September 9, 2022 

Washington Mystics’ Myisha Hines-Allen undergoes knee surgery

Hines-Allen is expected to be out 3-4 months after partial patellar tendon repair

When USA Basketball began training this week in Las Vegas, Nevada, ahead of the Women’s World Cup, Washington Mystics forward Myisha Hines-Allen was surprisingly absent. The 26-year-old had been named to the 28-player training camp roster in August and was slated to join the senior national team for the first time in her career, but she withdrew this week from participating.

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On Wednesday, we found out why from Mystics head coach Mike Thibault, who told reporters that Hines-Allen is having surgery to partially repair the patellar tendon in her left knee. (Hines-Allen subsequently posted on social media that the surgery is on Friday, Sept. 9, and has since posted in an Instagram story that the surgery is complete.) She originally suffered a patellar tendon strain in June 2021 and missed nearly two months, and Thibault said it bothered her throughout the 2022 season as well. He estimated that her recovery process will take three to four months.

“The decision was, this is probably not the year she necessarily would make a USA team, and to get this done sooner than later, rather than aggravate it more, would be the time to do it,” Thibault said.

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The patellar tendon connects the quadriceps muscle on the front of the thigh to the shin bone and is crucial for running, jumping and other athletic movements. According to Lucas Seehafer, The Next’s Minnesota Lynx reporter who is also a physical therapist, the tendon is most often damaged without contact. When a person runs or jumps, they contract and expand their quadriceps muscle, and contracting the quadriceps sends force through the patellar tendon down the person’s leg. “If for whatever reason the tendon isn’t able to absorb the rapid change in force, it tears,” Seehafer said.

Hines-Allen’s original injury happened in the second quarter of a game against the Atlanta Dream on June 17, 2021. After the Dream inbounded the ball on the baseline, Hines-Allen slid from the block to the perimeter to guard then-Dream center/forward Elizabeth Williams. By the time she got there, she was limping, unable to put her left heel on the ground. A foul stopped play a few seconds later, and Hines-Allen immediately limped toward the Mystics’ bench, signaled for a substitute, and headed to the locker room with a trainer.

“The doctors at first [were] like, ‘If you play, you’re going to have pain,’” Hines-Allen told reporters on Aug. 10, 2021. “… I’m like, ‘I think I played through knee pain before. I can do it.’ And it was a different type of pain. … So it was just a hard pill to swallow.”

Hines-Allen missed almost two months but was back on the court on Aug. 15 for the Mystics’ first game after the Olympic break. She played the rest of the season except for when an illness sidelined her in early September. “My knee, it’s holding up … Gotta play,” she said on Aug. 19, seemingly stopping short of a full thumbs up.

Hines-Allen, an All-WNBA selection in 2020, signed a three-year protected contract to stay with the Mystics in February and played in Italy in the offseason. She also focused on getting her knee fully healthy for 2022, and she was adamant in the preseason that she had succeeded. “I’m not injured. Everybody in here, I am not injured. You got that?” she declared on April 22.

However, sometime during the 2022 season, her knee started to bother her again. She was held out of practice occasionally, but she didn’t miss any games until contracting COVID-19 near the end of the regular season. But she also didn’t play like herself for much of the season, rarely looking fully comfortable in her role and averaging just 8.9 points, 5.3 rebounds and 1.9 assists in 19.3 minutes per game — all of which were her lowest marks since 2019.

With this kind of injury, Seehafer said, “the athlete often can’t jump as high or run as fast.” When healthy, Hines-Allen is a player who often uses her explosiveness and athleticism to create and exploit mismatches. At 6’1, she can play small forward, power forward and center, and her ball-handling also allows her to run the offense at times.

“She can be a very versatile player,” Thibault said on Wednesday, reflecting on Hines-Allen’s 2022 season. “… [But] there was inconsistency. The knee doesn’t help.”

Washington Mystics forward Myisha Hines-Allen (2) adjusts a sleeve on her left leg during a break in action against the Indiana Fever at the Entertainment and Sports Arena in Washington, D.C., on May 6, 2022. (Photo credit: Domenic Allegra)

Thibault said that the medical staff is “very confident” that surgery will resolve Hines-Allen’s knee pain, and Seehafer concurred that Hines-Allen should “almost assuredly” be able to play again without pain. However, Seehafer said that it could take one to two years for Hines-Allen’s athleticism to fully return.

Hines-Allen will spend much of the offseason rehabbing in Washington and will likely not get back on the court until early 2023. Unlike most offseasons, when players scatter to compete overseas, she will have several teammates nearby: Franchise cornerstones Elena Delle Donne, Natasha Cloud and Ariel Atkins as well as free agent Alysha Clark will spend at least some of their offseason in Washington doing workouts.

One benefit of Hines-Allen having surgery now is that she will have ample time to recover before next season and will not be rushed back. She is still in position to be a key contributor next season, likely off the bench behind Delle Donne and center Shakira Austin. The disappointment for the Mystics is that Hines-Allen will have less time to develop her skills this offseason to get herself back to being one of the league’s best players, like she was in 2020.

After Hines-Allen cleared COVID-19 protocols last month, just ahead of the playoffs, the Mystics posted a video on social media of Hines-Allen popping her shirt and exclaiming, “I’m BACK!” The hope is that, in a couple months, Hines-Allen will be able to say that again — and that in 2023, she will be able to play pain-free all season.

Written by Jenn Hatfield

Jenn Hatfield has been a contributor to The Next since December 2018 and is currently the site's managing editor, Washington Mystics beat reporter and Ivy League beat reporter. Her work has also appeared at FiveThirtyEight, Her Hoop Stats, FanSided, Power Plays and Princeton Alumni Weekly.

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