As Notre Dame center Natalie Achonwa attempted a lay-up with 4:51 to go in the NCAA Regional Final eight days ago, she was pushed from behind by a desperate Baylor defender. The ploy worked, throwing Achonwa off stride, causing her to miss the shot — but not before an official’s whistle blew.
However, Achonwa would not be able to go to the foul line. As she momentarily lost her balance after the push, she short-stepped with her left leg; her knee wobbled as she planted her foot; she let out a screech as the leg folded up; and then she crashed to the floor holding the knee.
Eventually she was assisted up, took a few halting steps toward the Irish bench, gave a brief impassioned speech to her teammates, and then left for the Irish locker room.
The initial AP post-game story of the Irish victory would describe Achonwa’s fall as a “scare.”
It would be much worse than that. The video told it all. The MRI done a week ago was a mere formality. The misstep, the knee wobbling or buckling, and the primal scream? Irish medics knew right away they were dealing with a torn ACL.
Also eight days ago, videotape recorded another significant injury. This time, the victim was former Cubs manager Don Baylor.
With it being opening day, the Los Angeles Angels signed Vladimir Guerrero to a one-day contract so he could retire with the team for whom he had won the 2004 AL MVP award. Naturally he would throw out the ceremonial first pitch and who better to catch it than Baylor, the 1979 AL MVP and Angels hitting coach?
Guerrero went out to the mound and Baylor got into a half-crouch behind the plate. The pitch, unfortunately, was not a strike, and Baylor had to shift all his weight to the right as he reached for it. As he snagged it, though, Baylor collapsed to his right in obvious pain.
WLS-TV sports anchor Mark Giangreco would show the tape repeatedly calling Baylor’s mishap a twisted ankle.
Poor taste and poorer research, Mark. With a cursory glance, it very well may have appeared Baylor rolled his ankle but anyone paying close attention could see that what really twisted was the middle of Baylor’s right thigh. By the time Giangreco was on the air trying for yuks — his co-anchors didn’t laugh — the Angels had already announced that Baylor, 64, had broken his femur and would need surgery.
I was describing the injury the following day to Munster basketball PA announcer Ernie Nims at the Munster Rotary luncheon when retired general surgeon Charlie Helms turned and asked me if Baylor had ever been diagnosed with multiple myeloma.
In 2003, that is exactly what he had. The cancer occurs in one’s bone marrow and leaves bones with weak spots. Baylor now has a rod in his right femur so it won’t re-snap but don’t expect to see him in a catcher’s crouch again.
John Doherty is a licensed athletic trainer and physical therapist. This column reflects solely his opinion. Reach him at firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow him on Twitter @JDohertyATCPT.