Embarking on recovery road
Last spring, a hobbled Jayne Appel led Stanford to the NCAA title game, but she was held scoreless for the first time in her career in the Cardinal's loss to Connecticut. She was then picked fifth in the 2010 WNBA draft by the San Antonio Silver Stars, and averaged 10.9 minutes and 3.4 points a game in her injury-ridden rookie season. Here is Appel's account of her trying 2010:
Almost a full year ago, in the game right before the Pac-10 tournament, I sprained my right ankle. I was attempting to recover from that when, the night after the first game in the NCAA tournament, I found out that I also had a stress fracture in the cuboid bone of the same foot.
I played through the tournament wearing different straps on my leg, and I was pretty much on every anti-inflammatory drug and pain reliever possible throughout the entire tournament. And then I showed up in San Antonio thinking, "Well, I'm kind of broken, but here's what you drafted!"
I was in San Antonio for the entire summer, although I didn't play at all during training camp. I was just sitting on the sidelines, which was the hardest thing to do, especially given that I was a newbie in a new place with a new atmosphere. All you want to do is get on the court and compete and show what you have, and I was forced to sit on the bench, which was really tough for me mentally, but I suppose helped me in the long run.
Throughout the season, I was always doing rehab on the ankle, and I had ice and treatment on it after every game, but it never really got back to 100 percent. I just needed time off of it to heal, but I knew that the national team tryouts were coming up, and for me that's a really big priority, and so I knew that I had to stay in shape if I wanted to play on the world championships team. So I was in an "I'll make another final push and see if my body can handle this" kind of mindset.
After the WNBA season ended [the Silver Stars lost in the first round of the playoffs], I went straight from San Antonio to the East Coast for the U.S. team tryouts -- friendly games against Spain and Brazil in D.C. and in Connecticut. Then Coach Geno Auriemma told us that everyone was going to go to Spain for some more friendly games, and they were going to make the final cuts over there.
So I went to Spain for four or five games, and I made the final cut. Then we went to the Czech Republic for about a week and a half for worlds. We won the gold medal there against the home team, the Czechs. It was awesome to have that atmosphere there for the gold-medal game. But throughout this whole time period, although my stress fracture had gone away completely, I was still dealing with trying to get my ankle mobilization back, and trying to get all the flexibility back in it that I had lost because of the scar tissue.
We won the gold medal on Oct. 3. Then most of the U.S. team flew from back to the States, but I had to fly straight to Turkey to report to my overseas team, Tarsus. I lasted a total of 11 days there. I passed my physical, but my foot hurt, and I knew that it wasn't going to get any better if I kept playing on it and pushing through it. And not only physically, but also mentally, I hit a wall. I'd been pushing through this injury for the past year and I knew I needed to go home and get healthy. So the club released me to go back to the U.S.
I came home and had my Stanford doctor, Marc Safran, look at it. Dr. Safran has been treating me for four years, and has done surgeries on my foot and my shoulder. He literally took one look at my foot, and he put me in the MRI machine. It turns out the peroneal tendon on the outside of my foot was completely inflamed, and I also had an inflamed big toe tendon flexor. Pretty much my whole foot was just screaming at me to stop playing and get off it. I knew it was time to focus on getting healthy.
So in November I went back to the (San Francisco) East Bay, where I was living in my parents' house. I took an entire month and a half off, just doing swimming and yoga, so there was no impact on my foot. And then I started training with the boys -- the MLB and NFL boys, that is -- at Sparta in Menlo Park, and also training at NASA. No, I'm not planning on going into outer space any time soon (although I'm sure weightlessness would be nice for my foot). I have chosen a different training tact, focusing on regimens that will keep me injury free. I'll have more on my unique, intense, and incredibly effective training in my next post.