SEC programs among those hit by rash of injuries in women’s basketball
HARTFORD, Conn. — University of Connecticut sophomore guard Azzi Fudd was battling for rebound position when she bumped a knee with Georgetown’s Ariel Jenkins during the first half of Sunday’s game at Hartford. Fudd left and didn’t come back.
It was only his second game after missing eight with an injury to the same right knee. It also came a week after injuries forced the Huskies to postpone a Big East game with DePaul because they didn’t have enough healthy players available – something that was familiar in the sports world at the time. strongest of the coronavirus pandemic but otherwise a rare occurrence.
In the Pac-12, Arizona State had so many injured players that it was forced to forfeit conference games against Utah last Friday and Colorado last Sunday.
In the Southeastern Conference, Vanderbilt lost several starters to injury, and the Commodores went into Thursday night’s game against top-ranked South Carolina with just eight players available. Texas A&M has played six games this season with just seven players available, including Sunday’s loss to Mississippi State. Tennessee has mostly settled into a regular rotation after dealing with roster instability in the first few weeks of its schedule, but last month the Lady Volunteers took a heavy hit when veteran center Tamari Key was sidelined for the remainder of the season due to blood clots in his lungs.
Again this week, the low number of health-related players led Lewis and Clark Community College in Illinois to cancel the remainder of its season.
As injuries increase in women’s college basketball programs, experts note there are many factors to consider, including sports specialization at a younger age, longer recovery times contributing to those thin benches and the fact that some knee injuries are more common in female athletes. than for male athletes.
Whatever the reasons, the search for solutions is always active.
AP Photo by Mark Humphrey/Vanderbilt’s Iyana Moore (23) and Texas A&M’s Aaliyah Patty, right, battle for basketball during an SEC Tournament game last March in Nashville. Both programs have been hit hard by injuries this season, with their available player counts in single digits for multiple games.
“SOME OF THEM ARE JUST WEIRD”
At UConn, only two players have been available for each game this season. Coaches burned sage in locker rooms, brought holy water to practice, and had Native American dancers perform healing rituals.
Huskies star Paige Bueckers, the 2021 Rookie National Player of the Year, missed more than half of last season with a knee injury, and both Bueckers and rookie Ice Brady have suffered serious knee injuries last pre-season. Two other UConn players are sidelined with concussions and others have lost time with foot and hand injuries. After going out and not returning to Sunday’s game, Fudd also missed the team’s 103-58 win at Seton Hall on Tuesday.
“What kind of exercises do you do in the weight room to make sure you don’t get a concussion?” There’s nothing, you know,” said coach Geno Auriemma, whose fifth-ranked Huskies are 16-2 overall and 9-0 in the Big East despite their adversity. wounds.
“What do you do to make sure your teammate doesn’t push a kid inside you, a teammate knocks you to the ground and you hit your head, or when you catch your thumb on a kid’s shirt and you break thumb in the first first game of the year? So some of them are just weird.
Some injuries, sports medicine experts have said, may be linked to how elite athletes prepare for college.
Nicole Alexander, head coach of the Connecticut Sun of the WNBA and former coach of the NCAA programs at North Carolina and Notre Dame, said kids are specializing earlier than ever in a sporting activity and playing the sport year-round. .
“So they don’t get a chance to rest their bodies,” she said. “You put the same mileage on the same body parts over and over again. So now you have these kids who are in college, but their bodies are such that it’s almost like they’ve been playing pro ball for 10 years because that’s all they do.
Fudd missed two months last year with a foot injury. She also suffered ACL and MCL tears in high school.
UCLA coach Cori Close has another theory. She believes the apparent increase in injuries, particularly to the knee, may be linked to the pandemic.
“I definitely think because of COVID — the disruptions to pre-education and training and periodization and time off and prevention work,” she said. “I spoke to Geno about it at UConn and several other coaches. And we think it’s a dramatic effect of how training regimens have been interrupted by COVID.
AP File Photo by Charlie Neibergall/Texas A&M women’s basketball coach Joni Taylor faced a shorthanded team in his first season in charge of the Aggies.
WORTH THE WAIT IN THE LONG TERM
Johns Hopkins orthopedic surgeon and sports injury specialist Dr Andrew Cosgarea said there was no data yet to suggest there were more injuries this season than in the past. He said schools have done a lot of work teaching athletes how to prevent ACL and other injuries by, for example, changing the way they cut, jump and land.
Cosgarea and other experts said one of the factors behind the lack of available players is that athletes sit longer as it leads to better results when they return.
Dr. Anthony Alessi, neurologist on the UConn team, said the time it takes to recover from a concussion varies from individual to individual, but on average it ranges from 10 days to two weeks.
“It’s multifactorial,” he said. “But what we’ve found is that by investing in time, gradually bringing them back to full capacity based on their symptoms, you’ll get them back to full strength until the end of the season.”
South Carolina coach Dawn Staley said she wasn’t going to override her coach’s recommendation just to get a player back sooner.
“He’s not going to tell me when to put the 2-3 (area) there or when to do a triangle and two,” she said of coaching decisions regarding the Gamecocks’ schemes during a game. “I’m not meddling in his business to get our players ready to rock and roll. I’m going to listen.
Stanford coach Tara VanDerveer says coaches have to take some of the blame for not having enough healthy players to field a full team.
“Women’s basketball has 15 scholarships,” she said of the NCAA Division I team award. “I think it’s a challenge at times, but it’s your responsibility as coaches to have a full roster. It’s tough when you have a new coach and the gate (NCAA transfer) and people are leaving and everything, but part of that is also keeping people healthy. It’s a big part of the job.
Auriemma said coaches have already reduced the length, number and intensity of workouts on the advice of medical staff, sometimes to the detriment of the game. He said he is learning to be more patient when it comes to injuries .
UConn fullback Nika Mühl, who missed time last year with a concussion, said it was the hardest part for everyone involved.
“We see everyone playing every day,” she said. “You just want to go out already, but you have to follow protocol.”