Local trainer helps explain fracture suffered by UConn's Paige Bueckers

Published on Wednesday, 8 December 2021 19:00
Written by CARL ADAMEC

Journal Inquirer

Most fans of the UConn women’s basketball team likely never heard of a tibial plateau fracture until Tuesday.

But in the day since the diagnosis of the left leg injury suffered by sophomore guard Paige Bueckers against Notre Dame Sunday was announced by the school, tibial plateau fracture has just as likely become a part of the fans’ conversations.

According to healthline.com, a tibial plateau fracture “refers to a break or crack in the top of the shin bone, at the knee. It involves the cartilage surface of the knee joint. This joint helps supports your body weight, and when it is fractured, it is unable to absorb shock.”

The reigning national Player of the Year is looking at an estimated time of recovery of 6-8 weeks.

“The tibia is an important structure that supports your weight during activity,” said Carrie Krieg Deisenroth, a certified athletic trainer and graduate of Central Connecticut State University. “When it sustains a fracture, then it’s important to have little weight bearing initially so that the fracture may begin to heal. Also, a lot depends on how bad the fracture is and whether it’s displaced or not. Likely they’re in a brace locked into full extension.

“The length of rehab depends on whether it’s displaced or not, and whether there’s surgery or not. Non-displaced would mean a quicker. With surgery, then likely at least 4-6 months for the earlier stages of recovery.”

The UConn announcement indicates no surgery is necessary.

In any case, Geno Auriemma emphasized that Bueckers’ return will not be rushed.

“Obviously, we’re all extremely disappointed for Paige and that she suffered this injury,” the UConn coach said in a statement. “It would be really hard to describe how much basketball means to Paige and how much her teammates mean to her. Not being able to do the thing that she loves to do, to be there for her teammates, is really difficult for her.

“We’ve had players get injured in the past and my philosophy here is I’m not interested in how fast we can get someone back. I’m interested in what’s best for them long term. Every decision made will prioritize what’s best for Paige and her career. Everyone involved with this program will be there to support Paige through her healing process.”

Bueckers fell to the floor with 38.5 seconds left Sunday holding her left knee following a misstep while bringing the ball up the court. She was helped to the bench by teammates Evina Westbrook and Amari DeBerry and afterwards helped off the court by teammate Azzi Fudd and athletic trainer Janelle Francisco.

An MRI and a CT scan revealed the tibial plateau fracture.

Deisenroth - who was the athletic trainer for Windsor High baseball’s 1991 Class LL state championship team and Tolland High baseball’s 1992 Class M state championship team - watched video replays of Bueckers’ injury.

“Her knee went into a valgus position while flexed (valgus is like knock knee),” Deisenroth said. “If the joint goes into a valgus or varus (bow legged) position then that’s the rotational force that’s going to cause the grind at the joint causing the fracture.

“It’s usually something a bit more traumatic than just a jog down the court.”

Bueckers was basically dribbling out the 30-shot clock on what figured to be the Huskies’ last possession. There was no contact with a Notre Dame defender and the Irish were not contesting what Bueckers was doing.

In the early stages of rehab, Deisenroth said, the main goals are to decrease pain and inflammation, and increase range of motion through active and passive approaches.

Having Francisco and UConn’s other athletic trainers on campus should help Bueckers through the later stages.

“An athlete can improve quicker due to daily rehab and constant supervision direction,” Deisenroth said. “The recovery time can vary in the latter stages depending on healing, patient compliance, availability of equipment and supervision.”

The UConn announcement did not say if there was a bone bruise or displacement in the left knee.

“If there is the circumstance where there is bone bruise and a small, non displaced fracture, she might be able to participate in low-impact activities without having any problems with pain or swelling,” Deisenroth said. “She can then maintain her cardio levels so as to not have to worry about that aspect once the knee is healed and she can return to activities. If that’s the case then likely a minimum of six weeks is usually necessary to allow the fracture to completely heal so that there is no risk of a re-injury.

“So it depends on what the X-ray/MRI showed and her pain levels.”

In five games for the Huskies (4-1), Bueckers is averaging 21.2 points on 56.3 percent shooting from the floor, 5.5 rebounds, 6.2 assists, and 2.7 steals in 36.2 minutes.

Third-ranked UConn visits Georgia Tech Thursday and then takes on UCLA Saturday in the Never Forget Tribute Classic in Newark, New Jersey. It will then play only one game in a 17-day stretch - Dec. 19 against Louisville at Mohegan Sun Arena.

Posted in New Britain Herald, UConn on Wednesday, 8 December 2021 19:00. Updated: Wednesday, 8 December 2021 19:03.