On Monday night, I witnessed the third-worst injury that I've seen in person. You see, I play on the First Presbyterian volleyball team in a local church league on Monday nights. Last year, we won the whole league. You might have read about it in the papers. Anyway, this past Monday we played St. Mary's First Congregational Lutheran Bible Church or some crazy thing like that, and we lost the first game then rebounded to win the second. About halfway through the third game, a friendly guy from SMFCLBC dove for a ball and, as he hit the ground, howled in pain. I was in the back row, so I couldn't see what happened, but as the players in our front row began to shield their eyes and turn away, I was able to get a better look, and it turns out that his right shoulder was dislocated. I don't know if you've ever had this injury (or seen someone with it), but imagine that your shoulder dropped down six inches so your arm started in the middle of your rib cage and dangled from silly putty that was connected to your collarbone. That's what it looks like. The guy was pretty tough about it. A teammate put his coat over the guy's shoulders and walked him out to his car so he could drive the guy to the hospital, and the guy just kept saying that he wished someone could just pop it back in. (As you might imagine, no one felt too comfortable doing that.) So that's the third-worst injury I've ever seen in person.
In April of 2005, I witnessed the second-worst injury that I've seen in person. It was my first year coaching the varsity baseball team here at Big Foot, and Anders Ericson was playing right field for me. Anders was a hard-working kid that ran faster than anyone else we had that year. We were at Clinton, and I was standing in front of the dugout on the first-base side when one of the Cougars hit a fly ball into foul territory directly down the fenceline from me. Anders took off after the ball at about a hundred miles per hour. Now, Clinton's field has a warning track, which is a (roughly) 10-foot strip of dirt between the grass playing area and the fence. The warning track is designed to warn players that they are approaching the fence. Had I given that two-sentence explanation to my players before the game, Anders might have kept his teeth. Unfortunately, the warning track didn't slow Anders down a bit and he plowed face-first into the chain-link fence. (If you go to Clinton today, you'll still see an Anders-shaped dent in the fence. Seriously.) Anyway, he fell back and rolled over so that he was on all fours, and I sprinted down the line toward him. When I got there, I saw a pool of blood under his face, and he kept saying, "My teeth! My teeth!" Turns out that three teeth had been knocked out, his tongue and face had several lacerations, he had chipped his jawbone, and he had broken his nose. We found a couple of the teeth (which were a lot longer than you'd think--evidently, they didn't break but came out whole), but they couldn't get them back in, from what I understand. Once we got Anders calmed down, his first question was, "Did I catch it?" He did not. The ambulance came, and Anders met his mom at the hospital. (She was--fortunately, I think--at his sister's game at the time.) We went on to win the game, and Anders got Honorable Mention All-Conference. And that was the second-worst injury I've ever seen in person.
When I was in fifth grade, I saw the worst injury that I've seen in person. Jamie Ditzenberger played basketball for my dad's freshman team that year, and I was the manager. Now, Jamie wasn't tall--maybe 5'9--but he was a skateboarder, so his legs were really muscular. As a result, he could jump. In fact, he would jump up and grab the rim on his way out of practice each night. So one night I was shooting around while I waited for my dad, and Jamie was walking out of the gym. As per his usual routine, he took a couple of steps and jumped. He did not make it to the rim. In fact, he barely left the ground before he fell to the floor, clutching his knee. Someone ran in and got my dad. He pulled down Jamie's pantleg and I saw an image that I still see in nightmares. Apparently, skateboarding builds your quads up pretty well, but it doesn't do as good a job with your hamstrings. So the muscles pulling up on his kneecap were a lot stronger than the ones pulling back. When he jumped, those well-developed quads yanked his kneecap up into what would have been his pocket if he were wearing jeans or khakis. And you could see the lump right there below his hip. Worse--maybe--was the place where his knee was supposed to be, which was now sort of Jello-y. I didn't see how things played out, but I was later told that when the paramedics showed up, the just had to push the kneecap back down into place. There was, I am told, a lot of screaming. And that's the worst injury I've ever seen in person.