Kelley Cain remains out of practice

Freshman center Kelley Cain's status remains the same – day to day – and some aspects of her knee rehab regimen have gone very well, but the calendar will start to come into play soon.

Kelley Cain, a 6'6 post player from Atlanta, has yet to play in a regular season game - she played in an exhibition game Nov. 6 - because of a subluxation she sustained to her right kneecap in a practice drill on Nov. 7. Cain has also been held out of practice since that time.

"Her lateral movement is very good," said Jenny Moshak, the assistant athletics director for sports medicine. "Her up and down movement is not so good. We haven't even tried jumping yet. We're continuing to try to get her stronger. She doesn't have any swelling. She's got full range of motion (in her knee), but the bottom line is forward and backward motion (on the floor), and running is not an option yet. We're continuing to rehab; we're continuing to strengthen.

"We know what our timeframe is. We're still playing within that timeframe."

The timeframe refers to the percentage of games in a given season, after which any player who logged official minutes would not be eligible for a medical redshirt. (There are medical hardship appeals, but those cases are difficult to get approved and usually involve traumatic or catastrophic circumstances, such as a motor vehicle wreck or severe medical illness.)

For Tennessee's players that game is Gonzaga on Dec. 16 – the ninth game of a 29-game regular season that triggers the 30 percent rule with regards to medical redshirts.

"If she doesn't play in a game we don't have to apply for anything," said Moshak, and the redshirt becomes automatic and falls in the category of any other redshirt decision in any sport – injury, academics, numbers, the need for strength training, et al.

"We're playing within that timeframe and seeing what we can get out of her," Moshak said. "I took her up to Pratt the other day and tried some things and it didn't work out so well so we went back to our more remedial stuff. She's now back in the weight room, so that's a positive sign because before she couldn't do certain lifts in the weight room, and she's doing stuff in the weight room. So we are making progress."

The goal remains the same: Get Cain back to practice and test the knee in basketball situations. That will determine the next step in terms of playing in a game.

If Cain is unable to practice or play this season – and that decision remains very much up in the air, though the calendar is looming closer now – the options then range from rehabilitation to surgery that would change "the mechanics of the way her kneecap tracks," Moshak said.

Moshak has experience with the surgery – Cain's kneecap is not the result of an injury but the way she was born – with a softball player and a non-athlete.

But surgery, as always, is the last resort. Rest, rehabilitation and strength training are the first options.

"We're still within that timeframe before anything has to be decided," Moshak said.

Meanwhile, sophomore point guard Cait McMahan, who had knee surgery last June, continues to do well with her rehab and comeback to practice.

"What we're trying to do with Cait if you look at an X and Y chart we want to gradually build up her involvement," Moshak said. "We don't want to do nothing, nothing and then shoot her up into full go, so we're doing what we can, see how the knee responds, let her do a little bit more, see how the knee responds, OK, it doesn't like it, pull back, get her back in again.

"She put together two very good days and her knee is talking to her a little bit today. I'll take that."

McMahan sat out Sunday's practice – it was specific to LaTech preparation – and did some courtside rehab.

"She's not missing anything as far as the rehab," Moshak said. "What we're doing on the court hasn't hindered her from what we're doing in the weight room so that's huge and still hasn't hindered her in her jump training so that's huge. I told her if the playing (in practice) starts to affect that, then we're not playing."

So far, McMahan's two practice sessions did not adversely affect her rehab regimen so she remains on track to keep testing the knee in practice. A decision on whether to burn her redshirt year is on the backburner. She first has to handle multiple practice sessions without incident before any thought could be given to playing her in a game this season.

"She's ahead of schedule," Moshak said. "She's doing phenomenally well."

As far as the rest of the team, everybody is OK.

"A little nicked up here and there," Moshak said. "Nothing we can't handle."

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