Long road back: Bridgeport senior overcomes two ACL tears

By Reece Waddell | Published Wednesday, November 21, 2018
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Back at Center Court

BACK AT CENTER COURT – After fighting through a series of knee injuries, CheyAnne Weirich is back on the court for the Bridgeport Sissies. Messenger photo by Joe Duty

For a brief moment last December, CheyAnne Weirich was unsure if she would ever step foot on a basketball court again.

After spending seven months rehabbing a torn anterior cruciate ligament (ACL) in her right knee, Weirich was finally cleared to suit up again. The then Bridgeport junior had even worked her way into the starting lineup, helping the Sissies race out to a 14-2 start to the year.

Then, just after Christmas in the 17th game of the year, Weirich’s season was derailed.

“We were playing Stephenville in the Whataburger [Tournament], and she goes up for a rebound, comes down and just stops,” said Bridgeport coach Dallas Taylor. “She falls to the floor, gets up, and as she’s walking over to me goes, ‘I just tore it again.'”

Weirich limped off the court and over to the bench with an all-too familiar feeling in her knee. Less than a year removed from her first ACL tear, Weirich had injured her knee again.

Her season was over.

“I knew immediately when I went down,” Weirich said. “I felt the pop and went over to the bench crying. My parents came running over, and I was like ‘I don’t know if I want to go through this again.'”

Weirich first tore her ACL in a volleyball match her sophomore year when she collided with a teammate. She walked off the court and even planned on returning, but the pain in her knee lingered.

By the next day, Weirich said her knee had doubled in size.

“It had swollen up so bad,” she said. “I didn’t even know I had a kneecap. It was huge.”

Over the next two weeks, Weirich iced and rested her knee, hoping for a return. When Bridgeport’s match with Argyle rolled around, Weirich tried to play, but was not her usual self.

“My knee was just really weak,” Weirich said. “I knew something was wrong.”

Weirich had an MRI in the days following the match, and it revealed a torn ACL. She conceded at first, she did not grasp the severity of her injury.

“When they said I was going to have to have surgery, I thought I’d be back in two to three months,” Weirich said. “Then they went into more detail about all this rehab I was going to be doing. It didn’t really hit me until about a month into rehab. It took me a month to start walking.”

Doctors took a graft from Weirich’s patellar tendon to repair her ACL, and for the next seven months, Weirich experienced the trials and tribulations of rehab. Even though she was not able to play, Weirich was at every practice and game, cheering on the Sissies from the sideline.

“She stayed there and was a big-time motivator and mentor,” Taylor said. “She was a voice on the bench and really took a lot of pride in that. You don’t find that much. It’s special. It speaks volumes for the character of the kid. You hope the kids around her see that and want to be more like that in their daily activities.

“You can’t teach it. You can’t coach it. It’s God-given. It has nothing to do with basketball.”

In addition to supporting her team, Weirich also never missed a day of rehab at Fit-N-Wise. For two-and-a-half hours three times a week, Weirich did simple exercises such as leg lifts and core workouts.

Her commitment to strengthening her knee allowed Weirich to return in time for the start of Bridgeport’s 2017 volleyball campaign.

After making it through the volleyball season and the first month of basketball season, Weirich appeared to be in the clear. But in a game against Stephenville in the Whataburger Tournament, Weirich’s patellar tendon graft failed, leaving her with another devastating knee injury.

“It’s a painful experience as a coach, not for the kid as an athlete, but for the kid as a human. To go through something like that one time is mental enough,” Taylor said. “You have to ensure the kid they’re going to be OK and they are going to get back. When it happens again, it’s a hit to the heart, especially when she worked so hard and is an all-around great kid.”

For Weirich, it was Taylor who inspired her to carry on and return for a second time. No matter the obstacle, Taylor made sure to be with Weirich every step of the way.

“She came to my surgery and was there from the moment it happened to the moment I woke up,” Weirich said. “I think that really helped me want to play again this year. You’re always on the fence about playing, [but] just having her reassurance – she’s like a second mom.”

Weirich had her second surgery Jan. 24 and spent eight months recovering. Doctors used a graft from Weirich’s hamstring to repair her knee the second time after the patellar tendon graft snapped.

During her second rehab stint, Weirich said she was able to use her experience from the year before to better tailor her workouts.

“Rehabbing it the second time was easier because I knew what worked and what didn’t work,” Weirich said. “Mentally, it was more difficult. I felt like I was more cautious the first time. The second time I was like ‘I’m going to do what I can and give it my all every day. If it does happen a third time, I will have done all that I could.’

“I couldn’t have gotten through it without my teammates. I wouldn’t want to be in my senior year with anyone else.”

As Bridgeport went through drills at practice Tuesday, Weirich was in the middle of it all, going full speed. She said she has never felt better and that her knee has never felt stronger.

The Sissies opened the regular season at Howe and return a majority of their playoff team from last year.

For Weirich, this season has been a long time coming – and over two years in the making.

“You have to teach kids to get through these things. Life comes at you, and this was an example of life coming at you,” Taylor said. “I’m super excited to have her back. I can’t even express the way I feel about having her healthy and on the court.”

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