When I was in high school one of the jobs I had was at a bowling alley just across the border in Indiana. It was there I met one of my best friends at the time, Kevin. I was working 2 nights a week, Tuesdays and Saturdays, and we worked together on the Saturday shift. it was a long one, from 4 PM until closing at 1, and we were usually there for about 30 minutes after closing finishing things up. It was a big and busy bowling alley, with 52 lanes and a lot of leagues at the time. They also had a sizable selection of arcade games and 16 full size pool tables for rent, which were always full.
Now sports injuries happen all the time. Football players break bones, baseball players pull hamstrings and so on. Very few people equate bowling along the same ‘sports’ lines as any of those. It is definitely not a contact sport, or at least not supposed to be. However I have seen my share of injuries at bowling alleys, and even had one myself.
While working at the place I saw several. Most were along the lines of someone dropping a ball on their foot and breaking a toe or the foot or getting a finger smashed between balls on the rack. However there were two that stood out. On my Tuesday shift we had just about the whole place filled with a woman’s league. There were a lot of good bowlers there and several of the teams were very friendly with me. One of the ladies would even buy me beer for after work, but we won’t go there right now. There was a lady in particular who was a very good bowler on the team with the lady who bought me beer. So needless to say I hung out by their lanes often throughout the night. She was a little on the heavy side, had a huge back swing and generated a lot of power when she threw the ball. One fateful night it seems that the ball just did not want to leave her hand and her fingers stuck on the ball. Now I am sure you have all seen the stupid videos online of hapless bowlers throwing an 8 pound ball in the air and hitting the scoring monitor or TV over the lanes. She didn’t do that. Although if she would have, with the speed she threw the ball at it would have destroyed whatever it hit. Instead her entire body was propelled forward into the lane like a scene right out of the Flintstones. Here she was, laying about 10 feet down the lane, ball still on her hand, screaming as loud as she can. There was a nurse on the league who came over to help her while the ambulance was on the way and in the end she ended up with a broken rib, dislocated shoulder and 3 sprained fingers. She didn’t come back the rest of that year.
The other one I saw there was also on the woman’s league night. There was another lady I was friendly with who was a good bowler but had never broke 200. She was consistently in the 170’s but rarely higher. I can recall once or twice she got closer into the 190’s but never over 200. Then one game she was on fire! She started stringing strikes together and was having a career game. And she needed it as well as the team they were bowling was also doing well. 10th frame came and she was the anchor bowler, needing 2 strikes and 8 to win the game. She was already over 200 so anything she got was gravy for her high score, but she wanted the win. She gets the first two and then throws a third to end up with a 250-something score and winning the game by 3 pins. I believe that put them into the playoffs for the year. She was so excited that she jumped in the air with joy! Well she hit the TV monitor with her upraised hands and popped a few fingers on her non-bowling hand. We all saw her bring her arms down fast and wince a bit, but dammit she was still HAPPY! She jumped some more in joy as she headed back to her team. Well she wasn’t looking where she jumped and one of her jumps landed with her feet half on and half off the lanes, causing her to fall to the floor, hitting the scorers table and a chair on the way down. The ensuing screams were deafening and could be heard throughout the entire house. Sad to say she ended up with a broken hip, a broken wrist from trying to stop her fall and 2 broken fingers from hitting the TV on her first jump. I guess bowling is dangerous after all.
My own persona injury is not as dramatic. I was arriving for my Saturday night league and as I was taking my bowling bag off my shoulder, the strap broke. Well my finger was caught in the strap and 32 pounds of balls dropped to the floor, taking one of my fingers with it. I look down and the index finger on my left hand is off at a 45 degree angle, not how it is supposed to look. Without thinking I grabbed it and snapped it back in place. NOW it hurt and I let out a little scream. I spent the rest of the night with my left hand in a bucket of ice in between bowling shots. It was bruised and swollen for weeks but not broken at least. One of my tamer injuries.