Skip to main content
Original Issue

Bumps in The Night

Injured while sleeping? Why so many athletes climb in the sack, turn out the light--and wake up on the DL

It is not good tobe naked in Cincinnati, as then Diamondbacks pitcher Brian Anderson found outin 1999 when he awoke to find himself standing outside his Queen City hotelroom in the middle of the night without a stitch of clothing. Anderson is notthe pajama-wearing type, and he had sleepwalked into the hallway. Afterunsuccessfully trying to jimmy the door with a DO NOT DISTURB sign, hegrabbed a copy of USA Today, covered himself with it and went in search ofhelp. He finally found a guy in the workout room who gave him a towel andcalled security to let him back into his room.

In thedoorstop-sized book that could be written about problems athletes haveexperienced after they've turned in for the night, Anderson would fit in thechapter called Lucky Ducks. The only damage he suffered was to his ego. Toomany others have been buffeted about rudely by the arms of Morpheus. Just lastweek, for example, 17-year-old Canadian tennis pro Peter Polansky fell threestories after he sleepwalked out of a window in a Mexico City hotel as hedreamed he was being confronted by a knife-wielding intruder. (Polansky cutboth legs badly but is expected to recover fully.) Golfer Sam Torrance oncetripped over a flower pot while sleepwalking at a hotel and badly bruised hissternum. And in 2004 pitcher Bryce Florie needed 15 stitches after slicing hischin open when he sleepwalked into a sliding glass door during springtraining.

Somnambulismtheory holds that stress and fatigue (such as might be experienced by majorleague ballplayers, or anyone watching Bonds on Bonds) can trigger such anepisode. There may be no evidence to suggest athletes are especially prone tosleepwalking--but then the scientists who say that have probably never been toa Knicks practice. This much is known: Sleepwalkers often act in ways thatmimic their regular behavior. Thus Red Sox pitcher David Wells once threw aleft hook through a window while sleepwalking, requiring five stitches on hispitching thumb.

But while sleepmay yield more walks than Victor Zambrano, sleepwalking is hardly the only wayathletes injure themselves after lights-out. In 2000 Red Sox farmhand PaxtonCrawford went on the disabled list when he fell out of bed onto a drinkingglass. Former Jets quarterback Kyle Mackey once rolled over in his sleep,banged his arm on a bedside table, aggravating a laceration that had becomeinfected.

If time andgravity don't dash your dreams of athletic glory, hotel chambermaids sometimeswill. In October 1998, PGA player Brad Hughes pulled out of the Las VegasInvitational after one round with a sprained ankle that he blamed on the sheetson his hotel bed being tucked in too tight. (Before the following week'stournament, in his hometown of Orlando, he said, "I'm sleeping in my ownbed this week, so I shouldn't have a problem.") Indians pitcher C.C.Sabathia was pulled after one inning in a 2002 spring game because of a soreback that came, he said, from sleeping on four pillows. (Asked if that's reallywhat happened, Indians manager Charlie Manuel replied, "I don't know. Idon't sleep with him.")

Skippers can getsarcastic when discussing sleep disorders. Two years ago Oakland pitcher RichHarden made it through the night just fine--then strained his nonpitchingshoulder turning off his alarm clock. A few days later, when Harden was finallyable to throw again, A's manager Ken Macha said the righty had learned hislesson: "He's more careful turning off his clock."

Sometimes it allseems like a bad dream. During the 1990 season Blue Jays outfielder GlenallenHill dreamed that he was being attacked by spiders. He ran around hisapartment, cutting his toes, feet and elbows badly enough to land him on the15-day disabled list. "I don't laugh about it, but the guys give me a hardtime regardless," said Hill, whose teammates began calling him Spider-Manand glued posters from the movie Arachnophobia to his locker.

Of course, youhave to watch who you sleep with. Former pitcher Paul Shuey suffered a shoulderinjury after dozing off in a chair while holding his newborn.

So what's anathlete to do? Not sleeping isn't the answer. Former infielder Jose Cardenalonce said he couldn't play because a cricket in his hotel room had kept him upall night--but then he also asked out of a game because he said he had slept onhis eyelid wrong and couldn't blink. If you worry too much about it you will,like Lady Macbeth, a famous sleepwalker, go mad. Probably the best advice comesfrom Wells who, when asked about his somnambulism, said, "I'm not going tolose any sleep over it."

> Get a freshversion of Scorecard every weekday online at

"For people in New Orleans, any beginning is a goodbeginning."  --SEASON OF HOPE, PAGE 23