Hamm scheduled for knee surgery, will be out at least eight weeks, missing beginning of WUSA season.
By Gary Davidson
WASHINGTON, D.C. (Friday, February 22, 2002) -- United States and Washington Freedom star striker Mia Hamm had a pretty good idea that arthroscopic surgery was the solution to the pain she had felt behind her left knee for the last several months.
The results of the magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) test she took Wednesday in Chapel Hill, N.C., however, probably produced results worse than she imagined.
Hamm, 29, will have her left knee "scoped" early next week in Chapel Hill by Dr. Bill Garrett and she will be out a minimum of eight weeks, causing her to miss the beginning of the Women's United Soccer Association season. She was diagnosed with a lesion on her left distal femur (thigh bone), specifically in the trochlear groove which runs down to her knee. The surgery will remove the lesion, allowing the area to heal and the kneecap to slide smoothly rather than cause the irritation that has resulted in increasing discomfort.
"I don’t think we knew the extent of (the injury)," said Washington Freedom general manager Katy Button. "We knew she had some pain in her knee that bothered her intermittently a few times throughout the (2001 WUSA) season. And we knew during the fall (Hamm’s leg still ached) and we all hoped some rest and some easy conditioning work would resolve it, but it just became apparent that wasn’t going to happen. We’re glad we’re getting it taken care of now and obviously not when we get into the season."
The long recovery time is a blow to Hamm who had hoped to start the 2002 WUSA fully fit, and help Washington rebound from a dismal 6-12-3 inaugural campaign, after beginning 2001 with a sore right shoulder. She had arthroscopic surgery to repair damaged cartilage in her right shoulder in December 2000, but her rehabilitation was hampered by the enormous demands placed on her by the WUSA and the Freedom to promote the league’s startup in April.
Because the shoulder was not fully healed, Freedom coach Jim Gabarra moved Hamm, the most prolific scorer in international history with 129 goals for the U.S. women, to an unnatural position in the flank midfield which limited her effectiveness, though not as much as some observers wanted to believe. Hamm had six goals and four assists, playing in 19 of the Freedom’s 21 matches.
Hamm, who was not available for comment, probably hoped recovery time from a procedure on her knee would be more like the three-to-four weeks for U.S. teammate and San Jose CyberRays defender Brandi Chastain who had her knee "scoped" yesterday and is expected to be at full speed for the season opener.
With a little luck, Hamm might only miss only the first three games for the Freedom which opens at home April 13 with the New York Power, hosts the CyberRays April 21 and then heads to Atlanta April 27 and San Diego May 5. Secretly, team officials hope Hamm’s high level of fitness will allow her to heal ahead of schedule
WUSA commissioner Tony DiCicco, formerly the U.S. women's coach, said that considering how often Hamm has been target of other nation's fouling, the fact that she hasn't been injured more is a testament to her durability and conditioning. "The good news is she's expected to be 100 percent and to be playing without pain for the first time in quite some time," DiCicco said. "I fully expect to see Mia back in top form. Over the course of her playing history, she's been the recipient of a lot of negative, destructive-type play. Knowing Mia, she will get in great shape and by the end of the season, she'll be right up their among the league leaders in points."
"I think around eight weeks, it might be slightly longer until we have her back playing, if not at 100 percent, then at 80 percent," Button said. "That eight weeks is when we expect to have her back on the field. She’ll still be here and she’ll be very active with the team. The key to recovering from this kind of surgery is patience and not pushing too hard and giving it time to heal, but that doesn’t mean she won’t be out at training every day, very involved in the team’s emotional activities. It doesn’t really affect that at all. She’ll still be very much of a presence and with the team completely."
Though the surgery will be in Chapel Hill, Button said she expected Hamm to be present when the Freedom opens mandatory camp March 2. Currently, the team is holding voluntary workouts.
"Obviously, during March we’re allowed to carry more players as we go through the tryout process, so it will be a smaller window when we’re down to our final roster when we’ll be without (Hamm)," Button said. "That will be kind of at the end stages of her recovery. We’re confident. We have a great group of players. If we had to lose a player for eight weeks, a forward is a better one to be without given the strength of our front line right now."
Soreness in Hamm’s left knee can be traced back at least to the 2001 U.S. Women’s Cup when, in her last appearance for the national team, Hamm produced two goals and an assist to give the Americans 4-1 victory over Germany September 9. That gave Hamm 219 appearances for her national team, second internationally only to her teammnate, midfielder Kristine Lilly who has 231.
Hamm also felt pain in her knee at the Unity Games, but played in the benefit matches for terrorism victims,
staged by the professional men’s and women’s teams of Washington and New York\New Jersey in late October and early November.
Gary Davidson is SoccerTimes managing editor and can be
e-mailed at firstname.lastname@example.org..
Gary Davidson is SoccerTimes managing editor and can be e-mailed at email@example.com..