It’s been a rough start to the season in terms of injuries. The most significant injury of the year thus far was the ruptured Achilles suffered by Darian Durant in Week 1 that will cause him to miss the duration of the 2015 season.
But Durant is not the only CFL star to suffer a major injury. Here’s the current list:
- Eskimos’ QB Mike Reilly – out 10 to 12 weeks with a major knee injury
- Argos’ SB Andre Durie is likely out for the season with a major knee injury
- Alouettes’ QB Dan LeFevour will not play again this season after dislocating his shoulder
- Argos’ PK Swayze Waters suffered a torn hip flexor and will be gone for about 6 weeks
- Riders’ LB Shea Emry is on the 6 game injured list with a head/neck injury
- Tiger Cats’ WR Spencer Watt and both DTs Brian Bulcke and Linden Gaydosh suffered serious injuries in training camp and will not play this season
And there are rumblings that Montreal linebacker Bear (Jonathan) Woods might miss a significant portion of the season with a torn pectoral muscle.
The rash of serious injuries made me think about other spates of injuries, particularly the “Year of the Broken Leg.”
2008 had been a tumultuous year for the Saskatchewan Roughriders even before the season began. Coming off a Grey Cup victory, Head Coach Kent Austin unexpectedly departed for an opportunity in the US and starting QB Kerry Joseph – only the third QB to bring a Grey Cup to Rider Nation – was traded to the Toronto Argonauts.
And then the epidemic of broken legs broke out.
First it was DJ Flick, whose injury was so stomach-turning that, if memory serves correct, TSN refused to air it after only replaying it once. Then it was DB Leron Mitchell’s turn to join Flick on the nine-game injured list (as it was then).
For whatever reason, it was players on the offensive side of the ball that continued to suffer broken legs. The Riders’ receiving core and Canadian contingent continued to be decimated by injuries as SB Andy Fantuz went down. Diagnosis: broken fibula. He was followed by FB Neal Hughes, OT Belton Johnson, and finally by FB Chris Szarka.
The fibula is a smaller, non-weight bearing bone in the lower part of the leg. The break is usually covered with a cast. The sight of players hobbling around on crutches has become commonplace around Mosaic Stadium, but the stretch of broken fibulas is unprecedented.
“I could add up the (injury) totals from my nine years here and it probably wouldn’t equal the amount we’ve had in the first seven weeks,’’ Riders centre Jeremy O’Day told Harder. “It has been two or three serious injuries every game. It’s unfortunate. You don’t think it could happen again and the next thing you know another guy is down. They are just freak accidents.’’
Tillman also marvels at the numerous bad breaks
“Ivan Gutfriend (the Riders’ head trainer) told me that in 29 years he has never seen a season remotely close to five broken fibulas and we’re only seven games in,’’ Tillman said.
Riders head coach Ken Miller has never witnessed one team suffer a string of broken legs. In fact, the 66-year-old Miller hasn’t heard of any team having to contend with five broken legs in the same season. Miller isn’t sure what has caused all of the breaks.
“Our conditioning is very similar to how it has been,’’ Miller said. “The turf is in its second year so there isn’t any reason for it to happen. It has just been a bad-luck situation. If it was something gradual, you could say it was nutritional or guys getting bigger, faster and stronger . . . To have a spike like this, it’s signifies that it’s an anomaly.’’
The breaks have happened to offensive and defensive players. Some have occurred dramatically — Flick’s broken leg against the B.C Lions in Week 2 and Fantuz’s break against the Montreal Alouettes in Week 4 — were particularly gruesome. The ones suffered by Mitchell, Hughes and Johnson didn’t appear to be serious at the time. That diagnoses would prove to be different later.
“These have happened on three different fields, on both sides of the ball, to jumping for balls to being tackled from behind and in pass protection,’’ Tillman said. “There isn’t any pattern. It’s just an incredible set of unfortunate set of circumstances.’’
Luckily for the Riders, no other players suffered broken legs that season. And somehow, they managed to finish second in the West Division with a 12-6 record.
But the rash of broken legs didn’t end in 2008, as Weston Dressler broke his leg in 2009 and ended up missing the 2009 Grey Cup.
However, no other team has since seen as many broken legs in one season as the Riders did in 2008. And I’d be surprised if another team ever did again.