Double trouble for knees

Sports medicine: Just when Maryland freshmen Jen Biscoe and Annie Collins thought they were recovered from torn anterior cruciate ligaments, the same injury struck again.

Sports Medicine

May 30, 2001|By Stan Rappaport | Stan Rappaport,SUN STAFF

The instant it happened to each of them, University of Maryland freshmen Jen Biscoe and Annie Collins didn't need a doctor to tell them what they already knew.

"It was exactly the same as the first time," Collins said. "Same sound. Same feeling. I knew right away."

Said Biscoe: "As soon as I went down, I said a few choice words to myself. It felt the same. I heard the same noise."

In February, on an artificial turf field at the College Park campus, Biscoe was dribbling a soccer ball and Collins was practicing a lacrosse move. Simple stuff. No contact.

"All week long I had done sprints and cut moves with the ball, and nothing happened," said Biscoe, The Sun's 1999 soccer Player of the Year. "And then I jog and it pops."

Collins tore the anterior cruciate ligament in her left knee on Feb. 2. Twenty-five days later, Biscoe tore the ACL in her right knee.

Three-sport athletes in high school - Biscoe at John Carroll and Collins at Mount Hebron - the women were faced with their toughest opponent yet: rehabilitating a second ACL injury in less than a year.

Collins has torn the ACL in each knee; Biscoe has torn the ACL in her right knee twice.

"Once the ACL is torn, it's torn," said Dr. Leigh Ann Curl, the head team physician at the University of Maryland, who performed both reconstructive surgeries on Biscoe and the second one on Collins. A second tear is "not any more worse from an orthopedic standpoint, but emotionally it's pretty devastating for the athlete."

Apparently so.

"I was devastated," said Collins, who played soccer, basketball and lacrosse at Mount Hebron and came to Maryland on a lacrosse scholarship. "It was the worst thing that could happen."

Collins had never missed a practice or game because of injury at Mount Hebron since her freshman year. Then, on Feb. 17 last year, she tore the ACL in her right knee with five seconds left in a basketball game against River Hill.

"I might not be at full strength for fall ball," Collins said after the injury, "but I should be fine for the season."

Collins worked hard to strengthen the knee.

"I was so excited to come back and start playing again," Collins said.

One week after she had been cleared to play, and just 15 days shy of the one-year anniversary of her first ACL injury, Collins was "running around the crease with the stick in my left, and I cut to the left, and it just popped.

"The first time it happened, I definitely landed wrong," said Collins, who had her second surgery Feb. 16. "But this time there was nothing out of the ordinary. I had done it 100 times before. I wasn't even off balance or anything. That was the scary thing."

Biscoe played four years of soccer, basketball and lacrosse at John Carroll and had never missed a game because of injury. Soccer was her best sport, and her senior year she had 13 goals and 17 assists to lead the Patriots to The Sun's No. 1 ranking. She finished her career with 50 goals and 45 assists.

Biscoe earned a soccer scholarship to Maryland and started the season at center halfback. She scored her first collegiate goal in a 1-0 victory against Towson on Sept. 6.

Three days later on the grass field at the University of Richmond, Biscoe was running in the open field "trying to cut someone off" when she went down. As in 80 percent of ACL injuries, there was no contact.

"I was really upset," Biscoe said. "I never thought this would happen. It never crossed my mind."

Biscoe had her first surgery Sept. 22. A little more than five months later, she had been cleared to participate in noncontact drills. She was just running along with the ball. Then down she went.

"I was very disappointed. Very angry," said Biscoe, who had her second surgery March 7.

Biscoe and Collins have become friends and do things together socially. They can relate to many things, although talking about their knees is not high on their list.

Instead of playing for the lacrosse team, which won its seventh straight national championship 10 days ago, Collins has been redshirted (sitting out a season without losing a year of eligibility) and is in the training room every day. Biscoe, who played in too many games to be redshirted, watched spring soccer practice and joined Collins in a second round of rehabilitation.

"Clearly, when it happened to them [the second time], they were both distraught. They had worked so hard," said Diane Turgeon, an assistant athletic trainer at Maryland who has worked with both women.

"But both have handled it so well," Turgeon added. "They're both very realistic about it because they know what it takes to get back. They know they need to come in here every day and work just as hard, if not harder, because they've done it again. But both of them have great attitudes about it and they're positive."

Biscoe and Collins agree that their second rehabilitation has been easier and appears to be moving more quickly.

"I've been though it once," Biscoe said. "I guess I know what to do."

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