Selected Sporting Injuries - Part 1 by Bryan Rhodes


It is a great honour to be invited to contribute to Terry’s new website. I first heard about Terry through his fundraising work for the Orthopaedic unit at the Royal Lancaster Infirmary and then I became hooked on his brilliant articles about local football history in the Lancaster Guardian. I then had the opportunity of working with Terry on a piece about a local doctor who had excelled in the Caton cricket team before serving as a soldier in the First World War I soon discovered that Terry’s historical skills extend beyond the boundaries of football.

It did not take me long to decide on the subject for this article. In my long career as an Orthopaedic surgeon, I have come across some strange and incredible sports related stories and I’ve raided my memory banks to record them here. I dedicate this article to all the sportsmen and sportswomen who have worked hard to recover from their injuries and return to the sport they love.

Bloody Elbows!

Sadly, my football career did not last as long as my surgical one. Like most boys born in the 60’s I was mad about football and, growing up in West Yorkshire, became a Leeds United fan. My favourite player was also called Terry – the great Leeds and England full back Terry Cooper (whose own career was blighted by a serious injury) and I suppose that is why I’ve always appreciated the defensive arts. Sadly, I was not good enough to play for my senior school team (Salt Grammar school) though I did become school badminton champion and featured in the tennis team a few times. Fortunately, when I became a medical student in London I got a second chance to play for a team when I was invited to play for the University College Hospital team. At that time (early 80’s) about half of England’s medical schools were in London so there was a league within London where each medical school team would play each of the other London medical school teams home and away each season.  Starting at left back, I soon realised that my preferred position was at the heart of the team in central midfield. The Saturdays when we would set off in our minibus with music blaring, and us singing and joking, to a pitch somewhere on the outskirts of London were some of the happiest days of my time at medical school.

One match is etched in my memory. We were playing away against Guy’s Hospital medical school and the weather and pitch were good.  After about 10 minutes, I was near the touchline behind one of their players watching the ball at his feet, waiting for an opportunity to tackle.  Before I could react, he swung his left arm around catching my face with his elbow. I was furious because, though I couldn’t be sure that it was deliberate, it was reckless and dangerous.  Blood was pouring down my face and our captain thought I had broken my nose and wanted to take me off.  I was so angry I refused to come off, and with the adrenaline flowing, and some cotton wool plugs up the nostrils, I played one of my best matches for the team. We beat them 5–1 with our striker bagging four goals.  Revenge of a sort!  I remember going to see the ENT Surgeon the next day and he confirmed the captain’s diagnosis. Because I had once previously broken my nose (accident with a playground swing  he couldn’t re-set it easily and suggested that I wait until my football playing was over and then have a corrective nose job. Now I am 53 I guess I will have to start thinking about it!

It has left me with a dislike for elbows in football.  I’m glad that the officials can use video replays to punish players that misuse their elbows during a football match – Schweinsteiger a recent example. On the subject of pet-hates, the other thing I find very annoying is players pushing another running player off the edge of the pitch when they know there are cameramen or hoardings that the player will collide with.

The World Cup Winner’s Knee

I suppose my main claim to fame is that I once operated on a player in the famous 1966 World cup winning team. He is still alive so I cannot name him for confidentiality reasons but he was a brilliant player – I believe he even once scored a hat trick against Leeds United!

This is the story. I was a trainee surgeon at the time – a Registrar. The operating list was due to start at 1.30 but I was running late from the morning clinic and decided that I would have to see the first patient in the anaesthetic room before he was anaesthetised rather than see him on the ward. Of course, he had finished playing many years before but as soon as I walked in, I recognised him and became quite nervous.  Fortunately, he was having a simple operation on his knee involving an arthroscopy – a telescope is placed into the knee.  He told me that he was getting a bit of an ache towards the end of a round of golf so I wasn’t expecting to find a lot.  During the operation, I was shocked to find that one side of the knee joint looked normal but the other side was very badly eroded.  I spent the next few days wondering if this had something to do with the way he ran or his position on the pitch but who can tell?

Bungee Runner’s Bum

Perhaps the most bizarre injury I’ve heard about involved a modification of the famous bungee jump.  Bungee running involves tying an elastic bungee cord around the runner’s waist and the runner runs as far as he can before the tension in the cord pulls him backwards.

Some years ago, I met a chap who had decided to have a go at this ‘sport’.  As he was running, he felt the cord tighten as expected.  Then, as the cord tightened, he heard a snapping sound followed by a higher pitched sound and then smack! The cord hit him on his bottom.  I cannot tell you the extent of his injuries but there is a similar incident you can view on ‘YouTube’.

Technology Part 1 – The mobile phone camera

I have to admit that I have a bit of a love/hate relationship with new technology and ‘smart phones’ in particular.

The phone cameras can be very useful though. There are some injuries e.g. kneecap dislocations where the dislocation can reduce spontaneously before the player gets to the hospital and when the x-ray is done it looks completely normal. A few years ago, a young man arrived in my clinic and stated that he had dislocated his kneecap (patella) playing football. I explained that his x-ray was normal and that therefore I couldn’t say for certain what had happened to his knee in the injury. He said, ‘I can prove it!’ and took his mobile phone out of his pocket. A friend of his had taken the photo on his mobile shortly after the injury and before the kneecap had gone back to its correct position.

Technology Part 2 – Don’t Wii on the sofa!

Wii Sports is a video game played in your home and produced by Nintendo since 2006.  Like most other video games, it isn’t generally considered a dangerous activity but it all depends on how you do it! I once had a lady in my clinic who was playing the tennis game on her Wii Sports whilst standing on her sofa.  Needless to say, she fell off the sofa and broke her wrist. The moral of this story – don’t Wii on the sofa!

Technology Part 3 – The hoverboard

I cannot recall seeing a patient that has been injured by a Segway machine though I am aware that this has been recorded. However, there is a new device dubbed the ‘hoverboard’ that is like a miniature version without the handlebars. I recently had a patient with a serious injury to her elbow sustained during her first attempt to ride such a device. It was her husband’s machine and she thought she would give it a go but fell off it! As a motorcycling orthopaedic surgeon, my advice is stick to two wheeled vehicles with handlebars.

Bert’s Neck

Bert Trautmann was a German who joined the Hitler youth and served in the Nazi army in both the Eastern front and in France. He was captured and became a POW in England.  In 1948, Trautmann and other German POW’s were offered the choice of returning to Germany or staying in England under certain conditions.  Those who were working in agricultural jobs were allowed to stay and about 15000 decided to do that.  I had a patient who was one of the 15000 in my Morecambe clinic once. Trautmann was another who decided to stay in England and was part of a group at the Bela River POW camp near Milnthorpe. His biographers suggest that he began playing football in St. Helens but this is wrong. He played locally for two teams: Milnthorpe Corinthians and the Burton in Kendal/Holme team, which became Burton Thistle.  I live within a mile of the Burton Thistle ground and have been trying to find out how often he played for Burton.  According to Terry, he lived on a farm rather than in the Bela River camp, “a friend of mine, Ray Stephenson, played against him, and Bert saved his penalty.”  Perhaps it was these displays for Burton that made him realise he could make a successful career as a goalkeeper and after a spell at St Helens Town he joined Manchester City.

Alf Cummings has lived in Burton all his life and told me that his father was friendly with one of the Bela Rover camp internees, a POW named Otto ( see photo of Burton team).  Alf remembers Bert playing for Burton and thinks he played at least 10 games in one season before moving to St Helens.

Burton football club pictured in front of the Kings Arms

Front Row (L-R)
Otto (POW), Jack Molyneaux, Harry Jackson, Alan Bleasdale, Butler

Back Row (L-R)
Ted Crayston, Guss (POW), Tommy Illingworth, Arthur Dixon, Eric Neill,
Bob “Bandy” Bolton, Bob Flemlut (POW)

The 1948 team used to play in a field south of the Green Dragon down Tarn Lane and had changing rooms at the back of the Kings Arms.

Bert Trautmann would return to this corner of England in 1966 as part of Tom Finney’s team who played Milnthorpe Corinthians to raise money for charity.  Tom had decided that any money raised would go to the British Legless Ex-Servicemen’s Association.  The game was played under Corinthians’ new floodlights that Tom Finney had switched on in 1965.

Although Bert’s name was printed incorrectly, we can forgive the printers

Of course, the famous match was the 1956 FA Cup final against Birmingham City. Manchester City used their striker Don Revie in a deeper role termed the ‘Revie Plan’. Trautmann injured his neck in a collision with a Birmingham player but substitutes were not permitted and he chose to play on in severe pain contributing to the victory. Trautmann wrote about this in a Guardian article:

“I remember I was coming out to cut out a cross and Peter Murphy, the Birmingham striker, came in to challenge me. When we collided, it was like two trains hitting each other - neither of us could stop and we crashed into each other at high speed. His thigh caught me in the neck and I was knocked unconscious.

The physio came on with the magic sponge and I came round a few minutes later but I could not recognise anybody or see properly. There were 15 minutes of the match remaining and, in those days, you were not allowed substitutions, so I had to continue playing.  It was such a strange sensation.  I wasn't seeing any colour - everything around me was grey and I could not see any of the players properly. I could only see silhouettes. It was like walking around in fog and trying to find my way.  I cannot remember what happened during the rest of the match. I know now that I made one or two more good saves but it must just have been my subconscious taking over; everything was a blur of black and white.  I collapsed two or three more times in those last 15 minutes. I was in absolute agony and I had to support my neck with my right hand. I could not move my head at all - if I wanted to look at anything, I had to turn my whole body around with my hand on my neck.

The next day I was still in a lot of pain, so I went to a hospital in London and they told me that I just had a crick in my neck and sent me away. Three days later the pain was still there, so I went to see an osteopath in Manchester. He gave me an x-ray and told me I had dislocated five vertebrae in my neck. The doctors told me that I could have been paralysed and could have died.

Many people have said to me that if I hadn't been such a good goalkeeper and been so commanding in the penalty box, I would not have broken my neck. I was very, very lucky.”

Trautmann made a successful recovery from his neck injury and continued playing professionally until 1963. In 1966 he returned to Milnthorpe  ( see attached programme ) to play in a star studded charity match in aid of the BLESMA charity ( British Limbless Ex-Serviceman’s  Association ).In 2004 he was awarded the OBE.

Bert Trautmann prior to collision that broke his neck


Bert Trautmann – The Guardian online – 6th May 2006


To be continued...!

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