Baylor star and WNBA draft prospect DiDi Richards is optimistic she’ll play during the 2020 season despite suffering a spinal cord injury during a collision in practice late last month.
Richards, women’s college basketball’s reigning Defensive Player of the Year, was ruled out indefinitely after the accident. She said Monday she’s getting better every day, via ESPN’s Graham Hays.
How did Richards suffer spinal cord injury in practice?
Richards and teammate Moon Ursin collided during a practice on Oct. 24. Richards, a senior guard, suffered a spinal cord injury without radiographic abnormality (SCIWORA), the team announced.
It’s a shock to the spinal cord that causes temporary impairment. She lost consciousness for about a minute and lost feeling in her lower legs, Baylor athletic trainer Alex Olson said, via ESPN. She was taken to a local hospital and seen by a neurologist.
The premier defender for the 2019 champions has no “lasting spinal cord damage,” coach Kim Mulkey said, though she still needs support for her body weight while rehabbing.
Senior guard Ursin suffered a concussion and remains in concussion protocol. The collision was described by the teammates as full-speed during a practice.
Richards optimistic she’ll play
Richards spoke with reporters for the first time since the accident. She is optimistic she’ll return this season, which will feature fewer games due to the pandemic.
“Every day it’s getting easier, so I’m hoping, yes, there will be a season,” Richards said, via ESPN. “I’m letting everybody know that I will be playing this season.”
She won’t rush her return, telling reporters on the call that the NCAA’s decision to grant an additional year of eligibility to winter-sports athletes has given her wiggle room.
“Knowing that I can come back, it kind of makes it easier for me to literally take it one day at a time,” she said, via ESPN.
Olson, the team’s athletic trainer, said they’re all optimistic she can come back, “but there’s no guarantees that’s going to happen.”
Richards averaged 8.2 points, 4.9 rebounds and 5.7 assists last season. The Bears won their 10th consecutive Big 12 title last winter and were ranked No. 3 in the country heading into the NCAA tournament, which was canceled because of the pandemic.
They had a chance to repeat as national champions, but would have had a tough time against South Carolina and the Sabrina Ionescu-led Oregon Ducks.
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