in tears, with prop and hooker knocking each other out and being unable to take part in the game at all.

Perhaps the greatest tale of unlikely injury happened on one of the biggest stages of all. In 1984 the Olympics were held in Los Angeles. It was the second time the games had come to LA, and the organisers decided to roll out the red carpet for the surviving medallists of the 1932 games.

Among the dignitaries was Dr Pat O'Callaghan, who had won gold for Ireland in the hammer throw 52 years previously. Ireland's hammer thrower in 1984 was Declan Hegarty.

As he stepped into the cage for the first time, the lights in the stadium were lowered and a spotlight picked out Dr Pat in the crowd. A roar of appreciation went through the stadium, a roar that turned Hegarty's knees to jelly. He composed himself, spun on the concrete circle and threw the hammer into the side of the cage.

That happened twice more and Hegarty was eliminated from the competition without ever registering a legal throw. Mortified, he walked across the stadium towards Dr Pat, intending to apologise to the great man.

Halfway to his target he stumbled and dropped the hammer on his own foot, breaking it in three places.


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