The instant Brene Moseley planted her left leg and heard the familiar pop, she had no doubt. Maryland’s promising sophomore point guard was out for the season with a torn anterior cruciate ligament.
Adding to the exasperation were the setting and circumstances: an intrasquad scrimmage at Comcast Center on Oct. 21 during which Moseley absorbed no contact when her knee buckled. Teammates did all they could to console Moseley, suggesting she try to walk. If the joint could withstand that impact, they figured perhaps it would indicate a less severe prognosis.
“Everyone was trying to keep me calm and everything, but I knew,” Moseley said several days later while watching practice and moving around on crutches. “I knew. It just didn’t feel right. I didn’t even want to put pressure on it when I first did it because I was scared it was going to feel like this one.”
Moseley pointed to her right knee as she spoke. She had endured similar pain during her junior year at Paint Branch High School, where she was a first-team All-Met after leading the area in scoring. Then in the spring, Moseley tore multiple ligaments in her right knee during an AAU evaluation, scrapping her final year of high school basketball.
It wasn’t until late in her freshman season that Moseley regained full range of motion and was able play at top speed, cutting and darting deep into the lane and finding teammates for open shots without mind to her surgically repaired joint.
With Moseley at full health and set to take over as the starting point guard, the fifth-ranked Terrapins entered this season committed to nothing short of advancing to the Final Four. That remains in their plans, but the process won’t include Moseley, at least not on the court.
She instead is in the early stages of recovery and rehabilitation following surgery Nov. 2, and according to medical professionals with extensive knowledge of ACL procedures, it may require another 18 months before Moseley can perform without limitations.
“It’s going to be a lot of teachable moments for her this year in terms of the point guard responsibilities, being able to teach her from the bench especially going into next season,” Maryland Coach Brenda Frese said after the Terrapins’ 88-47 victory over Mount St. Mary’s in their opener on Nov. 9.
The ACL is a ligament in the knee that crosses from the bottom of the femur to the top of the tibia to help stabilize the joint, and it has become a regular part of the sports vernacular given how many notable athletes have had a tear. New England Patriots quarterback Tom Brady and Chicago Bulls point guard Derrick Rose are recent examples.
The University of Maryland has become all too familiar with the terminology as well. This year, quarterbacks C.J. Brown, Perry Hills and Caleb Rowe tore their ACLs, as did starting linebacker Demetrius Hartsfield. Essence Townsend, a reserve center for the women’s basketball team, tore hers Nov. 5 in the second half of the Terrapins’ exhibition game against Goldey Beacom.
While the incidence of male athletes tearing ACLs often commands more prominent headlines, females are at greater risk for such injury based on findings from a study published in the American Journal of Sports Medicine in January 2000.
The study tracked, among other subjects, male and female varsity athletes at the Naval Academy from 1991 to ’97 and determined female intercollegiate basketball, soccer and rugby players were nearly four times more likely than their male counterparts to incur ACL damage.
There are several theories as to why the disparity exists, according to A. Brion Gardner, a Manassas-based orthopedic surgeon specializing in sports medicine who has performed nearly 300 ACL procedures.
A variation between men and women in the size of the notch where the ACL crosses the knee joint may be a factor, he said. Hormonal and biomechanical differences also are considerations.
Regardless of gender, a complete ACL procedure lasts approximately two to three hours, although the actual repair of the ligament requires roughly an hour to 90 minutes. Patients generally leave the hospital the same evening, and rehabilitation begins as soon as the next day.
Moseley’s procedure was scheduled for noon, but she was running late to Baltimore’s Kernan Hospital, part of the University of Maryland medical system. Getting lost on the way didn’t help.
“It was all right though,” Moseley said. “We improvised.”
She managed to arrive only a half-hour behind schedule, and the operation went smoothly, Moseley said, except for the protracted time it took for her to emerge from anesthesia. Her parents, Beatrice and Eugene Moseley, were there when she awoke, as was her grandmother.
It was around 11 p.m. by the time Moseley, still a bit groggy, got back to College Park. The next morning at 9, she was at Comcast Center starting rehabilitation while the rest of the team practiced.
An early milestone during ACL rehab is achieving full leg extension within the first several weeks. Moseley was able to reach 80 degrees the day after surgery, which she called “amazing.” In the three-plus weeks since the operation, Moseley also has been performing exercises to strengthen leg muscles weakened from lack of use immediately after the tear.
Having gone through one ACL rehab, Moseley is fully aware what to anticipate in the long term, and simply going to the gym to be with her teammates is inspiration enough, she says, to keep her on track to be back by the start of next season.
Game days are another matter.
“Yeah, I miss the court,” said Moseley, who will be in her usual spot behind the bench for Wednesday’s game against Nebraska. “But my position on this team has changed, so I’ve just got to move with that. It’s just adversity I’m facing and the team is facing. As my role has changed, I’ve just got to keep motivating my teammates for them to get better.”