Muamba and the Way Athletes Fall

Muamba and the Way Athletes Fall

Athletes fall down all the time. They get tackled. They lose their balance trying to make a move. They hit the ground diving for a loose ball. It's a little strange, when you think about it. I mean, who just falls down? If you're a stockbroker or a car salesman, chances are you don't hit the turf during the course of a normal workday. But in most sports, learning how to fall is part of your job. It's something you train for.

And most of the time, for those of us watching on TV or in the stands, this is no big deal. Athletes fall. Even when there's an injury, we know there's a procedure in place to take care of it as efficiently as possible. He's holding his ankle, here comes the trainer, they're helping him off, light smattering of applause. Cue Geico commercial. It's part of the game.

Every once in a while, though, an athlete goes down and it's … different. There's no good way to describe this, but if you've watched sports long enough, chances are you've seen it once or twice and never want to see it again. A player goes down, and almost immediately there's this miserable, crawly sense that something is different; something is wrong. It's a sensation, a sort of tingle that spreads from the other players to the fans in the stadium to the people watching at home. Oh no. You can tell when this has happened because within about 10 seconds, no one at the game remembers which team they're cheering for. Fans on both sides look on with their hands clasped in front of their faces. The top half of the player disappears under a dome of medics. You stare at the player's foot and will it to move. Did it just twitch? Please get up, please get up, no one is supposed to die playing sports, please get up

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