Adversity in athletics.
Every athlete deals with it. Some more than others. In unique situations, certain athletes are dealt with the adversity of a serious injury that can alter their career in sports. Often injuries can end a career because the difficulties involved in overcoming them. Iowa State redshirt sophomore defender Mia McAleer knows first-hand what it takes to overcome a serious injury and come back better than ever.
McAleer was first struck with adversity before ever coming to Iowa State. Before becoming a Cyclone she would have her first major obstacle to overcome.
“We were at Disney for national league and it was during the first half of the game,” McAleer said. “I was marking this girl who was really good and really fast, so I was trying to do the best that I could. It was off of a punt, the ball got over both of our heads. She got to it first and she was kind of dancing on it. She cut and I went to cut with her and it just went out and I went down.”
The damage was done. McAleer had laterally dislocated her kneecap and tore a ligament from her femur. A year prior to the serious injury, McAleer had subluxed her kneecap, which is when the bone goes out and immediately back in. This time, the damage was much worse.
The injury required surgery, but McAleer wasn’t about to let it end her soccer career. She went through rehab and training to get to be back to where she was. McAleer worked her way back onto the field during her senior season only to run into another hurdle. Although she had her injury surgically repaired, she was still in a lot of pain and could not perform at her best.
McAleer met with doctors and Iowa State soccer’s head athletic trainer Amanda Brown before her freshman season to discover what was causing the pain. It was found that as a result of the bio-mechanics of her knee and a cartilage defect caused by the first injury, McAleer would need to have another surgery.
“Essentially what our doctors determined was that her best hope to get back into playing would be to have a patellar realignment surgery,” Brown said.
The goal of the surgery was to move the kneecap inward towards the center of the body so that it would change the angle of the pull of the tendon. By doing this there would be a lot less stress under the kneecap.
McAleer knew that she had the talent to compete for playing time her initial season, but because of the surgery she would have to redshirt her freshman year and commit her time towards rehabbing her knee and getting herself ready for next season.
Sitting out an entire season from playing the sport you love can be hard. Especially when you know that you have the talent to compete, but are being held back by an injury. Luckily for McAleer, she had an entire team and staff supporting her.
“You definitely need support because it’s not something that you can go through by yourself.” McAleer said. “When I had my surgery I got hurt a month before Haley Albert tore her ACL for the fourth time. We kind had the same rehab treatment so honestly having her with me for that first year was pretty amazing. We were always talking about it. It was pretty rough, but it was nice having someone there for me.”
McAleer followed the direction of her doctors and athletic trainer to work hard to be able to see the field again. After a redshirt season full of rehab and work on getting her knee back to playing condition her time had finally come. McAleer recorded 196 minutes her redshirt freshman season, playing a key reserve role for a team that earned a No. 4 seed at the 2013 Big 12 tournament.
Now that she had a taste of action, she wanted more. McAleer sat out spring practices before her redshirt sophomore season for precautionary reasons to not further hurt her knee, but knew that this would be her year to prove her worth and that’s exactly what she’s done. So far this season she has recorded 705 minutes and started the last four games for the Cyclones.
“It’s pretty crazy,” McAleer said. “If you would have told me this time last year that I would be a starter on the team I probably would have laughed a little bit. It’s pretty incredible. I worked really hard to get where I am. I attribute that to my teammates, coaches and athletic trainer. They are all so supportive and I could not have done it without every single one of them.”
She did what many could not. She had suffered a serious knee injury, went through two surgeries and had the patience to sit out an entire season. Many would have quit, but not McAleer.
“I am beyond proud,” Brown said. “I can’t even imagine what she has gone through. I know how much pain she was in her freshman and sophomore years and she pulled through. She stuck with it. I’m just glad that she’s able to play. Seeing her on the field playing well is great to see.”