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19 Sports Injuries Weirder Than Nate Burleson's

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Detroit Lions wide receiver Nate Burleson broke his arm yesterday in a car crash that occurred after he "tried to adjust one of the pizza boxes falling off a seat in his black 2009 GMC Yukon." This might not make Burleson feel any better, but he's hardly the first athlete to sustain a weird injury. Here are a few highlights from the injury reports of days gone by.

1. Sacramento Kings small forward Lionel Simmons missed two games in his rookie season (1991) because he had tendonitis in his right wrist and forearm from playing too much GameBoy.

2. In 1994, journeyman knuckleballer Steve Sparks missed out on a chance to make his first big-league roster when he dislocated his shoulder during spring training with the Milwaukee Brewers. He tried to rip a phone book while imitating a group of motivational speakers who had visited the team.

3. NHL goalie Glenn Healy enjoyed a long career, and he also enjoyed playing the bagpipes. While playing for the Maple Leafs in 2000, Healy needed stitches after slicing himself while repairing an antique set of pipes.

4. Hall of Fame offensive tackle Turk Edwards suffered a career-ending injury in 1940 during the pregame coin toss. When Edwards turned to return to the Washington Redskins' sideline, he caught his cleats on the turf, which wrecked his fragile knee and forced him into retirement.

5. Hall of Fame third baseman Wade Boggs once missed seven games after straining his back while trying to pull on his trademark cowboy boots. (In all fairness, it's probably tough with all of that chicken grease on your fingers.)

6. After scoring a goal in 2004, Servette midfielder Paulo Diogo decided to celebrate by jumping into the crowd. His wedding ring had other plans, though, and caught on a fence. The force ripped off the top of Diogo's finger, and to add insult to injury, the refs booked him for excessive celebration.

7. Actually, it might just be a good idea to take off all of your rings when you hit the field or court. Atlanta Braves closer Cecil Upshaw missed the entire 1970 season when his ring got caught on an awning as he tried to demonstrate his slam dunk technique.

8. Boston Red Sox pitcher Clarence Blethen didn't have a long career, but he did have a fine set of false teeth. According to legend, Blethen liked to carry his false teeth in his back pocket when he played, which was a decent enough plan until he had to make a takeout slide at second to break up a double play during the 1923 season. When Blethen slid, his false chompers supposedly bit him on the rear, which led to a bloody mess that forced him out of the game.

9. Point guard Muggsy Bogues once missed the second half of a game after he became dizzy from inhaling ointment fumes while receiving treatment for a sore muscle at halftime.

10. At some point during the 1975 or 1976 season, Mets reliever Ken Sanders had so much trouble seeing through the glare coming off of a glass partition behind home plate at Shea Stadium, he didn't realize his catcher had tossed the ball back to him. The ball conked Sanders right in the face, breaking his nose and cheek.

11. Journeyman reliever Greg A. Harris once missed two starts for the Rangers after he inflamed his elbow by spending an entire game flicking sunflower seeds at a friend who was sitting nearby.

12. One more reason to pay attention to your pharmacist: Brazilian soccer star Ramalho once missed three days of action because he was bedridden after taking a suppository orally.

13. Norwegian defender Svein Grondalen went for a jog as part of his training for an international match during the 1970s...and ran headlong into a moose. The injury forced him to withdraw from the match.

14. Atlanta first baseman Ryan Klesko missed several games in 1999 after straining his back while picking up his lunch tray.

15. Pitcher Tom Glavine suffered from food poisoning during the 1992 season; his symptoms were so bad that he broke a rib while vomiting.

16. Chicago Cubs outfielder Jose Cardenal missed a game in 1974 because his eyelid was "stuck open," which prevented him from blinking. Although he eventually overcame this ailment, it didn't help Cardenal's reputation as a player who liked to use suspicious injuries to get out of games; two seasons earlier he had missed a game because crickets in his hotel room had kept him up all night, leaving him exhausted.

17. Pitching great Nolan Ryan once missed a start after he was allegedly bitten by a coyote.

18. In May 2002 Baltimore Orioles left fielder Marty Cordova fell asleep in a tanning bed and got a wicked sunburn on his face. His doctor ordered him to stay out of direct sunlight, which meant Cordova had to hide out in the clubhouse during day games until his face healed.

19. Stuttgart Kickers soccer player Sascha Bender once suffered a facial injury after being punched. The assailant, teammate Christian Okpala, said Bender "permanently provoked me by farting all the time."

Obviously, these are just a few of the greatest weird injuries. We left out some commonly cited examples, like Bill Gramatica's painful field goal celebration and Gus Frerotte's ill-conceived head butt. Share your favorites in the comments.

Portions of this article originally appeared in 2009.

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MARK RALSTON/AFP/Getty Images
13 Secrets of Roller Derby
MARK RALSTON/AFP/Getty Images
MARK RALSTON/AFP/Getty Images

When sports promoter Leo Seltzer got the idea to organize a roller skating marathon in 1935, he probably didn’t expect that his event would provide the basis for a fledgling sport known as roller derby. Those early contests had skaters circling a track for thousands of miles over a period of a month to test their endurance; the current incarnation is more of a contact sport that involves players protecting—or blocking—a player known as a "jammer" who is trying to skate past the opposing team for points.

A popular sport through the 1950s and 1960s, derby briefly lost some of its luster when a bit of the theatricality usually found in pro wrestling made its way to the tracks to bolster television ratings in the 1970s. While today's derby still maintains some of that showmanship—players often compete under pseudonyms like H.P. Shovecraft—you’d be wrong to characterize its players as anything less than serious and determined athletes. Mental Floss asked several competitors about the game, the hazards of Velcro, and the etiquette of sending get-well cards to opponents with broken bones.

1. THERE’S A GOOD REASON THEY USE ALTER EGOS.

Derby players looking to erase the image of the scantily-clad events of the ‘70s sometimes bemoan the continued use of aliases, but there’s a practical reason for keeping that tradition going. According to Elektra-Q-Tion, a player in Raleigh, North Carolina, pseudonyms can help athletes remain safe from overzealous fans. “It’s kind of like being a C-level celebrity,” she says. “Some players can have stalkers. I have a couple of fans that can be a little aggressive. Using 'Elektra-Q-Tion' helps keep a separation there. If they know my real name, they can find out where I live or work.”

2. THEY CAN’T ALWAYS RECOGNIZE OTHER PLAYERS OFF THE TRACK.

For many players, derby is as much a social outlet as a physical one—but meetings outside of the track can sometimes be awkward. Because of the equipment and constant motion, it can be hard to register facial features for later reference. “You don’t really get the opportunity to see them move like a normal person,” Elektra-Q-Tion says. “People can identify me because I’m really tall, but if someone comes up and says we’ve played, I have to do that thing where I hold my hand up over their head [to mimic their helmet] and go, ‘Oh, it’s you.’”

3. THEY SUFFER FROM “DERBY FACE.”

Extreme concentration, core engagement, and other aspects of the game often conspire to make players somewhat less than photogenic. “'Derby face' is common,” says Barbie O’Havoc, a player from the J-Town Roller Girls in Johnstown, Pennsylvania. “You’re pretty focused on trying not to fall over or get beat up.”

4. THEY CAN KISS THEIR FEET GOODBYE.

Hours of practice in skates usually precedes an unfortunate fate for feet. “Your feet become pretty gross,” Elektra-Q-Tion says. “People sometimes say it’s because skates don’t fit right, but it can happen with custom skates. You get calluses, your toenails get worn and fall off, your bones shift, you get fallen arches. One time a doctor thought I had MRSA. He actually recoiled from my foot. I had a blister on my blister.”

5. THEY HAVE TO CONVINCE DOCTORS THEY’RE NOT BEING ABUSED.

Flying, crashing bodies skating at velocity will become heavily bruised, with players sporting black eyes and large-scale blemishes. If they need to seek medical attention when something is broken, those superficial marks often raise suspicion. “The first question people will ask is, ‘Are you okay?’” says Elektra-Q-Tion. “Once, my husband took me to the emergency room because I had broken my hand. The nurse asked him to leave the room and asked me, ‘Did he do this to you?’”

6. THEIR GEAR SMELLS PRETTY BAD.

“Derby stink is very much real,” says Barbie O’Havoc. “It comes down to body chemistry. Some players don’t have a problem. Others can wash their gear all the time and it still stinks. After I sold my car that I used to haul my gear in for years, my sister told me it smelled awful. The entire car.”

7. NO PLAYER WEARS A “1” JERSEY—AND FOR GOOD REASON.

Attend a derby bout and it’s unlikely you’ll see any player sporting a “1” on their jersey. “I've always heard you shouldn't use the number 1,” says Cyan Eyed, a player for Gem City Roller Derby in Ohio. “But not everyone is aware of the 1937 bus crash.” On March 24 of that year, a bus carrying 14 skaters and 9 support staff was driving from St. Louis to Cincinnati when it crashed, killing 21 passengers. Joe Kleats, a veteran player who was riding on the bus, wore the number; when he and the others died, the sport retired it in memory of the tragedy.

8. THEY HAVE SKATE MECHANICS.

The pounding endured by skates, wheels, and bearings often requires attention from someone versed in repair and maintenance work. Enter the skate mechanic, typically an official or significant other of a player who doubles as the team’s wheel-person. “Players are afraid of taking their expensive skates apart,” Elektra-Q-Tion says. But she'd prefer that skaters know how to care for their own wheels. “I don’t like the idea of someone not understanding how they work. What happens if the ref retires?”

9. VELCRO IS THEIR ENEMY.

Much of a derby player’s gear, such as knee and elbow pads, is held in place with Velcro, that useful-but-dangerous adhesion system. “The problem with Velcro is the close contact,” Elektra-Q-Tion says. “If people don’t have it on correctly or part of it is peeling off, they’ll scrape you with it and you won’t realize it until you’re in the shower later and the water hits it, which is a miserable feeling.”

10. THEY TRY TO BE POLITE EVEN AFTER SMASHING SOMEONE.

Injuries are expected in derby, but if you unwittingly broke someone’s nose, it’s considered polite track manners to check up on them later. “I remember seeing a nasty injury and our league sent her flowers and a card,” Barbie O’Havoc says.

11. THEY CAN WATCH OTHER TEAMS PRACTICE.

Good luck allowing members of an NFL team to drop in on an opposing team’s practice. Derby, which prides itself on a communal atmosphere, doesn’t mind opening its doors for visiting rivals. “If I go to, say, San Diego and ask to practice with the local team there, most of the time they would say yes,” Elektra-Q-Tion says.

12. A PENNY CAN SPELL DOOM.

It’s not often something as tiny as a coin can bring a sporting event to a complete halt, but that’s what happens when you’re dependent on skate mobility. Barbie O’Havoc says that although tracks are swept and cleaned before bouts, the odd foreign object can still pop up, causing wheels (and feet) to go flying. “There’s a washer on the toe stop that can fall off,” she says. “And I’ve seen people lose their wedding rings.” Pebbles and other tiny hazards will prompt a time-out until they're found and disposed of.

13. THEY DISLIKE HOLLYWOOD.

Whenever television crime dramas depict derby, it’s typically presented as a bunch of “bad girls” with sour attitudes and a thirst for blood on the track. “That seems to be very attractive to movie and television people,” Elektra-Q-Tion says. “Usually someone gets murdered.” 2009’s Whip It, a comedy-drama starring Ellen Page and directed by Drew Barrymore, didn’t fare much better in terms of believability—but players will give that one a pass. “Whip It was great press for us. That’s when we had most of our new audience and skaters come in.”

All images courtesy of Getty.

A version of this story ran in 2016.

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Shout! Factory
Original GLOW Wrestling Series Hits Twitch
Shout! Factory
Shout! Factory

When it premiered in June 2017, GLOW was a bit of a sleeper offering for Netflix. With the amount of original programming ordered by the streaming service, a show based on an obscure women’s pro wrestling league from the 1980s seemed destined to get lost in the shuffle.

Instead, the series was a critical and commercial success. Ahead of its second season, which drops on June 29, you'll have a chance to see the mat work of the original women who inspired it.

Shout! Factory has announced they will be live-streaming clips from the first four seasons of GLOW (Gorgeous Ladies of Wrestling), which first premiered in 1986, beginning at 9 p.m. ET on June 28. The stream, which will be available on shoutfactorytv.com and Twitch, will feature original footage framed by new interviews with personalities including Godiva, host Johnny C, and Hollywood. The show will air live from the Santino Brothers Wrestling Academy in Los Angeles.

Godiva, who was portrayed by Dawn Maestas, inspired the character Rhonda (a.k.a. Brittanica) on the Netflix series; Hollywood was the alter ego of Jeanne Basone, who inspired the character Cherry in the fictionalized version of the league. Basone later posed for Playboy and takes bookings for one-on-one wrestling matches with fans.

Shout! Factory's site also features a full-length compilation of footage, Brawlin’ Beauties: GLOW, hosted by onetime WWE interviewer “Mean” Gene Okerlund.

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