13 of the strangest rugby league injuries: Chickenpox, Impaled teeth & Lightning McQueen…

Ben Olawumi
Tommy Makinson, Jamie Ainscough, Ken Sio

From left to right: Tommy Makinson, Jamie Ainscough & Ken Sio

Players sustaining injuries during a game, or even out on the training field, is something that happens all the time and is just a part of the game. But sometimes, we see players ruled out in rather unusual circumstances.

From slipping on toys to getting injured while celebrating a try and being impaled by teeth, there have been some quite simply ridiculous ways of getting sidelined over the years.

And here, we’ve rounded up the pick of the bunch…

Jamie Ainscough

Jamie Ainscough
Jamie Ainscough (left) celebrates a try with team-mate Julian O’Neill (right) as Wigan Warriors beat St Helens in 2002

Back in August 2002 while playing for Wigan Warriors, Australian Ainscough missed a win against Warrington Wolves having had to have a tooth pulled out from his arm. The tooth had been discovered earlier in the week during some X-rays, and belonged to then-St Helens ace Martin Gleeson who they’d played circa a month earlier!

To make a strange story even stranger, Ainscough had already played three games with the tooth lodged in his arm by the time they realised it was in there, only requiring X-rays after the area became infected!

Ben Czislowski

We promise every injury in this list isn’t dental-related, but over in Australia in 2007, Czislowski played for almost four months with Matt Austin’s tooth stuck in his eye!

The prop needed stitches above his left eye having clashed heads with Austin on April 1, and it wasn’t until July that it was discovered, again amidst a quite serious infection, after Czislowski complained of shooting pains in the area.

Greg Eastwood

We’re sure he won’t mind us saying this 13 years on from the incident, but Eastwood‘s is perhaps our favourite injury cause on this list.

The Kiwi international, who played in Super League with Leeds Rhinos in 2010, missed a chunk of NRL games the year after having returned to Canterbury Bulldogs with an ankle injury caused by slipping over on his son Tyde’s toy Lightning McQueen, a plastic version of the main character from the ‘Cars’ movie series.

Faye Gaskin

Faye Gaskin
Faye Gaskin uses crutches to leave the field due to injury in the 2021 Women’s Challenge Cup final

Celebrating a try is meant to be an enjoyable moment as a player, a reward for the hard work you and your team-mates have put in to get over the line. St Helens stalwart Gaskin though spent the best part of two years sidelined having suffered a freak injury while celebrating a try in the 2021 Women’s Challenge Cup final against York.

Fracturing her lateral tibial plateau in three places, the half-back required surgery and was told by surgeons that she may never play again. Against the odds though, she came back, and kicked the winning drop goal last year to book Saints’ spot in the first-ever Women’s Challenge Cup final at Wembley. They’ve now won the competition three years on the spin.

Craig Hall

This is another serious injury picked up in the aftermath of a try, with Hall – then with Featherstone Rovers – needing hospital treatment with a blood clot around his voice box which could have been life-threatening.

He spent a night in a local hospital having damaged neck cartilage in a win against Whitehaven, and a few days later the blood clot around his voice box – caused by the bleeding from that cartilage – began to block up his airwaves. The cause? Team-mate Gareth Gale’s shoulder blade hitting Hall’s throat as he ran over to congratulate Gale on a try, crazy.

Robbie Kearns

This injury is a well-documented one, particularly Down Under, involving former New South Wales State of Origin representative Kearns, who also featured heavily for Australia on the international front.

Back in 1999, just after Wayne Park had been appointed as NSW’s coach, a team bonding session was arranged with some horse riding. Unfortunately for Kearns, the horses bolted and he was left unconscious on the ground with a broken collarbone, missing the entirety of that year’s Origin Series as a result.

Richard Lepori

Richard Lepori
Richard Lepori in action for Swinton Lions in 2021

This one isn’t too far out of the ordinary, but Italy international Lepori – playing for Swinton Lions in the Championship at the time – ended up missing the majority of the 2021 season after a freak accident in the club’s gym saw him injure a muscle quite severely.

He only recovered in time for the start of the following campaign, and had the scheduled 2021 Rugby League World Cup not have been pushed back a year, that muscle injury would have seen him miss out.

David Liddiard

Another tooth-related injury here, though a much different one, you’ll be glad to know! In the early 90’s, Manly Sea Eagles utility Liddiard missed a match having pulled a muscle in his back while brushing his teeth one morning.

Answers on a postcard as to how.

Tommy Makinson

Here we have the ‘injury’ which sparked our idea for this article – Saints flier Makinson will miss their game against Hull KR on Saturday having been struck down with chickenpox!

The 32-year-old’s two children have both had it in recent weeks, and he’s now caught it too. Never mind Tommy, at least it’ll only happen once, right?!

Charlie Mills

If you don’t recognise this name, it might be because he isn’t a professional, but you might just remember his injury and warning, it’s a bit gruesome. In April 2022, young winger Mills dived over for a try in the corner against Ince Rose Bridge, playing in the National Conference League Division One for Saddleworth Rangers.

As he scored, the corner flag impaled his leg, requiring paramedics and the fire brigade’s services, eventually requiring surgery after a CT scan to safely remove it. The worst bit? Saddleworth still lost.

Gareth Owen

June 2017 saw hooker Owen, then Oldham’s club captain, damage his left foot during a defeat to Dewsbury Rams, but what lay ahead was almost a year out of action with an incredibly freak injury. In addition to the several broken bones in his foot, he’d snapped a Lisfranc ligament.

To do so, you usually have to be involved in a high-trauma road accident, or fall from a great height, something of that ilk. Surgery was required, followed by an intensive rehabilitation plan, unable to even run until December 2017 which was well ahead of schedule, and even then it had to be supervised. He eventually returned to the field in April 2018.

Ken Sio

Last year, Salford were without their star man Sio for circa a month because he fell down a pothole on their training pitch during a session and picked up an ankle injury.

The New South Wales native returned towards the end of May, with boss Paul Rowley highlighting issues with their training surface numerous times throughout the course of the campaign, and evidently, he was right to do so!

Jack Wighton

Jack Wighton
Jack Wighton in action for South Sydney Rabbitohs in 2024

Rounding us off is another ace from Down Under in the shape of Wighton, now 31 and plying his trade in the NRL with South Sydney Rabbitohs. Back when The Australian was a fresh-faced teenager cutting his teeth at Canberra Raiders, he tore the ligament from a bone in his right foot and missed four months of action as a result of a freak accident on a trampoline.

Hitting the side of it while bouncing with his younger brother during a weekend without a game, Wighton came off at a bad angle and landed awkwardly, resulting in a tremendous amount of pain. If it was us, we’d never go on a trampoline again!