I thought Danny Manning was immortal. Sure, he was a tremendously talented basketball player, but I’m talking about his durability.
No man before or after him ever has logged as many minutes in a KU basketball uniform. In fact, no one is even close. His school record for career minutes played — nearly 5,000 — seems untouchable.
I figured Manning was some kind of an anatomical freak, another Cal Ripken or Brett Favre, an athlete seemingly immune to serious injury.
But it didn’t take long before Manning proved to be human just like the rest of us. During his rookie season in the NBA, Manning suffered a torn anterior cruciate ligament in his right knee.
As you may know, Manning would suffer two more torn ACLs — the one in his left knee and in his right again — during a 15-year NBA career.
I thought Danielle McCray was immortal, too, that she would be hit by a meteorite before suffering a serious injury, particularly to her legs.
“Her legs are tree trunks,” KU women’s basketball coach Bonnie Henrickson said. “She has the strongest legs of anybody I’ve ever coached.”
But the ACL has nothing to do with strength. In fact, a torn ACL is similar to an insidious disease. You never know when it will strike, or to whom.
Chances are, though, a woman will be afflicted because a female is six times more susceptible to a torn ACL than a male.
“It’s an horrific injury in our game,” Henrickson said.
On the surface, you would think Henrickson was more snake-bit than most women’s basketball coaches because she has lost two starters to ACL tears this year. One of those two, Angel Goodrich, also missed last season with an ACL tear.
However, because women’s college basketball isn’t as heavily covered as the men’s game most people aren’t aware of the torn ACL’s prevalence.
Iowa State, for example, has had four torn ACL’s in the last two years. Oklahoma has had five. Baylor has suffered a bunch, too. Missouri, Nebraska … I could go on and on.
I point that out because I suspect many folks are wondering if the rash of ACL injuries on Henrickson’s team could have been prevented.
“We all second-guess,” Henrickson said, “but we do as much for ACL prevention as anybody in the country. If there’s something else we could do, we’d do it.”
No doubt McCray’s injury will increase awareness of ACL vulnerability. That always happens when a high-profile athlete goes down.
Somebody asked me the last time a KU athlete with as much name-recognition as McCray was lost during the season. Well, there was Wayne Simien’s shoulder injury a few years ago, but he wasn’t an impact player at the time.
I may be missing someone, but I have to go all the way back to 1976 when quarterback Nolan Cromwell was done at midseason with a knee injury, and a promising KU football season went south.
Cromwell was injured when he was tackled so at least he was injured by contact. You could rationalize that one. Rarely, however, is any form of contact involved in a basketball-related ACL injury, and that’s what makes them so frustrating.