My Worst Juggling Injuries

Despite what you would think, the chainsaw is not my most dangerous object....

I get this question a lot.  And the answers will probably surprise you.  I have injured myself a handful of times while juggling (whether practicing or performing).  By the grace of God, none of these injuries have been career-ending.  I hope this list is an encouragement to you to keep going in work, ministry, family, relationships, whatever….even when the journey includes battle scars.

Like many jugglers, I’ve had normal wear and tear on my hands and arms (blisters and callouses) from juggling rings, clubs, and other items for extended periods of time, but here is a list of the top 4 incidents that I just didn’t see coming (literally)….

4. Don’t Balance Heavy Pulpits on Your Chin

So I was performing for the kids at the Brooklyn Tabernacle in New York City years ago.  I was showing off my face balancing skills by building up to larger and bulkier things, one after another.  Just when I thought I couldn’t balance anything larger on my face (they have a low ceiling), the kids egged me on (yes, I will blame the children) so I grabbed a large wooden lectern (a pulpit) that was standing nearby.  I placed it on my chin and balanced away.  The kids cheered.  My chin, face, and jaw did not cheer.  I’m surprised my jaw did not dislocate to my throat.  I came home that night with a serious case of jaw pain and was worried sick that I had done some expensive damage to myself.  Two nights later, still with aching jaw pain, Sarah and I attended a prayer service at our church and she and I prayed for my jaw.  By the next morning, the pain was gone and my jaw has been perfectly fine ever since.

I really hope I don't drop these.

3. Yes, The Machetes Cut Me Once

EVERYBODY asks me if I have ever cut myself with my machetes while juggling them.  Unfortunately, I have to say “yes”, and to make matters worse, the story is underwhelming.  When I was just a teenager, learning how to juggle these machetes, I once nicked my leg while practicing.  It drew a little blood, but that’s about it.  The tiny scar was probably gone in a few days.  But let me tell you what is more dangerous to juggle than machetes…..

The culprit? A frisbee-sized plastic ring.

2. The Razor Sharp Plastic Rings

I have juggled a sharp, running chainsaw, machetes, torches, a bowling ball and all sorts of dangerous things.  But what has caused me the most damage?  A frisbee-sized plastic ring!  I definitely did not see this one coming.  I love to juggle rings – lots of them.  One day, while practicing for a show at Grace Bible Camp in Goshen, VA, I threw 7 rings into the air.  If these rings go high enough and catch a certain angle (perhaps due to wind or air movement), they will soar downwards at an incredibly high velocity with an unpredictable path.  This was one of those times.  One of the rings came towards my face so fast I couldn’t react.  You can see from the picture of my face what it did to me.  I think there were some sharp nicks on the plastic ring that had incurred from pavement drops earlier in the life of the ring.  That’s why I got the spotted look.

I once burned my face while juggling fire.

1. A Little (Foolish) Fun at a Bachelor’s Party

This happened just three weekends ago.  A close friend of mine, Chris, was having his bachelor party as an overnight camping experience in the Smokey Mountains in NC (two weekends before the wedding).  So picture ten guys sitting around a camp fire, making s’mores and telling stories.  Then I get the brilliant idea that I’d like to celebrate Chris’ upcoming wedding by juggling some fire for him and his friends.  The only problem was that I did not bring my professionally-made juggling torches.  So we found three thick branches about the length of juggling clubs.  One of the guys donated a t-shirt to the cause.  We ripped up the t-shirt into three pieces, wrapped and tied each piece tightly to each one of the sticks, and soaked the material in vegetable oil (which we had for salad or something).

It was certainly a colorful juggling spectacle as I threw the torches for my friends, especially the flaming ambers of t-shirt material that flew off towards my body and face as I juggled.  I performed through the tingly feelings on my face, and everyone clapped for me.

It wasn’t until I got home in the daylight that my wife asked about the red scar on my right temple near my ear (gives a whole new meaning to “sideburns”).  I checked it out and yes, I burned my face while juggling fire.  Thankfully, the degree of the scar was not permanent, so you’ll just have to believe me on this one.

For those of you who were wondering…. no, I was perfectly sober.


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Dr. Jesse Joyner travels nationwide as a speaker and entertainer. His primary role is that of a performing juggler spreading joy and the love of learning to family and kids events. H earned his PhD in Educational Studies at Trinity International University (Deerfield, IL). He enjoys playing the piano, bird watching, and old houses. He lives in Richmond, VA with his wife, Sarah, and their three kids - the perfect number for juggling children.