It's not uncommon for sports stars to get hurt in the line of duty, obviously (Colt McCoy, anyone?). It's a little more unusual when a spectator gets taken out - I had a friend who got pelted in the elbow with a line drive at a minor league baseball game. Here are some innocent and not-so-innocent bystanders, plus a couple of refs who were in the wrong place at the wrong time.
1. Those foul balls can be dangerous. Last summer, a man leaned over the railing at a Cardinals-Pirates baseball game to try to flag down a ground foul hit by a Pirates batter. He leaned a little too far and tumbled over the railing and fell onto the clay track below. Don't worry "“ he ended up being fine, and got to meet the Cardinals' first baseman Albert Pujols in the process (mental_floss does not recommend this as a method to meet your favorite baseball players).
2. I've often wondered how football referees avoid accidentally finding themselves on the wrong end of a tackle. As it turns out, they don't always. In October, ref Richard Reels couldn't predict which way Viking Jeff Dugan was headed and got pretty well laid out on the turf. He was shaken, but OK "“ you can see him get plowed over at about 00:15 in the following video, but he did end up walking off of the field by himself.
3. Sadly, things don't always turn out for the best. You might remember teenager Brittanie Cecil "“ her death made news in 2002 when she was hit in the head by a stray puck at an NHL game between the Calgary Flames and the Columbus Blue Jackets.
4. Forget getting hit with a baseball "“ getting hit with an out-of-control bat could really inflict some damage. Susan Rhodes can attest to that. She was enjoying a Dodgers game and was following the arc of the ball, like most fans would, and didn't see the splintered end of the maple bat headed directly toward her face. Her jaw was shattered, requiring four screws and a titanium plate. "From now on, I'm going to Lakers games," Rhodes later quipped.
5. Obviously the drivers at NASCAR events are at risk of crashing, but spectators should also watch out when debris from those crashes go flying toward the crowd. A group of seven fans learned that the hard way at the Talladega Speedway last year. There's a "catch fence" between the track and the fans, and while it stopped the car itself from slamming into the audience, it didn't stop all of the little pieces. None of the injuries were life-threatening, but one of the injured fans did suffer a broken jaw.
6. Soccer stampedes that end up killing folks who get caught in the shuffle are not as uncommon as you might think. There's a whole sad list of them here, and one just recently happened in South Africa that killed 43 people.
7. Another ref fell victim to his job late last year when he got pounded in the head with a soccer ball aimed for the goal. He collapsed to the ground unconscious immediately and received first aid on the field before being rushed to a nearby hospital. He remained hospitalized for several days due to his head trauma.
8. OK, some fans have it coming. "Dozens" of fans crammed themselves into a homemade wooden pirate ship during a game for the Canadian Junior Football League's Vancouver Island Raiders when a railing cracked, sending two "pretty intoxicated" fans plummeting nearly 20 feet. Apparently the drunken duo received minor injuries and the Raiders went on to win the championship.
9. Even cheerleaders aren't safe. In November, an Oregon Ducks cheerleader was hit in the head with a nearly-full water bottle thrown by a rowdy fan when the Ducks beat Arizona in overtime. Katelynn Johnson was hit on the sideline, stumbled onto the field and fainted.
10. A stinky, used athletic shoe is totally worth breaking your neck for, right? Some fans sure think so. Two men were fighting over a shoe thrown into the crowd at the end of a St. Louis Rams game just a few weeks ago, when the heat of the moment took them over the railing and onto an awning. The awning couldn't bear the weight of two grown men, and it collapsed onto the concrete ground.
Have any of you ever been the victim of a ball lost in the sun or a splintered bat? Share your story in the comments.