By Erin K. Blakeley, Knee1 Staff
Sheryl Swoopes, the star forward of the 2000 World Champion Houston Comets, tore her anterior cruciate ligament (ACL) as well as her lateral meniscus cartilage and will miss the 2001 WNBA season. Last season, Swoopes was recognized as both the Most Valuable Player and the defensive player of the year.
According to the Comets team physician, Dr. Walter Lowe, Swoopes was on her way for a lay-up when she planted her foot, and felt a loud pop. The majority of ACL tears occur in a similar manner to Swoopes’ injury, without any physical contact. Dr. Lowe further explained that Swoopes’ injury is serious not only because of the ligament tear but because of the cartilage tear and the injury at the joint surface at the end of the femur.. “The cartilage tear is a large one,” Dr. Lowe reported at a team press conference. “It is a serious knee injury.”
Around the WNBA, coaches and players expressed sympathy for Swoopes’ injury. “I’m devastated for her,” commented Rebecca Lobo, star player for the New York Liberty who is set to return to action after being sidelined for the past two seasons with back-to-back ACL tears. “People don’t know why it happens. With most women athletes, there’s no contact at all. That’s why it’s so frightening.”
The ACL is one of four ligaments that stabilize the knee joint. This ligament runs from the back of the femur, or the thighbone, to the front of the tibia, or the shinbone, and prevents the tibia from moving too far forward.
Swoopes will require surgery to repair the torn ligament and the damaged lateral meniscus and surface of the femur. Early estimates indicate that her recovery from surgery will take eight or nine months, ruling out play in the upcoming WNBA season, but indicating that Swoopes should be able to play next season.
Swoopes led the Comets to their fourth WNBA championship last summer, after leading the league in scoring and steals with 20.7 points per game and 2.81 steals per game.
Additional information on ACL injuries, surgeries, and recoveries.
Read a technology story about a program designed to lessen athletes’ chances of sustaining an ACL tear.
Read an interview with a leading orthopaedic surgeon:
Read the accounts of real people who have suffered ACL injuries:
Participate in an ACL forum.
Watch an ACL repair.