Returning to the court after tearing the anterior cruciate ligament, most commonly know as the ACL, has proven to be a difficult task for some athletes.Tennessee redshirt freshman Candace Parker suffered through two tears, the second while trying to come back from the first one. TCU senior forward Chudi Chinweze has yet to recover fully from his tear.
But TCU sophomore Adrianne Ross doesn’t want to hear those stories.
Ross tore her ACL in a game against the University of Georgia last season. It’s been a year now and Ross is ready to put rehab and the pain behind her and move on with her collegiate playing career.
History has shown that moving on from this injury takes a lot of hard work and is not an easy thing to do. TCU women’s basketball athletic trainer Melissa Schau said the ACL is composed of two sections: the anteromedial bundle and the posterolateral bundle.
“When the knee is extended, these two sections are parallel to each other,” Schau said. “The anteromedial inserts superior and interior to the insertion site of the posterolateral bundle on the femur. They control the tightness and extension in the knee.”
Several of the ACL’s functions, mainly being the prevention of anterior translation of the tibia on the femur and hyperextension of the knee joint, didn’t happen when Ross went down.
Ross said her initial thought after going down was that she had just tweaked her knee a little.
“I actually tried to get up and go in the hallway and run it off,” Ross said. “When I tried, I definitely collapsed on my left side. My trainer just shook her head and sat me down with a bag of ice.”
Ross said she was devastated when the results came back that it was an ACL tear.
“I thought I would be out two weeks max,” Ross said. “You don’t think something so big can happen to you so easily. When the MRI results came back, I was crushed. I just started to cry.”
The long road back
When MRI results came back for Ross, all she could do was begin rehab. Schau said the most common form of recovery used today is the concept of “accelerated rehab.”
“This type of rehab includes rapid achievement of full extension within a four-week period,” Schau said. “That is made possible by non-immobilization post-operatively and continuous passive motion and weight bearing.”
Schau said accelerated rehab is more effective than normal rehab in reducing limitation in motion and loss of strength. Schau said studies show that a three-week waiting period after tearing the ACL before starting surgery leads to a quicker and better recovery.
The rehab process was the hard part, Ross said.
“The rehab really challenged me, not only as a person, but an athlete as well,” Ross said. “It taught me to just fight through it and work hard.”
Ross said the hardest part wasn’t the pain but the emotional aspect involved.
“Those first four days is when you just sit there and all the depression kicks in,” Ross said. “You can’t just get up and go for a walk. You have to have assistance going to the rest room.”
Schau said the most common type of ACL injury comes from the kind Ross experienced, non contact.
“Non contact injuries are frequently related to sudden changes in direction or a deceleration force crossing the knee,” Schau said.
Junior guard Natasha Lacy said she not only felt badly, but also guilty when Ross went down with her injury.
“I felt kind of bad because I sort of put her in that position by throwing her the ball,” Lacy said. “She had to make a move, but she went down instead.”
Ross said she doesn’t blame Lacy for the injury.
“She did give me the last pass, and I was going to convert it to an assist, but the ACL got in the way of that,” Ross said. “It wasn’t her fault, but I don’t really know what to say about that. I had even forgotten she gave me the pass.”
Sophomore forward Jenna Lohse, Ross’ teammate and best friend, said that emotionally she felt all the pain Ross felt.
“Adrianne’s my best friend, and I know how much she loves the game, and she was playing so awesome before she went down,” Lohse recalls. “I just got tears in my eyes when I saw her go down. It broke my heart.”
Lohse probably was not the only one on the court who wanted to cry. Schau said the injury comes with a lot of pain.
“Approximately 75 percent of patients say they hear a popping sound or feel a tearing sensation at the time of injury,” Schau said. “The injury is frequently associated with significant pain, which may cause the patient to fall or the knee to collapse due to a buckling sensation.”
Ross said she doesn’t really know how to fully explain the initial pain when she went down, but said it was something she had never experienced before.
“It was excruciating,” Ross said. “It was such a freaky type of pain because it was so overwhelming, and then it was gone in like 15 seconds.”
Lohse said she remembered Ross’ days of depression from the injury.
“Sometimes she just broke down because she was in so much pain,” Lohse said. “She didn’t know if she was going to recover. Our teammate Marissa helped her a lot.”
Marissa Rivera is a freshman who was also redshirted because she tore her ACL about a month prior to Ross.
“Marissa was the main person helping me,” Ross said. “She wasn’t traveling because she had surgery a month before me, and she knew exactly what I was going through. Watching her go through her rehab kind of scared of me, but her being strong helped me so much.”
Whole once again
Now that Ross is back from the injury she said the time she spent away from playing on the court was invaluable.
“I took a lot of little things for granted before the injury,” Ross said. “I was able to sit and watch practices, and I was upset because I took running a line as hard as I can for granted and just little cuts that I could do. When you can’t work at all, it just makes you want to work harder.”
Women’s basketball head coach Jeff Mittie said he learned a lot as well during Ross’ time away from the court.
“As a team, it made us deeper in the back court,” Mittie said. “About Adrianne, it showed me how she has absolutely no fear. She just stuck to the rehab and never really doubted herself.”
Ross also thinks the extra year she gets because of the injury will help her out in the long run.
“When I get to my fifth year, I should be ahead of a lot of people in their fourth year,” Ross said. “Although it will only be my fourth on the court, I have been working out and watching film the entire time.”
Ross said that although when driving to the basket she still tends to be a little hesitant, she knows it’s a process and is confident about her progress.
“Mentally I am the same player, but physically I think I hold back a little,” Ross said. “Every day when I do a move I think, ‘Wow, I wouldn’t have done that like two weeks after my release date.’ I definitely see the progress coming about.”
Ross said she is looking forward to her complete health more than anything else.
“Hopefully next season I’ll be back to my old form for sure,” Ross said. “I’m working really hard right now to get out of this brace.