Connecticut guard Caroline Doty understands the terminology all too well. She has injured her knee three times, had surgery three times, and gone through all the rehabilitation three times. After being sidelined more than a year with her most recent torn ACL in her left knee, Doty recently heard the word that sounds like sweet music.
"Being cleared pretty much says I have no limitations," Doty said before a pickup game with her UConn teammates Wednesday at Gampel Pavilion. "It means I can play pickup with my team, full contact and I can go whenever, how hard, whatever I want. If there's aches and pains, I'll have to be smart about that."
So, after going through this so many times, when the word comes it must be time to be cautious, right? Take the court, be real careful, and don't try to do too much.
Or maybe not. While some players might be tentative in that first workout, that's not Doty's style.
"No, you almost feel like you're the ball hog," she said. "You're the person that no one can play with because you want to do everything. Coach [Geno Auriemma] pulled me aside and said, ‘Who do you think you are, Kobe Bryant? You're like a kid going into a candy store and eating all the candy.'
"I told him that I was hungry. And he said, ‘Well, if you are too full, you're not going to be able to move or do anything – like run.' "
Doty thinks the Hall of Fame coach made a good point.
"I've got to do a better job of not eating too much and taking it in portions," she said.
The most recent injury came on Aug. 31, 2010. Doty was on the path to recovery and the expectation was that she would be cleared in early July. On June 29, she sprained the knee making a cut during a drill. She was not allowed to play during UConn's trip to Italy in August and there was another waiting period as the medical staff and coaching staff evaluated her condition.
UConn fans better get used to the sight of Doty in a knee brace. It will be part of her uniform in every practice and every game. It's there for strength and security.
"It's not too bad," Doty said. "No one likes a brace, but I can't really complain about it. I don't ever try to play without it. That would just be stupid."
Doty understands she will play a key role on this team. She should assume the starting role at point guard on a team trying to reach a fifth consecutive Final Four. And from her time on the bench while she was injured, she should provide unique leadership as a link between the players and the coaching staff.
She hasn't allowed herself to think about next year, when she could be a fifth-year senior. Doty simply wants to get it right this season – even if that requires some retraining because of her knee.
"It's very frustrating," Doty said. "I think I can still play like I did two years ago. As of now, I can't. I'm going to use my brain and try to find other ways, kind of a new game for myself. I'm not going to be able to make certain cuts I used to make. I'm not going to be able to dive on the ball or on the floor as quickly as I want to. That doesn't mean I'm not going to try, but it's going to a long process now.
"I'm going to be fighting and working. Trying to stay positive is the biggest thing. But I love basketball so I'm going to keep doing what I think I need to do."