Mishaps Waiting to Strike While Lifting
And, it can happen at any time and it doesn't matter if you have a spotter in place or not.
That certainly was the case for USC senior running back Stafon Johnson, who had to go through a seven-hour surgical procedure to repair injuries to his windpipe and larynx sustained when he dropped a weight bar on his neck while bench-pressing Monday.
The good news is that Johnson is expected to make a full recovery and according to reports, he has been able to communicate non-verbally with his family members and teammates.
"He's not talking, but he was doing his wave and writing," USC coach Pete Carroll said. "It's very uplifting for his mom and his family and all the guys who got a chance to go down there."
"As a former college athlete ... I find it amazing that freak accidents -- like what happened to Johnson -- don't happen more often"
For today's modern college football player, lifting weights and pushing through off-the-field workouts has become a way of life. And as a former college athlete who has spent more than a fair share of hours in weight rooms, I find it amazing that freak accidents -- like what happened to Johnson -- don't occur more often.
Just think about it. Thousands of college athletes are required to work out with weights every day and with every lift, there's always a risk of something going wrong.
When I was in college, every year someone connected with one of the athletic programs was injured (normally by a dropped weight on a foot or leg) in an off-the-field training accident. One time it was a sprinter on the track team, the next time it was a lineman on the football team and another time, it was a reserve forward on the basketball team.
In each case, there was a spotter in position to help with the lift but that really didn't make a difference. That's because there are so many other factors that can lead to freak weight lifting accidents, from working out too early in the morning when your body is still drowsy from the day before or an accident caused by lack of strength from an injury that has yet to be treated properly.
"Normally, you don't worry about injuries like that in the weight room," Arizona State coach Dennis Erickson said on Tuesday. "It's usually the safest place on campus because you have so many bodies down there helping out. I don't know what exactly happened [with Johnson] but it seems to me to be just a freak accident. We've had guys get hurt in the weight room from just lifting, like injuring a shoulder, but we've never had something tragic like what happened to Stafon."
For me, the most frightening incident actually happened when I was in the role of a spotter. It was after a midweek football practice and I was helping out a linebacker with his workout. He was tired and was on the final set on the incline bench. But the weight was a little too heavy for him at the time and his arm buckled underneath the barbell.
Coaches do their best to prevent these type of incidents from happening but for the amount of lifting required to stay on pace with today's top programs, it's more about luck than weightlifting rules that keep accidents from occurring more often.