Shortly after Caroline Doty suffered her first knee injury playing soccer as a senior at Germantown Academy in the autumn of 2007, she traveled to UConn with her mother, Sue, to meet with the team of doctors and trainers for the first time whose skill, patience and counsel would eventually get her through three surgeries and recoveries in five years.
“I spent more time with them that I would have liked to,” Doty said smiling. “Rosemary Ragle [UConn's athletic trainer] more than anyone. She’s always here. The injuries [recovery time] were all a full-year process. That’s three years out of my five years. She and I have become very close.
“Dr. [Robert] Arciero sent me a text Thursday to apologize for not being able to make Senior Day, which meant a lot. He and Dr. [Thomas] Trojian have been unbelievable support for me, taking care of me, making sure I was as functional as I could be [on the court].”
Here’s how it worked: Arciero performed the three surgeries on Doty in 2007, 2009 and 2010. Trojian worked to coordinate her care with the UConn training staff. And Ragle got her back on the floor.
The relationships built will be life-long.
“Caroline is one of the special athletes we have had UConn,” Dr. Trojian said. “Her willingness to work hard with Rosemary to bring her body to its maximum ability has been impressive. She has worked hard every time she’s been knocked down. She has shown the determination and fortitude to work as hard as Rosemary has asked her to become the best athlete she can be.”
“The truth is, once you tear your knee you no longer have a perfect knee. Once you tear it, you are not perfect again.”
Trojian, who works with female athletes in softball, tennis, swimming, lacrosse and hockey, as well as men’s tennis, swimming and soccer said it takes a unique personality to deal with severe repeat injuries.
“It’s so hard after sustaining a second knee injury to consider a third one,” he said. “It takes a unique person to have the determination and work ethic to deal with all the time it takes to recovery. Caroline’s personality and demeanor is such that she is able to keep going when fate sets you back. It can be overwhelming.
“The time she spent with Rosemary helped to establish a partnership and a friendship. If you spend that much time with someone, you either like them a lot or don’t like them. Rosemary does a great job. I don’t need to counsel women’s basketball players [about what to expect, how to feel] because she is so experienced with them.”
Trojian says the medical team endeavored to be honest with Doty about what to expect from her knee and career.
“Navy studies show there is a 10-time chance of repeating ACL tears,” Trojian said. “When you treat a tear, you counsel patients that there is chance it could happen again, especially when you are playing a sport like basketball in the intensely competitive environment she is in.”
Dr. Arciero twice used patella tendons to rebuild Doty’s left knee. The third time a part of her hamstring was used.
“ACL research shows the rate is 20 to 25 percent [of those injured] get arthritis 10 to 15 years after injury,” Trojian said. “It’s unfortunate. It doesn’t matter if they get surgery or not. The damage is already done to the cartilage. We need to find what we can do to slow down that process.”
When Trojian sees the seniors come to the middle of the floor Saturday, he will feel the same degree of sentimentality the fans, coaches, teammates and family members do.
“I will think about how hard it is to see all of them go,” he said. “They’ve all had their struggles; everyone who plays the game does. It’s one of those things. You build relationships.
“But on the flip side, you know they are going to do something great with their lives. The athletes Geno recruits are going to make a difference in the world in anything they do.”