PHOTO COURTESY OF PREMIER LACROSSE LEAGUE

Adler, Ament, Sowers Talk Mental Health Struggles During Injury Rehabs


Grant Ament was several days into the 2022 PLL training camp with the Archers, doing what he called a “typical rollback at X,” going from left back to his right when he felt a pop.

“It felt like I got shot in the back of the leg,” he said.

Ament said he couldn’t walk, and it was quickly apparent he wasn’t going to be able to play in the first game of the season.

While obvious Ament was in pain, when a PLL player gets hurt, it’s not just the physical pain the athlete has to endure; there’s a great deal of mental anguish they must push through as well.

“It’s certainly lonely,” he said. “Not being able to do it and play, and, in a lot of ways, you talk about identity, for me, I don’t play indoor. I get a maximum of 13 chances a year [to play], and I lost five of those.”

The players in the PLL love lacrosse, and they are also used to being at their best. They’re used to training hard both individually and with their teams. Being a professional lacrosse player becomes part of their identity. When their favorite thing is taken away because of an injury, when they can’t train or compete, the injury becomes as mentally draining as it is physically draining.

Ament, who pulled his hamstring and missed the team’s first five games before returning in Week 7, did not spend much time talking about his injury in interviews or on social media in part so he wasn’t consumed by solely being known as the injured lacrosse player.

“It’s a blessing and a curse being hyper focused on winning and hyper focused on lacrosse, but when this becomes your profession, there’s a dollar sign attached to it which can add pressure,” he said. “There are more fans watching. There’s the social media aspect. There’s a whole lot of things that come along with it, and I learned last year, coming home from winning the Attackman of the Year award trophy, I was miserable. Trying to make sure I’m not draining myself and focusing solely on lacrosse all the time. When I’m at the field or in the gym or watching film, it’s got all my attention, but when I close the laptop or walk out of the gym or walk off the field, being able to put it behind me and just focus on where I am and who I’m with. It’s a hard balance to get it. You want to make sure you keep that love for the sport.”


“It’s important to understand adversity is inevitable.”

— Michael Sowers


Chaos faceoff man Max Adler understands the job aspect of being a professional lacrosse player, and he knows firsthand how injuries can interfere with one’s livelihood. It’s how he earned his first playing opportunity.

A seventh-round pick in the 2017 Major League Lacrosse College Draft, Adler didn’t get his first opportunity to suit up until Tommy Kelly was injured in the 2017 All-Sar Game. He made his debut in the Denver Outlaws’ 10th game of the season, won 15 of 27 faceoffs, and impressed enough people that the Outlaws traded Kelly to the New York Lizards, showing faith in Adler moving forward.

So, when he partially tore his triceps and hamstring in Game 1 of the NLL finals, he knew he was going to miss a chunk of games for the Chaos in the PLL, and he knew he could be putting his starting position in jeopardy.

“One of those days, there’s going to come a time when I’m not playing lacrosse anymore,” he said. “An injury can really open up opportunities for guys who can come in and play well, and you could never get that spot back.”

At this point in his career, Adler is used to getting hurt, but it hadn’t stopped him previously. In the 2018 MLL championship game, he tore the Lisfranc ligament in his foot, and in the 2021 PLL championship game, he separated his shoulder. Neither injury, however, knocked him out of the game for very long. In the 2020 MLL season, Adler needed fluids during the team’s second game of the week and was hospitalized after with what he said was a “mild form of rhabdomyolysis,” and he only missed one game.

That fact is a big reason why this injury has been difficult for Adler to deal with.

“I’ve never really had an injury before that kept me out. It’s frustrating to have setbacks,” he said. “The plan was always to come back after the All-Star break. I was hoping it was Fairfield, but it just wasn’t completely there yet. The other issue is I want to get back, but if I have any other sort of injury, I’m out for the season. It was possibly Fairfield. I was there. We tested it, but it wasn’t fully ready.”








Michael Sowers, the second pick in the 2021 PLL draft, is someone  who had never experienced a long-term injury prior to playing professionally, but it didn’t take long for it to happen once he made his debut.

In the beginning of the second half of the first game of the 2021 season, Sowers was hit in the head, removed from the game and hospitalized overnight. He missed each of the team’s remaining eight regular season games before returning for the Waterdogs semifinal matchup against the Whipsnakes.

The rookie was hoping to make a smooth transition from college to the pros, but he had a difficult time building relationships while away from the team.

“It was really weird. The whole thing was this weird feeling of wanting to get assimilated to the team but not having the ability to do so,” he said. “The main difference is, college lacrosse, even if you’re hurt, you’re around the guys 24-7 because you’re going to eat together, you’re going to class together, you’re hanging out off the field. The professional game, obviously, if you’re not on the active roster, you’re not traveling. If you’re not traveling, you don’t get a chance to meet the guys. I was all the way through August. I was lucky we have a great locker room and guys were constantly reaching out, but I didn’t feel like I was part of the team because I wasn’t there.”

Sowers suffered a concussion and was also diagnosed with rhabdomyolysis, which — according to the CDC — is when “damaged muscle tissue releases its proteins and electrolytes into the blood” which can “damage the heart and kidneys.”

He was surprised by the diagnosis not only because he had never experienced anything like it before, but because he said he is very careful with his hydration and diet. This season, he is wearing the Q-Collar to help protect his head, but the rhabdomyolysis still lingers — he said a rhabdomyolysis incident in Charlotte is why he missed the game on Long Island — and the frustrating aspect is the timeline and limitations are vague when compared to a muscle or bone injury.

“To be completely transparent, the concussion was one thing, but the more difficult thing and thing I’m dealing with now is the rhabdomyolysis,” he said. “It’s a similar injury to the concussion in the sense there is no protocol for it. It’s this give-and-take process like, try it. If it’s too much, pull yourself back.”




PHOTO COURTESY OF PREMIER LACROSSE LEAGUE


While Ament and Adler both said the best way for them to cope with the frustrations of their injuries was to put an emphasis and focus on the rehabilitation process, that is not something Sowers has as much control.

“A hamstring it’s like, alright, do some hamstring curls,” he said. “This stuff, there is nothing to do. I think that was really difficult. You’re essentially sitting on your couch like, ‘What should I be doing?’ And the answer from the doctors is, ‘Nothing. You’ve just got to wait.’”

Getting through the physical pain, the disappointment of missing games, and the loneliness away from teammates is one thing, but the difficulty doesn’t end once the athlete returns to the field, either.

As players prepare for their first games back, the thought of reinjury can sit in the back of the mind. Once the game starts, however, the adrenaline and muscle memory take over, which is why Ament and Adler took their time returning to the field.

“The re-tear percentage is high, which is why I waited until the second half of the season,” Ament said. “If you re-tear it once, it’s OK, but if you do it again, then it becomes a chronic issue.”

“When I’m playing and out there, there’s no thought of reinjury, which is why it’s a delicate situation of making sure my hamstring is ready, and I’m ready enough because when I’m on the field, I’m 100 percent,” added Adler. “If my hamstring is only 80 percent, I can’t run or only can give 80 percent, I’m going to force 100 percent. There’s that, which is a big reason why we waited one more week.”.

What helped Ament, Adler and Sowers during their injuries was the support they received from others.

Adler said he constantly talks with Chaos head coach Andy Towers, and his teammates have consistently checked in with him. When Sowers suffered his concussion, he said his teammates — no matter how little time he got to actually know them — checked in weekly, and he and Waterdogs head coach Andy Copelan talked about twice a week.

Ament — who also broke his foot his junior year at Penn State and spent a week in the hospital with an infection — said Marcus Holman checked in on him and asked him to meet for breakfast, and that he liked how not only his own teammates checked in but how players from around the league like Sowers and Chris Sabia also reached out to him.

He also added that while he didn’t speak much publicly about his injury, he saw and was thankful for all the well-wishes from fans.

“Thank you to fans and supporters who have messaged me on Instagram and reached out in any way,” he said. “It means a lot to me. I definitely felt the love throughout this thing. Beyond just teammates and other PLL players, the fans have done a great job in supporting me and wanting me to get back. It’s nice to feel the love, sometimes, especially when you’re not feeling great. I’m very appreciative of that.”

The conversations Sowers has had with other players helped him cope with the difficulties of injury, and he feels compelled to share what he’s learned with others.

“Injuries suck. There’s no sugar coating it,” he said. “It sucks to miss time and be away from the team, but as an athlete, it’s a natural thing to go through. It’s a shared experience where at some point in an athlete’s career, they are going to go through a tough stretch or some sort of adversity. … It’s important to understand adversity is inevitable, and for me, it was doing everything I possibly could, and when the opportunity came, I was ready, and I came out on the opposite side better and stronger.”

Ament echoed the sentiment that, as bad as things may seem, there is a benefit once one fights through the physical pain and mental frustration.

“From a mental side, I tell the injured guys, this isn’t going to be easy,” he said. “It’s not going to be fun. You’re not going to smile a lot, and that’s OK, but when you get through it, and you get to the other side, I promise, your appreciation for the game and your love for being out there with your teammates will be expanded exponentially, and I just say you have to trust me on that. That’s what’s happened any time I’m injured. I’m pissed off. I’m sad. I get angry. I go through all these emotional roller coasters, and then once I get back, I can finally take a deep breath, and I’m smiling again.”


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