Bobby Petrino is not the first member of the sports world to experience the dangers of motorcycle riding. Many athletes, including the five below, have suffered serious injuries or even death at the handlebars of a motorcycle.
Purchasing a sports bike may seem like a reward for making it to the big time (see Charlie Sheen's character in "Major League"), but the vehicles can put careers in jeopardy -- even if you're not riding with your mistress.
Just four months after becoming the youngest quarterback to win a Super Bowl, Big Ben collided his 2005 Suzuki Hayabusa with a car in Pittsburgh. Roethlisberger was not wearing a helmet, and he was catapulted into the air. "He wasn't moving and I was afraid that he had died," said witness Sandra Ford. Roethlisberger was immediately put through seven hours of surgery. The quarterback suffered a broken jaw, a broken nose, multiple facial fractures, a 9-inch laceration to the back of the head, lost/chipped teeth, and minor knee injuries. Roethlisberger missed the first game of the season, before returning for the next 15. His 75.4 quarterback rating in 2006 was the lowest of his career. In 2003, Pennsylvania repealed a 35-year-old state helmet law that had made helmet use mandatory. Last week a news report revealed an increased number of motorcycle deaths in Pennsylvania since the repeal.
In one of the more gruesome of famous motorcycle accidents, Williams, the second pick of the 2002 draft behind Yao Ming, drove his Yamaha into a light pole on Chicago's North Side. Williams was riding without a helmet, without a license and with a clause in his contract disallowing him to ride a motorcycle. Some of his injuries: Severed main nerve in the leg, fractured pelvis and three torn ligaments (one being the ACL) in his left knee. According to Sports Illustrated, Illinois Masonic Medical Center surgeons considered amputating the 21-year-old's left leg one day after the crash. Bulls general manager John Paxson told SI it would be "miraculous" if he ever suited up again. Paxson chose point guard Kirk Hinrich to replace Williams in the following week's NBA draft. The Bulls eventually waived Williams, but gave the former Duke star $3 million to pay for rehabilitation. Williams attempted comebacks with the Nets in 2006 and the Heat in 2010, but never played an NBA game after his rookie season. Williams has instead turned his career focus toward being a college basketball analyst.
Winslow missed nearly all of his rookie season with a broken fibula -- and that was before his nasty motorcycle accident in May 2005. Despite a clause in his contract forbidding the riding of a motorcycle, Winslow II purchased a Suzuki GSX-R750 sport bike that April. The tight end hit a curb at about 35 mph in a Cleveland suburb and was thrown off the bike. He suffered a torn anterior cruciate ligament in his right knee, an injury that caused a six-week staph infection. He was placed on the Physically Unable-to Perform (PUP) list for the 2005 season. The accident is also well-known for the aftermath in which Hall of Famer Kellen Winslow expressed his anger at the media's treatment of his son. "He's not a piece of property," the former tight end said.
At the height of the Barry Bonds-Jeff Kent feud, it was Kent who angered the Giants most. At spring training in 2002, Kent reportedly told the Giants he had broken his wrist while washing his truck. Reports of a motorcycle crash on Hayden Road in Scottsdale soon surfaced with leads pointing to Kent as the reckless driver. The second baseman eventually admitted he was performing wheelies and stunts on his bike. Kent violated the terms of his contract, and he started the season on the disabled list. The Giants did not resign Kent after the season.
Bourdon, the 10th overall pick in the 2005 NHL draft, died instantly when he crashed into a tractor-trailer in his 2009 Suzuki GSX-R1000 in May 2008 after his rookie season with the Canucks. Environment Canada reported winds gusting over 31 mph at the Lamèque, New Brunswick, location at the time of the accident. Penguins defenseman Kris Letang, a friend and junior teammate of Bourdon, revealed Bourdon had bought the bike just two days before the crash. Letang said he was planning on buying a motorcycle before the accident, but decided against it after Bourdon's death.
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