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CAMPUS REPORT

Moore Finds There's No Gain Because of the Pain

Tennis: USC freshman from Servite has been suffering for months, while doctors can't agree on a diagnosis or treatment.

April 22, 1999|DAVE McKIBBEN | TIMES STAFF WRITER

Ryan Moore first felt the twinge in his right hip nearly three years ago at the national hardcourt tennis tournament in Kalamazoo, Mich. He felt it again last May, while competing for Servite at the Southern Section individuals. It was more irritating this time and it limited his movement. But like before, it went away with a few weeks of rest.

When the pain returned to his hip this February, Moore was playing for USC. He felt it while serving and it was sharper and more intense this time. Pain didn't limit his movement, it prevented it entirely.

This time, rest didn't do the trick. Five doctors, five diagnoses, two MRIs, various sets of X-rays and two months later, Moore still hasn't returned to the court, other than three painful 20-minute hitting sessions.

And the most frustrating part of it all? He's still not sure what the problem is.

"A stabbing pain is the best way I can describe it," said Moore, who now has pain in both hips and his back. "It lasts until I fall asleep."

It seems to hurt most when he tries to get up after sitting down for a while or when he walks long distances, like to class. Sometimes, everything just takes its toll and tears start to flow.

"A couple days here and there, combined with the emotional strain, it's done that," Moore said.

Every week has been hard on Moore and his family, but this week might be the hardest. Today is the beginning of the Ojai tennis tournament, which Moore won twice as a junior player, including last year in the boys' interscholastic singles division.

"Ever since I won it last year, I started thinking about how cool it would be to come back next year in college and have a chance to win [the Pacific 10 championship] at USC," Moore said. "I love it up there. Good competition, good crowds. I guess I'll just have to go up and root on USC."

Moore would not have been simply returning to Ojai as a bit player for the 11th-ranked Trojans, but as one of the top freshmen in the country. Before his injury, Moore was 7-0 in dual singles matches as a No. 2 and No. 3 player and 8-0 in doubles with partner Nick Rainey. He was ranked as high as ninth in doubles with Rainey--and is still ranked 12th--and 66th in singles.

A few days before his injury, Moore beat UCLA's Zach Fleishman in a thrilling three-set match that gave the Trojans one of their points in a 5-2 loss to the top-ranked Bruins.

"The way the year was going and the way I was playing, it's extremely unfortunate," he said. "I'm still struggling with it to this day. But I'm trying to take something positive out of it. I guess things really do happen for a reason. I don't know how many times I've read that quote, but it helps to look at it that way."

Caryll Moore, Ryan's mother, said the last two months have not been easy.

"Every week seems like a month when you're going through this," she said. "It's dragging everybody down, but we certainly haven't lost faith."

USC Coach Dick Leach hasn't lost faith either, but he is not counting on having Moore back this season. In fact, he tried to get Moore a redshirt year. But Moore had already played too many matches.

Leach said he was criticized by several coaches for recruiting Moore, who was an undersized junior player and didn't have a high national ranking. But Leach was the one laughing early in the season, when Moore was beating more highly touted and higher-ranked players.

"Ryan was probably the most improved player I've ever had from Oct. 1 to Jan. 1 in 20 years here," Leach said. "Andrew Park was the top junior in the country last year and he's played well for us, but Ryan had turned out to be our best recruit because he was so valuable in singles and doubles."

When Moore went down, USC was 7-1 and ranked ninth nationally. Now, the Trojans are 17-4 and ranked 11th. Five of the 10 victories since Moore's injury have been by 4-3 scores.

"With Ryan, some of those 4-3 scores are probably 5-2 or 6-1," Leach said. "We've had a fantastic season. But without Ryan, it feels like we're living on borrowed time."

Moore admits he is about out of time for this season, which ends with next month's NCAA tournament. He is more concerned with starting to rehabilitate. None of the doctors has recommended surgery, but they haven't agreed on a treatment either.

"Who do you listen to?" said Moore, who has been lifting weights to maintain upper-body strength. "They're all board-certified doctors. When they tell you something different, you have a choice to make."

Moore has considered acupuncture and deep-massage therapy, but says he will hold off on both options for now. On Tuesday, Moore saw a hip specialist for a second time. Caryll Moore said it now appears as though the injury has been isolated to the back.

"It would be a lot easier if this were a broken bone," she said. "But when they can't tell you what it is, it's really frustrating.

"He was flying so high. That's what happens sometimes. We just have to get through this."

Moore has stayed close to the team, attending home and away matches. "It helps to stay involved," he said. "I try to be a morale booster, even though I'd jump at the chance to play."

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