Fifth surgery puts Hampden’s McCue back in MIT lineup

Posted March 10, 2011, at 12:58 p.m.
Last modified March 10, 2011, at 11:09 p.m.

The numbers weren’t overwhelming: 16 minutes played, no points and one rebound.

But Daniel McCue’s statistics — particularly the minutes played — from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology’s recent 60-52 loss to the University of Rochester in the second round of the NCAA Division III basketball tourney were an accomplishment he wasn’t sure was within his athletic reach three years and five surgeries ago.

A four-year starter at Hampden Academy, McCue helped the Broncos win the 2005 Class A state championship and a second Eastern Maine title a year later. After graduating in 2007, the 6-foot-3 guard enrolled at MIT and was the Engineers’ rookie of the year as a freshman.

But through the latter stages of high school and first year of college, McCue was nagged by hip pain that eventually sent him to the sidelines.

What caused that pain proved mysterious at first, but ultimately McCue was diagnosed with Femoral Acetabular Impingement, which results in too much friction between the the hip socket and the top of the femur, resulting in gradual tearing of all the cartridge around the joint.

McCue never saw the court for the next two years as he underwent three surgeries in an effort to repair his hips. Frustrated about his basketball future, he even left school for the 2009-10 year, instead traveling around Europe, taking some classes in London and occasionally testing his mobility.

“I could run straight ahead, but I couldn’t go side to side,” said McCue. “It wasn’t good enough.”

McCue finally found an answer within the pages of Sports Illustrated. There he read about Dr. Marc J. Philippon, a highly regarded hip expert who earlier in 2009 had performed surgery on New York Yankees star Alex Rodriguez.

McCue called Philippon’s Vail, Colo., office but learned of a one-year waiting period before his case might be considered. Not wanting to lose another season of college basketball, McCue wrote a follow-up letter to Philippon detailing his situation — and his persistence was rewarded.

McCue had surgery on each hip three weeks apart last July, followed by a rigorous rehabilitation process including eight hours a day with a continuous passive motion device that constantly moved the hips to help prevent a buildup of scar tissue.

“It was just a much more aggressive approach,” said McCue.

The results were equally aggressive, as McCue was ready to return to Division III basketball just four months later when MIT opened its 2010-11 season.

“At first my coach put me in for one or two minutes just to see if I could run up and down the floor,” said McCue. “Then he put me in for five minutes as the backup point guard, and by the end of the season I was playing half the game.”

The high point of McCue’s basketball rebirth to date came in MIT’s first NCAA game at Ithaca. He played 26 minutes, including the final 15:23, and his baseline jumper with 1:12 left gave the Engineers a 76-75 lead en route to an 82-78 victory.

McCue is assured of at least one more year of basketball eligibility before he graduates with an economics degree, and he feels ready to make a more significant contribution next winter when the Engineers seek a fourth straight NCAA bid.

“I’m getting better all the time,” McCue said, “and I’ve definitely surprised myself. There were times the last couple of years I didn’t feel like I’d be able to play at this level again.”

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