ACL tear not the end for McCullough
Junior guard provides moral support to the team while rehabbing knee
January 24, 2013, 10:12 pm·
Kai Tang | DP
On Nov. 18, Meghan McCullough’s basketball career reached a significant fork in the road.
In the second half of Penn’s loss to Army, disaster struck. The starting point guard tore her ACL, ending her season on the court.
“It just happened so fast,” McCullough said. “My knee buckled and I remember being on the ground and it being bent and not being able to straighten it.”
The injury was the third ACL injury a Penn player had suffered in two seasons, and coach Mike McLaughlin immediately felt sympathy for the junior guard.
“She worked so hard. She was in the best shape of her life,” McLaughlin said. “I was disappointed that she didn’t get the chance to accomplish what she wanted this season.”
But while others may have let the injury take them away from basketball altogether, McCullough has been determined to continue contributing to the team, transitioning to a significant role off the court.
McCullough’s presence remains a constant for the Quakers at every practice and game. While her injury has removed her from game action, she’s still a voice of encouragement from the sideline.
“She remains the ultimate teammate. This is a girl who is out for the season and is now a fifth coach for us. It is all about the team for her,” McLaughlin said.
“[When] you stress the word team, you are talking Meghan. The fact that she is in there every day, cheering them on, she is the first one to talk, can only get the girls to play continuously harder.”
The encouragement has been a two-way street.
“They’ve been awesome, even for moral support, keeping my head up, telling me I’ll get through it and I’ll be back on the court soon,” McCullough said.
The support from the Penn women’s basketball family extends far beyond the current members of the squad. Jess Knapp, who graduated last year while dealing with an ACL injury, has been helping McCullough along the way.
“Jess Knapp texts me frequently, just checking in,” McCullough said. “People don’t realize what you are going through until you actually have it done.”
McCullough took time off after the injury before having the surgery just three weeks ago, and has already begun her rehabilitation and physical therapy.
She is currently using a continuous passive motion (CPM) machine, which progressively bends her knee while helping protect it as well. Over time, the machine is designed to move the knee from a 30 degree bend to 120 degrees before it is done. McCullough sits in it for six hours a day, and is currently at a 105 degree bend.
Instead of letting the injury send her career down the wrong path, McCullough is using it as a learning experience.
“Everyone told me who had this injury that it is going to be an experience and you will learn a lot and it has been,” she said. “I definitely see a different side of the game that will help me in the future.”
McLaughlin is also confident that McCullough will come back even stronger next season.
“I am disappointed that she doesn’t get to play her junior season, but she is a strong-willed, determined girl who will be so much better next year.”