There was a time this season when Washington Mystics guard Alana Beard was convinced the pain on the outside of her left foot had subsided enough that she could return to game action.
So Beard – a four-time WNBA all-star who sat out all of the 2010 season with a tendon injury in her left ankle – participated in a practice following the team’s mid-July West Coast road trip. A foot sprain suffered during the preseason had prevented Beard from playing in any regular season games this summer, and she had grown restless watching from the sideline as the Mystics (4-15) stumbled into the Eastern Conference dweller.
“At that point, I was like, ‘I am ready.’ I felt great,” Beard said Thursday. “I still had a little tightness in one area. But I got back on the court, was going up and down, and it just felt good. And I went to make a cut, and something else [in the same area of the foot] popped. It was pretty painful. I could barely walk.
“I kind of just stepped off to the side because it was almost like I didn’t want everyone to say, ‘Oh my God, Alana’s hurt again,’ which I was. So I kind of stepped off to the side and calmly walked off to the back where [team trainer] Navin [Hettiarachchi] was, and I said, ‘Something popped.’ And at that point, Navin and I were just like, ‘What more can happen?’”
For Beard – who was drafted by the Mystics in 2004 – not much will happen on the court in the near future. After re-aggravating her foot injury in July, she did so again when she tried to return to practice last week. The team announced Wednesday she will miss the rest of the season.
A free agent at the end of the Mystics’ 2011 campaign, Beard said her focus is on returning to health and securing a spot on an overseas roster this winter. She declined to say if she felt her recent string of injuries – which have kept her from playing a regular season WNBA game since 2009 – might impact where Washington tries to re-sign her in the offseason.
When posed the same question, Mystics Coach and General Manager Trudi Lacey said: “We’ll wait until the end of the season to evaluate a lot of things. We’ll sit down as a staff and as an organization and evaluate that at the end of the season.”
“All of that is out of my control,” Beard said. “I don’t give contracts. Also that’s something that honestly I don’t think about because I’m so stressed on getting healthy. I have to get on the court first, you know? I have to get on the court in order to get an overseas job. I have to get on the court to do a lot of things.”
For now, all Beard can do is rest her foot and continue to participate in a rehab process that includes seeing a reflexologist and sleeping in a hyperbaric chamber at night.
After Beard re-aggravated her foot injury in July, she borrowed the hyperbaric chamber from a friend and said she has tried to sleep in it every night. She sees the reflexologist once a week for a session that lasts 90 minutes. Beard said there’s not a lot of circulation in a person’s feet, and so the reflexologist has applied pressure to different parts of Beard’s left foot in an attempt to promote blood flow and, thus, healing.
“And just loosening all the tendons in my foot because my feet tend to be really tight,” Beard said. “Because I was overcompensating from lack of motion in my [previously injured left] ankle, my foot is extremely tight. After the hour and a half that I spend with [the reflexologist], I wake up the next day and I can walk. So I’m going to keep going to him. Obviously, he’s doing something that’s working.”
Beard felt healthy enough to return to practice once again Aug. 3. She said her foot hurt throughout that workout, but she continued to play. She made it through roughly 30 minutes of the team’s practice the following day, on Aug. 4, before she stopped.
“It was just too painful,” Beard said. “I can run straight up and down, but it’s just a matter of my lateral movement is not there.”
After aggravating the injury a second time, Beard and team officials decided the best course of action was to alter the player’s sights from 2011 to 2012, in terms of when she might be able to resume her basketball career.
“It’s sort of like we’re starting from scratch again,” Beard said. “Our main goal is to get me 100 percent. Will I be 100 percent in a month? I don’t know. Two months? Who knows? But we’re working towards that. I would love to play overseas. Will I be ready? I hope so. As of now, the doctors don’t see anything that would keep me from playing overseas. It’s just a matter of time. My body needs time to heal.”