Morgan Alexander: Finding Purpose in a Career Wracked By Injuries

The other day, I was sitting in a job interview and the hiring manager asked me, “can you tell me about your experience playing division one lacrosse?”

My response was definitely different than what she had expected. I simply responded, “filled with adversity.”

My story is different than the average college lacrosse player, but I would not change it for a thing.

I grew up 45 minutes down the road from Syracuse University, so playing lacrosse there was my main goal since the 8th grade. When I got recruited, it seemed like the best fit and I could not have been happier. I was excited to be a part of a program with so much tradition and I had hoped to make a mark of my own on this program.

My freshman year, I decided to redshirt because I tweaked my knee in the fall and I knew that I needed to get stronger in order to be able to protect my knees for the future. This seemed like the perfect choice for myself because it would give me an entire year to practice and play with the team everyday, but I could still get my knee stronger and come back my sophomore year ready to roll.

My sophomore year hit and I thought things were going well. I had been playing well and enjoying practice every day. We were in preseason getting ready to have our home opener against Boston College. Preseason is definitely the toughest time to get through because it’s three weeks of straight practicing without a game. Mentally and physically getting through those three weeks isn’t easy. With that being said, I had almost made it through preseason and we had two more practices till our first game. What felt like a normal practice for me turned into the start of multiple injuries.

I remember my first injury like it was yesterday. I was dodging to goal in 1v1s and my foot got stepped on, which caused me to tear my MCL, ACL, lateral meniscus, medial meniscus, and dislocate my kneecap. I remember laying there on the turf thinking to myself I will never play again. The amount of pain I was in in that moment made me feel like I never wanted to step foot on the field again. Within the next few days, I realized that my personality is not one to give up and I knew I would come back and play. I went to a surgeon in New York City and repaired my MCL, ACL, and meniscus. He also told me that he had to put in a partial fake kneecap because of the trauma to the knee. All of this was so overwhelming, but I knew I could fight and come back.

My junior year hit and I was super excited to get back out on the field. We went to Florida for spring training and that was going to be my first practice back since the injury. I was so pumped and played in two practices. On the third practice, I was dodging toward the goal and felt a weird pop in my knee. It felt different from when I hurt my ACL, but it was still extremely painful. It ended up being a torn meniscus, which put me out for the rest of the season. My junior year became another year on the sideline.

When this injury happened, I struggled horribly with mental health. I had already been prescribed medicine to help, but it was just not working. I hated the fact that I couldn’t workout. I felt like I needed to break a sweat, but just couldn’t with my recovering body. This then turned into body shaming myself, calling myself fat all the time. I stopped eating and I could just feel my mental health spiring out of control.

My senior year, I was cleared for fall ball and so pumped to finally get back out there. But, during my first practice, my knee starting flaring up again and I couldn’t walk well. I had to go back in for surgery, making this my third knee surgery. At this point, I was defeated. All I could do was convince myself to diet because that was something I could control. It felt like my life was full of uncontrollable things, so my eating habits became my one source of control.

After my third surgery, my surgeon pulled me aside and told me he thought it would be best if I medically disqualified myself from participating in lacrosse. I talked him into letting me try to play one more time. He said I could, but if my knee swelled up or anything, I was going to have to retire.

I ended up playing that entire season. I shocked everyone at how well I could play after not playing for three seasons. I did have some bumps along the road during my senior year. I fell so often in games that at the end of the season, I had to go in and get microfracture surgery because 50 pieces of cartilage had fallen off my knee and were floating around in the fluid. This was yet another surgery, making that four on my right knee, though this last surgery was a smoother recovery because I was home for the summer and didn’t have to miss any lacrosse.

My fifth year, I decided to go back to Syracuse University because I was accepted into the Newhouse Sports Broadcasting Master’s program. This was a dream come true for me, as I hope to become a sports broadcaster. It truly felt like things were finally falling into place. I got into my dream graduate school and I was playing the sport I love. God is so good!

Then, the season came around, we were playing well, and I had a great start to the season. Only four games into the season, we were practicing to play Northwestern, and I was dodging in a drill and fell to the ground. I heard a huge pop and knew right at that moment that I had torn my left ACL. I have never felt so low in my entire life. At first, I just could not wrap my head around the fact that I did it again to the knee that I relied so heavily upon and thought was so strong. I cried myself to sleep for around a week and struggled with depression and anxiety.

Through that all, I told myself that I couldn’t give up. Tearing my ACL again was not controllable, but me coming back and playing again could be. Now people may call me crazy for playing, but I don’t care. I am passionate about this sport and I wasn’t going to let my physical and mental pain keep me from it.

I had to get surgery during COVID, so I could not see an in-person physical therapist for six months! I did all my rehab in my basement. My dad took wood and made step up machines for me. At some points, we didn’t even have ice since we couldn’t go to the store while the country was shut down. Again, more adversity that I had to overcome, but I knew I could do it. I ended up being able to hike three miles with my family only two weeks after surgery. I was crushing my rehab, and it honestly felt like a breeze to me. Finally, come January, almost 10 months after surgery, I got cleared and now I am back on the field and up to speed right where I left off.

Looking back on my journey, all I can say is that I am incredibly blessed. I would not trade anything that happened to me because it made me the person I am today. I am a huge advocate for mental health and all I care about is inspiring and making a difference in someone’s life. If I can do that, then I have won in life. Games will come and go, but what I will truly take away from college lacrosse is that I had the ability to inspire and help others. If none of this happened to me, I would not have the mindset that I have today, and for that I am forever grateful. God always has a plan, and even though you might not see it initially, trust me it will show. John 13:7.

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