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When being a sports spectator goes afoul

When being a sports spectator goes afoul

October 21, 2011

With football season upon us (and the NBA season hopefully on its way) many sports fans have their tickets and favorite team jersey ready for another winning year. Whether you’re a football fanatic or have been bit by the baseball bug, as dicey as it can be on the field its often just as risky being in the stands cheering on your favorite team.

In addition to scrapes and scratches, there has been a fair share of odd and unusual spectator injuries. The woman who had to have steel rods inserted into her back after a 300 pound man fell on her during a New York Mets game. A baseball bystander who had a hot dog thrown at his eye by a team mascot.

And while not every person who attends a game need live in fear of having a tire thrown at them (why a tire, we’ll probably never know), there are some things to keep in mind before you head out to cheer on the home team:


Today America’s national pastime results in an estimated 35 to 50 bumps and bruises each year as well as at least one considerable personal injury occurs at every major league baseball game.

But there are occasions where the spectator is actually at fault for his or her own injuries. Such was the case just last year, when a male fan fell from the second tier of seats when leaning over to catch a fly ball. A good reminder for us to be aware of our own actions, as well as what is going on around us.


For hockey diehards, the ice rink is a dangerous pit of body checks, blood, and flying pucks – but spectators are at a considerable amount of risk as well. A recent report found that over the course of 127 games, 122 individuals were injured by a flying puck – 90 of which required stitches and 55 which required hospitalization.


While the litany of potential injuries for a football player is frighteningly long – so too is the list of ways that football fans can get hurt at a game. Accordingly to the Football Licensing Authority spectators reported 1,386 injuries during the 2009-2010 season (a two percent increase from the previous year) at a ratio of one injury per 24,938 spectators. Fortunately, a majority of reported injuries were minor, with the most common causes resulting from trips, slips and falls.

One thing to remember is that spectator injuries are not limited to professional sports. In 2007 Duke fans stormed the field after (finally) breaking a 22 game losing streak to tear down the goalposts. Unfortunately a female student was unable to get out of the way and was knocked unconscious, though fortunately she was unhurt.


As basketball owners across the country erect new, high-capacity stadiums, attending games in these close quarters with tens of thousands of frisky fans can grow formidable. While an evening cheering on your favorite b-ball team is not likely to result in injury, the proximity of spectators and players has occasionally led to on-court clashes.

Such was the situation in the not-soon-to-be-forgotten Pistons-Pacers scuffle in 2004, when an enraged fan flung a mug at player John Artest who responded with a fist to the face. A brawl ensued between players and the crowd – and led to several players being suspended, criminal charges being filed and the NBA to increase security between fans and players and limit the sale of alcohol.

Each year millions of fans flock to fields, arenas and rinks across the country – and many leave with nothing more than a souvenir t-shirt or keychain for the experience.

Sports centers also take every effort to absolve themselves from responsibility. Most arenas play safety announcements over the loudspeakers, reminding guests that they are entering at their own risk and what they can do to stay safe, and many sports tickets include a disclaimer on the back, listing out what risks guests expose themselves to.

So before heading out, it doesn’t hurt to check your assigned seat and section and prepare yourself for any objects – or people – that could come flying your way. Because you certainly don’t want to be distracted reading the disclaimer during the game.

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