As many battles as No. 3 UConn (15-1, 3-1) has won this season, athletic trainer Rosemary Ragle, in tandem with UConn’s medical and training staff, has registered just as many by just getting the Huskies ready to play.
“Every day there is an injury report on our desk,” Geno Auriemma said. “If you not careful, when you read it you might think there might not be one player capable of practicing because everyone has something. But Rosie is there telling you not to worry, they can all play, but this is what I am dealing with. Our communication is great because there is a tremendous amount of trust and respect that’s been built up over the years.”
“We are really lucky. The doctors, the staff and the players all have huge respect for her. The players believe that what she [Ragle] is doing is going to work.”
More evidence of that comes Saturday when freshman Breanna Stewart returns from an ankle injury after missing two games when the Huskies play Syracuse (15-1, 3-0) at the XL Center.
“In a very good way, Breanna was absolutely getting on my nerves [to get her well],” Ragle said smiling. “I love it when the athletes are in a hurry. But I knew what was best for her. And I couldn’t let that happen. It’s obvious to me that she is a competitor.”
Stewart injured her left ankle last Friday in practice when she fell on the foot of Kaleena Mosqueda-Lewis in practice. Her loss cost the Huskies their second-leading scorer (14.6) and leading rebounder (7.3) and shot-blocker for games against Marquette and Louisville.
But she’ll return to play against her hometown school. Stewart went to high school in North Syracuse, N.Y.
“I must have asked Rosie 10 times a day [when she would be able to play],” Stewart said.
Making sure Stewart would be able to play has been the last in a long line of projects for Ragle this season.
“The only pressure I feel is what I place on myself,” said Ragle, who has been an athletic trainer for UConn for 14 seasons. “I take it every personally when kids get injured. I want them to be healthy. I do not want them to play until they are ready to do so. The coaching staff has been great; it sees things for what they are. I never feel pressured by them to get players back before the time is right.
“The other advantage I have its being able to work with Dr. [Tom] Trojian [UConn’s team physician. He is not out there every day, but he would be if I needed him. He helps to give me a better idea of where a player is in terms of their injury.”
Ragle’s work began in the offseason when Bria Hartley severely sprained her left ankle in playing for USA Basketball in the summer.
"Rosie is very good at knowing what each player needs to get back on the court," Geno Auriemma said. "One size [emotionally] does not fit all. Some players can take more than others mentally and/or physically. One of her [Ragle] strengths is understanding each individual. Some players want to come back earlier than others. You might think everyone would. But that’s not always the case.”
Hartley, a WBCA All-American last season, missed the first two games then re-injured it last Saturday at Marquette. She was back in time for Tuesday’s win against Louisville. And she played 33 minutes.
“When these injuries happen, the [healing process] is all about repetition,” Ragle said. “My athletic training student was on the trip [to Milwaukee] so when Bria was hurt I was able to man the floor [with the team] while she started treatment. It was a lot of ice, electrical stimulation [which helps with inflammation and pain]. The quicker we can diminish those things, the quicker they can get back.
“I thought Bria may have struggled a little more than she did [against Louisville]. But I was pleased that she didn’t appear to struggle. Was she sore after? Yes, but she knew she would be going into it. She understood it wasn’t going to be painfree.”
Mosqueda-Lewis suffered a concussion at the Paradise Jam and has dealt with quad and ankle injuries. She has missed only one game, Nov. 28 against Colgate.
“The quad contusion was quite a significant injury,” Ragle said. “That’s why we held her out. But she did whatever we asked her to [to recover].”
Kiah Stokes missed five games with a stress reaction in her left shin.
Morgan Tuck bruised a knee in December and has been-and-out of the lineup, missing three games.
“With Morgan and Kiah, the ups and downs of their conditions has been the frustrating thing,” Ragle said. “Because Morgan’s bruise is inside the bone of the knee, its taking a long time to heal. When the knee swells, it’s a sign she is doing too much and we have to back down.”
Then there is Caroline Doty whose thrice injured knee requires daily care and maintenance. She has not missed a game this season, just one since the start of last year.
“This will be one of the first Senior Nights in a while where I’ll likely get choked up,” Ragle said. “It’s hard not to get attached. We’ve spent a lot of time together.”
Ragle arrived at UConn shortly after Sue Bird’s freshman season in 1998 and did not have a direct hand in the rehabilitation of Bird’s knee injury that season. But Bird has developed such a trusting relationship with Ragle that not only does she return to Connecticut often to have surgery, she turns to Ragle for her recovery.
Ragle said she also hears regularly from Tina Charles, Kalana Greene, Ashley Battle, Kaili McLaren, among others, when medical issues come up with them.