Seimone Augustus: Health and Expectations. Part One.
In Part One of her exclusive interview with SLAM, Augustus discusses her injury and rehab.
by Stephen Litel / Twitter – @stephenlitel
Although ACL injuries of the knee are now commonplace, they are no joke. It is a long, grueling process to return to health both physically and mentally.
This is why seeing Seimone Augustus on the court, playing a friendly game of two-on-one with friends was a wonderful sight to see last week. As Timberwolves players Al Jefferson and Kevin Love lifted weights and head coach Kurt Rambis had his own workout in the weight room behind her, Augustus shot the ball well, was jogging, making some cuts and working up a sweat. Although she certainly was not exerting herself and pushing the limits of her still-rehabbing knee, it was great to see her back in her element.
“I’m feeling good,” said Augustus. “Actually, I just had my functional test with my doctor to check the knee and stuff and I passed all of my tests. I still have two-and-a-half or three weeks of to strengthen it. He wasn’t too happy with that part of it, but it’s not far from being official.”
Since her injury, Lynx fans—and WNBA fans—have received updates from time-to-time on her progress and hear the important things, such as the surgery went well, the knee is fine and that she is on track to be ready for training camp. Many players have suffered similar injuries, so it should be smooth sailing, right?
“No, it hasn’t gone smooth at all,” said Augustus. “Coming into it, I talked to Lindsey Harding, Katie Smith and all those players who have been through ACL injuries. Everybody was like, ‘Oh, after the first month, you get your full range of motion back and you’ll be home free. You’ll be good to go and it will be easy.’ My rehab process was a lot different though because I did a lot more than tear my ACL, so to get the range of motion back was the hardest thing.”
However, what hasn’t been mentioned often is the day-to-day process and if frustration ever sets in. Professional athletes are used to being at the top of their games, obviously, so the frustration that sets in at times must be overwhelming.
“There were a lot of days where I was like, ‘To hell with it. This is too much.’ But I knew I had to push through it and I’ve had great therapists around me,” Augustus continued. “I had Kristie Meyers and she’s who I work with every day. She’s been great at pushing me and when she sees me getting to that point where maybe I’m about to break, she’ll stop me, talk to me and help me get back to where I need to be mentally to go back and push a little bit harder. Chuck Saney, Dr. Boyd and even back home I’m working out with the trainers there like Mickey Collison and Richard Lang, so I’ve got a full All-Star squad of therapists who have been real helpful during this process.”
A vast majority of players are superstitious or, at the very least, like things a certain way. Some always put their left shoe on first, some have to take exactly 37 warm-up shots before a game and most wear their armbands, tape and kneepads in the same places for life. Augustus is no different and is still adjusting to a change in her look, now minus a kneepad and adding a knee brace.
“Yeah, unfortunately it’ll be there for the season,” said Augustus. “I still gotta get used to it. It still feels kind of, I guess, weird to have it on. It has these little pieces to keep it from fully extending out, so I can’t straighten my leg out fully. Those are the things that I have to get used to and I won’t be able to wear my kneepad on this knee because of the brace. I’ll be a one-kneepad player this year. Tear.”
Of course, her fans will have an adjustment of their own. They will need to get used to seeing her without her trademark hair. Yet another adjustment for Augustus will be the emphasis on the defensive end of the court, as well as rebounding the ball. Her new head coach Cheryl Reeve challenged her star to get back to her defensive days at LSU, but playing on the defensive end takes a lot of sharp cuts and other moves which take a toll on the knees.
“That’s part of the rehab to get into a defensive stance and to be able to slide,” said Augustus. “I’ve been doing full-court one-on-one since Day One, so that’s gotten better as time has progressed. I was having pain before, but now there’s no pain. It’s just all mental and just staying down in your stance. It’s the stuff you hear all the time like staying down in your stance, getting help side and making sure you’re closing out right. Those are the things that I have to focus on now and making sure that my leg is in proper position to not give out.”
As anyone knows who has gone through tearing an ACL—or in Augustus’ case, much worse—pushing it too far too quickly or not having the right mindframe to do the work can be detrimental. With more work to do, Augustus is happy to have made it this far and is already looking forward to when she can truly get back to the game she loves. The light at the end of the tunnel continues to glow brighter.
“Yeah. I’m looking at my first, you know, hard competition of basketball to be in late-March or early-April with the USA Basketball training session,” said Augustus. “That’s what I’m shooting for. Once I get through that, I know camp won’t be a breeze, but I’ll be back to normal, ready to go from there.”
Of course, the off-season from the Minnesota Lynx provided an extra push to get back to health for their star.
Be sure to check back later in the week for more of Stephen Litel’s exclusive interview with Augustus, where she discusses Lindsay Whalen, Coach Cheryl Reeve, Rebekkah Brunson and her expectations for the summer of 2010.