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  • Writer's pictureLauren Pederson

Growth, Gratitude, and Perseverance: Through the Trials and Tribulations of Injury

As kids, we all have dreams to do the things that make us happy and get us excited about what the future holds. For me, that dream was playing Division 1 Lacrosse.

As a young girl growing up in Utah, people thought I was crazy when I started my lacrosse journey, as women's lacrosse didn't exist in my age group. So, I played with my twin and the older boys. I envisioned the trajectory of my high school and college career, with experiences and accomplishments that awaited me. I would follow in the footsteps of some of Park City High School’s best female athletes and commit to playing lacrosse at a D1 school. I would perform to my highest potential and win state championships with my team. I saw myself transitioning to college, where I envisioned a continuation of my success both individually and alongside my team. I dreamed of winning an NCAA title, sharing the joyful celebrations with my teammates—a culmination of relentless dedication, perseverance through challenges, and the ultimate triumph.

As a young girl, my dream was a clear cut and well-defined path. However, like many of us, the future often unfolds in unexpected ways, diverging from the path we envisioned as wide-eyed six-year-olds.

Spring season of my sophomore year in high school kicked off in 2018, but the trajectory I had imagined took a dramatic turn when I tore my right ACL on March 10th. I found myself thrust into a new role, one entirely unfamiliar to me and unlike anything I had encountered before. Recognizing the importance of remaining actively engaged from the sidelines, I made a conscious effort to support my team wholeheartedly and learn as much about the game of  lacrosse as possible. It was tough. I had not been injured like this before, so I shifted my energy from dominating on the lacrosse field into physical therapy.

I also learned a lot about myself.

I gained profound gratitude for my ability to participate in the sport I love, while also developing a newfound appreciation for those who haven't been afforded the same chance or have had their opportunities taken away.

I now had an intimate understanding of what it’s like to face hardship and adversity. Furthermore, as I recovered, I discovered the value of perseverance and dedication, realizing that regardless of recognition or accolades, the effort I invested would always remain a testament to my hard work and determination, and would be forever irrevocable.

My high school journey diverged significantly from the ambitious plan envisioned by my six-year-old self. Despite my fervent hopes, I was only able to compete during my freshman and junior years, given my injury and then the COVID-19 pandemic abruptly curtailed my senior year.

Fast forward two and a half years, and here I am, embarking on my freshman fall at the University of Virginia. I've achieved the pinnacle of my childhood dreams, stepping onto the Division 1 stage that I've always aspired to. Playing lacrosse feels great and I can feel myself developing momentum which is falling in my favor. 

On September 25, 2020, I suffered a buckle-hand tear in my meniscus in my right knee, and just one week later, I underwent surgery to repair it. Entering surgery, I anticipated a 4-6 month recovery, sidelining me for much of my freshman year. However, upon waking, I received unexpected news from the surgeon. Not only had my meniscus been compromised, but my right ACL had to be repaired again due to partial tearing of the previous graft. So, it was official — I would be sidelined for my entire freshman year, embarking on yet another journey of ACL surgery and recovery.

This time I knew it was going to be different. The meniscus repair required nine weeks of non-weight bearing on my right leg, and I would undergo recovery away from home. Without the support of my parents, the recovery phase was more challenging, as I had to navigate newfound independence and self-reliance. Throughout this process, I discovered the importance of finding new outlets to express my emotions. Whether it was through journaling, enjoying a morning cup of coffee, engaging in conversations with others, or finding joy in the small moments scattered throughout the day, I found solace and resilience in these practices.

Now one year later, in the fall of 2021, during the third practice of the fall ball season, I dodged from left to right and stepped with my left foot to take a shot. At this moment, I am hit from the side causing my left ACL to tear. On September 25, roughly two weeks later, I underwent surgery. This marked my second ACL surgery in less than a year and my third ACL reconstructive surgery within a span of three and a half years. 

It's ironic because with repeated experiences, one typically learns through practice, making the process easier as you grasp the steps ahead. Yet, for me, this wasn’t the case.

Each injury presented new obstacles to overcome, introducing unique and challenging aspects of the recovery journey.

My first surgery was tough because of physical therapy – I had to relearn how to move my body and regain my strength. My second surgery proved challenging as I navigated it largely independently, but having undergone recovery before, I held onto the confidence that I could conquer it once more. My third surgery was a whole different beast. Physically, it was the easiest rehabilitation, but I had to change my mentality to trust my body and create a positive headspace for myself. I found breath work, journaling, and small rituals that I created for myself to be the most helpful. I learned most about myself after the third surgery and continued those practices.

My journey doesn't conclude here. In January, I embarked on yet another chapter, undergoing my fourth knee surgery—a meniscectomy on my right knee, removing thirty percent of the cartilage. That marks four knee surgeries in less than six years. 

When I reflect on my journey, it's not the path I would have imagined or scripted for myself. Yet, I've come to understand that life seldom adheres to our plans or expectations. Moreover, I've realized that I wouldn't undo my injuries. Through them, I've gained invaluable insights: discovering facets of myself beyond the realm of lacrosse, realizing the extent of my capabilities, embracing the resilience within me, appreciating the significance of gratitude, and understanding the transformative power of adopting a fresh perspective. In addition to these lessons, I have had so many positive experiences and opportunities that I never would have had.  This isn’t to say that I didn’t have moments when I felt like throwing in the towel. I had times when I thought enough was enough; that it was time to call it quits on my college athletic career. I came to the conclusion that I wouldn’t make a decision about continuing my lacrosse career until I felt like I was one hundred percent recovered. In the same vein, this journey has solidified my commitment to maintaining an active lifestyle and perpetually challenging myself both mentally and physically, even after my collegiate athletic career comes to an end. To enjoy these activities later in life, I knew I had to put forth my full effort during my recovery. I continue to play because each day I step onto the field, I am presented with the opportunity to evolve both as an athlete and as an individual. It's an environment where I'm consistently challenged to become the very best version of myself.

It's important that I acknowledge the invaluable support I've received from my family, numerous friends, dedicated trainers, and coaches throughout my rehabilitation process/journey. Without their unwavering support, my comeback would undoubtedly have taken a different course.

Words alone cannot express the depth of gratitude I feel for these individuals who have guided me through the mental and physical challenges of injury.


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