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Occupational hazard: Partying too hard

Park Kun-woo is latest on long list of athletes hurt while celebrating
May 17,2018
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Left: The Doosan Bears celebrate their win against the SK Wyverns at Jamsil Baseball Stadium in southern Seoul on Sunday while Park Kun-woo, circled, collapses. From top: Park Kun-woo, second from right, lies on the ground after getting hit during the celebration. Park, center, walks to the dugout after briefly losing consciousness. [NEWS1, ILGAN SPORTS]
Injuries are something of an occupational hazard for professional athletes. High speeds, physical contact and fast-moving projectiles can be a recipe for disaster, but for most players the risk is worth the reward. Getting injured once the game is over is a different story.

During the Doosan Bears’ game against the SK Wyverns at Jamsil Baseball Stadium on Tuesday, Bears outfielder Park Kun-woo was knocked out while celebrating his team’s win.

With the game tied 4-4 at the bottom of the ninth, Kim Jae-hwan hit a crucial two-run home run to win the game 6-4. The victory put the Bears back in sole lead in the KBO standing, and once Kim rounded home base the Bears’ dugout emptied as the players ran out to celebrate the team’s win.

Park, who rounded home base ahead of Kim, was first to be mobbed by his teammates. Park was quickly lost in a crowd of players throwing water bottles and rosin around as they celebrated the last-minute win. Replays of the event show Park starting to pitch forward, bending at the waist as the players and coaching staff surrounding him fail to notice his apparent distress.

The celebration moved on as Kim rounded home plate, winning the game for Bears. As the crowd dispersed to chase Kim, Park could be seen lying on the ground. Trainers started to call for medical help once they realized that Park was in trouble.

“The players hit the back of [Park’s] head pretty hard to celebrate,” said the Doosan Bears in a statement. “Park Kun-woo briefly passed out from the shock but luckily he recovered. We put ice on his head.”

After lying motionless on the ground for a few seconds, Park seemed to recover. Captain Oh Jae-won helped him to his feet and the two walked back to the dugout together.

Baseball celebrations can be big affairs. Often games turn into difficult slugging matches, and by the time one team finally takes a victory the exhausted players don’t feel like exploding out of the dugout in frenzied excitement. As a result, when a special occasion comes around - a thrilling win, a come-from-behind victory or a huge home run, for example - KBO players are ready to celebrate and can often get a little too overenthusiastic.

The major league sees its fair share of celebration injuries as well. In 2014, A.J. Ellis, now of the San Deigo Padres, had a no-hit, no-run game for the Los Angeles Dodgers on May 25. When the game ended the jubilant players rushed the mound, sweeping Ellis up in their excitement. In the rush, the pitcher ended up tripping over a discarded catcher’s mask, twisting his ankle and spending a month off the field.

Kendrys Morales, now of the Toronto Blue Jays, also took an injury after the game had ended. While playing for the Los Angeles Angels, Morales hit a bases-loaded walk-off home run - his first finishing hit in the big league. When he reached home plate the team was already gathered to celebrate the victory, and Morales managed to trip over a teammate’s foot, ending his 2010 season and forcing him to spend most of 2011 on rehabilitation.

Baseball isn’t the only sport where celebrations get out of control. Football, where players flamboyantly celebrate every single goal, has developed a culture where players repeatedly try to outperform each other, constantly coming up with more dramatic celebrations.

The over-the-top approach to goal celebrations has even led to the death of a player.

On Oct. 14, 2014, Peter Biaksangzuala of Bethlehem Vengthlang scored a goal against Chanmari West to tie the match at 62 minutes. In celebration Biaksangzuala attempted a somersault - a goal celebration made popular by Congolese footballer Lomana LuaLua - but landed awkwardly on his neck, losing consciousness. He died six days after the incident.

Korean footballer Park Chu-young missed a month of football while playing for AS Monaco after an aggressive celebration left him with an injured knee. After scoring the team’s winning goal against FC Sochaux during the 2010-11 season, Park slid to the ground and mimed praying. While sliding on the grass he heard a popping sound from his right knee, forcing him out of the game.

Winter sports - inherently dangerous to begin with - are no exception. Olympic gold medalist Lindsey Vonn, who literally throws herself down a mountain at over 80 miles an hour for a living, managed to injure her thumb while picking up a champagne bottle during a celebration after she won the world championship victory in downhill in 2009.

Her injury was so bad that she damaged her tendon and had to undergo surgery, missing the remaining races.

BY PARK SO-YOUNG [kang.yoorim@joongang.co.kr]