Whiteland junior Danielle Munn knows it’s only a matter of time before she’s back up to speed after suffering an ACL injury seven months ago.
Speed, in this case, could be the 60 mph fastball Munn employs to mow down opposing batters during softball season.
Or it might be the peace of mind that comes with being able to deliver her left-handed assortment of pitches without concern about pressure applied to her plant (or right) leg.
Munn’s injury, though not softball-related, is nonetheless impacting her third season as the Warriors’ pitching ace.
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A member of the Senior Inferno competitive cheer team, Munn was practicing with teammates Aug. 19 at Perfect 10 Cheerleading in Greenwood when she, along with the following few months, were turned upside-down.
“I was at practice and was learning a full twisting layout. I came down and my whole body twisted,” said Munn, who posted a 9-9 record and 2.20 ERA for the Warriors in 2014 while striking out 135 batters and walking only 17 in 136-2/3 innings.
“I was a little bit in denial at first,” she said. “I didn’t want to believe I was hurt.”
But she was.
The time required to allow swelling in the injured area to decrease pushed the surgery performed by Dr. Daniel Williams at St. Francis Sports Medicine in Indianapolis to Sept. 10.
“I walked into surgery normal,” Munn said. “People at my school didn’t believe I was hurt.”
The recuperative team effort has continued in the form of St. Francis physical therapist Jessica Goshert, Whiteland trainers Travis Smarelli and Ben Bingham, the support of Munn’s family as well as that from teammates, coaches and close friends.
Those few weeks separating injury from surgery were put to good use, with Munn working with Goshert twice a week.
“We actually start before the surgery to work on strength and range of motion,” Goshert said. “Studies have shown that patients with a good range of motion tend to get it back (post-surgery).”
Goshert continued working with Munn, twice weekly for approximately three months after the surgery. As her knee continued to heal, the appointments became weekly and now are twice monthly.
At 10 to 12 weeks after surgery, Munn was cleared for straight-line running, either on a treadmill or track. The emphasis then turned to focusing on agility.
“At first after surgery I could barely bend my knee even a couple degrees,” she said. “A couple months later I was bending it perfectly normal, just like the other knee. It feels great now.
“I work out like normal. I’ve been in the weightroom a lot, so I hope to come back stronger than before.”
The benefits of strength, agility and flexibility training are minimized if the psychological barriers athletes battle about possibly getting reinjured haven’t been properly addressed.
“With athletes it’s about getting that confidence back. I know their leg is strong, and now they have to know it,” Goshert said. “Softball is not a sport you see ACL tears as common because you’re not doing a lot of running or pivoting.”
There is also the issue of when and how to ease Munn back into her comfort zone.
Whiteland opens its softball season March 31 at county rival Center Grove. It remains to be seen if Munn will start, be used as a relief pitcher for two or three innings or even play at all.
First-year Whiteland coach Katie Mitchell and her staff refuse to rush to put the softball back in Munn’s left palm, knowing and respecting the junior’s desire to one day pitch at the collegiate level.
“Ultimately, we’re thinking long-term for her. I’m not expecting to use Danielle very much the first half of the season, but more the second half of the season and into the (postseason) tournament,” said Mitchell, who served as a Warriors assistant coach the past two seasons. “We want to get her healed.
“Danielle is a great teammate with very high energy, so she is still very valuable to us. Her attitude has always been positive. She has been very compliant with doctors and trainers to make her recovery go real well.”
THE MUNN FILE
Name: Danielle Munn
Family: Parents, David and Angie; brothers, Darin, 25, and Austin, 21; sister, Allison, 24
Favorite TV show: “America’s Got Talent”
Favorite food: Pizza
Favorite movie: “Pitch Perfect”
Favorite athlete: Cat Osterman
Favorite team: Indianapolis Colts