Caitlin Clark’s ‘Welcome to the WNBA’ moment: Fever rookie reveals she ruptured eardrum vs. Liberty

Caitlin Clark might very well be the WNBA Rookie of the Year when the 2024 season is said and done. But it’s fair to say her first few weeks as a professional have been challenging at times.

As Clark’s name circulates in cultural debates she didn’t ask to be a part of, the Fever guard also has faced serious physicality on the court and battled occasional turnover and efficiency troubles.

Yet when asked about her “Welcome to the WNBA” moment, one memory stood out for Clark: a ruptured eardrum she sustained against the Liberty on June 2.

Clark isn’t alone in experiencing growing pains — literal and figurative — in her first month as a professional. Fellow rookie Angel Reese also has struggled with efficiency as well, while first-year bigs Cameron Brink and Kamilla Cardoso have been beset by injuries.

The learning curve is a normal part of the rookie experience, and that’s one reason Clark can joke about some of the difficulties she’s faced so far. When asked about her propensity for running into screens (and taking hard hits as a result), the 22-year-old offered up an unexpected explanation: She couldn’t hear them coming.

Clark told reporters Friday that she suffered a ruptured eardrum on a screen during the Fever’s 104-68 loss to the Liberty on June 2.

She didn’t miss any time as a result of the injury, as Indiana didn’t play again for five days and Clark was cleared by doctors before the team’s next game, but the revelation does shed more light on the No. 1 pick’s trip to the locker room during the game.

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MORE: Caitlin Clark stats, highlights from Fever’s win over Dream

Fever coach Christie Sides told reporters after the loss to New York that Clark had “something going on with her ear.” Clark’s comments Friday reveal it might have been a bit more serious than was understood at the time.

“They’re great screens, I just didn’t hear them, so it’s kind of my own fault,” Clark joked when asked about running into screens. 

Clark explained that the ruptured ear drum made it tougher for her to hear initially, but there weren’t any other symptoms that would force her to miss time.

The Iowa phenom turned Fever star hasn’t missed a game through the early weeks of her WNBA career. She has started all 17 games so far for Indiana (7-10), and she is averaging 16.3 points, 6.2 assists and 5.5 rebounds per game.

MORE: Is Caitlin Clark going to the 2024 Paris Olympics?

Physicality has been one of the many storylines following Clark throughout her rookie season. She’s taken a few hard hits, including a controversial blow from Sky guard Chennedy Carter.

Not all physicality is avoidable, but avoiding collisions with screens is one way Clark can limit the toll of the game. Here’s hoping she will be able to start hearing those screens coming as her ear heals.

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