2013-14 Women's Basketball
Beating the odds
On Aug. 31, 2013, Mikayla Coburn woke up from her third ACL surgery to the heartbreaking news that she would never play basketball again. The junior forward from McGuffey, Ohio, lost her ACL and meniscus in her right knee in emergency surgery as a result of a severe staph infection.
However, with the support of her family, teammates, coaches and athletic trainers, she has been able to make the comeback of a lifetime.
Coburn’s first ACL surgery was Jan. 29, 2013, due to an injury suffered during a game. “I was devastated the first time I tore my ACL,” says Coburn. “I knew I was done for the season, but I was determined to come back mentally and physically stronger than ever.”
As her rehabilitation progressed, her knee and mental attitude became stronger. She was able to push herself further each week and was excited to start the conditioning process. Then, in one instant, everything seemed to fall apart. While Coburn was squatting as part of her rehabilitation treatment, she felt a pop in her right knee. She had once again torn her ACL.
“I bawled. I couldn’t believe that it happened again,” she said. “I was so close to coming back and then it was all gone.”
Last July 8, Coburn went in for her second surgery and began the long and grueling process of rehabilitation all over again. Then one day, she noticed a red patch and swelling on her right knee. She was prescribed antibiotics, but they did not work.
Coburn went to see her surgeon, who scheduled her for emergency surgery that day. Just 144 days ago, she was told that she would never play the game she loved again, but she wouldn’t give in that easily. Coburn started a fight against all odds to finish her colligate basketball career without an ACL or meniscus—but first she had to find a doctor to clear her.
That doctor would be the head of Ohio State University Sports Medicine, Dr. Christopher Kaeding. He said it was possible for Coburn to play again, but she wouldn’t be the player that she once was and it came with high risks.
Those risks include tearing her ACL or other ligaments in her left knee as a result of overcompensation, or tearing other ligaments in her right knee. Because she has no meniscus, there is constant bone-on-bone grinding in her right knee, which will more than likely be replaced eventually with an artificial one.
“I understand the risks,” says Coburn, who resumed basketball-related activities little by little. “I love basketball and I love my teammates. To me, just being out there with them is worth it.”
“I’m not the player I used to be,” she concedes. “I used to contribute with my defense, my scoring and rebounding. Now I am used to give other players a break.” Last year, Coburn averaged 17.9 minutes per game. This year she averages just 4.6 minutes, but she still fully participates in practice, conditioning and lifting workouts.
“I’m OK with that now,” she says. “At first I wasn’t, but who would be? My role now is to be a leader off the court instead of on it. I have learned so much through this whole journey, and I am a better person for it.”