For a celebrity, even an encounter with the friendliest, most innocent fan can be hazardous if it’s a surprise. Unfortunately, five-time Olympic gold medalist Ryan Lochte learned that the hard way recently. After an encounter with a particularly dedicated fan last weekend, the swimmer was left with knee injuries that will require a hiatus from training and could sideline him from an upcoming competition.
According to reports, the Olympian had Tweeted in advance that he was headed for a training facility where he trained for several years during and after college. It is unclear whether Lochte planned adequate security for the event, but at least one fan responded to the Tweet by heading to the facility hoping to meet her idol.
That teenage girl got her wish. In a burst of enthusiasm, the fan threw herself at the 29-year-old swimmer. When Lochte tried to catch her, he fell and struck his knee on a curb. The fall tore his MCL ligament and sprained his ACL, his publicist said. The girl was not injured.
Lochte’s medical team expects the Olympian “to make a full and speedy recovery,” said the publicist. No information was released on whether Lochte will require surgery. Hopefully, the knee injury won’t keep Lochte from representing the U.S. at the upcoming “Duel in the Pool” meet in Scotland. It is not expected to keep him from competing in the 2016 Olympics.
ACL and MCL injuries can be challenging to heal for any athlete, but even more so for swimmers. According to the National Institutes of Health journal "Sports Health," swimming the breaststroke itself is a risk factor for this very type of injury due to the biomechanics of the kick. During the breaststroke, which Lochte swims as part of his medley event, the knee is twisted repetitively, often causing chronic ACL and MCL injuries.
Many celebrities retain security staff full time, but Olympic athletes often don’t see the need. As this incident demonstrates, however, inadequate security can be potentially dangerous both to the celebrity and the fan.
- Bleacher Report, "Ryan Lochte Injury: Updates on Star Swimmer's Knee After Fan Encounter," Tyler Conway, Nov. 5, 2013
- ESPN Olympic Sports, "Ryan Lochte tears knee ligament," ESPN.com news services with information from The Associated Press, Nov. 6, 2013
- National Institutes of Health "Sports Health" journal, "Epidemiology of Injuries and Prevention Strategies in Competitive Swimmers," Florian Wanivenhaus, MD,Alice J. S. Fox, MSc, Salma Chaudhury, MD PhD, and Scott A. Rodeo, MD, May 2012