Sidelined: Women’s lacrosse injury fiasco or a misunderstanding?

Michael Kurtz, Sports Reporter

Many months after the end of a section championship season, two players on the Hamline Women’s Lacrosse team share their experience of what they say was a season full of injury and pressure to play. In response, Hamline’s Athletic Department gave input on their protocol. 

The 2021-22 Hamline University Women’s Lacrosse team had no doubt a successful and unforgettable season, placing second in the Midwest Women’s Lacrosse Conference (MWLC) behind Lake Forest College, who they then defeated in the section championship in a thrilling 13–12 overtime victory.

However, it seems that there may be more behind the 2022 MWLC section champion team than many know. Back in October of 2022, two players on the team gave their perspective of what ended up being a struggle between injuries and playing time. 


The Oracle would like to acknowledge to its readers that these players have asked for their identity to remain confidential. We value the voices of athletes and their willingness to share stories in the evolving conversation of athlete’s safety while also prioritizing their privacy. 

Their account of the season began when the lacrosse team planned on adding seven new recruits for their 2021–22 campaign. Once the first practice hit, three of the new recruits quit due to non-team related decisions and an unspecified number got injured. Going into the first game, it looked like there would only be one substitute player for the majority of the season. 

“We went into the season with no subs, or maybe one sub,” one of our sources said. “We were playing so much, running so much… Everyone was playing every position. We had no choice but to keep going.”

If two players were to get minor injuries, the team would either not have enough players to fill the field and would result in a forfeit or a postponement, or the entire team would have to play the full duration of the game. As the season rolled along, players feared being overused and some felt forced by the coach to play with minor injuries. 

“We started to play people who were injured. Because some of the injuries weren’t as serious as others, compared to those who may have tore a muscle or broken a bone, some of our players were forced to play,” said another source who spoke with the Oracle. “No one wanted to be the last person out where we couldn’t play anymore.”

Our two sources questioned the treatment of injured players by the coaching staff at practice as the season progressed. 

“Teammates who played in games also played in practice, so we got no breaks ,” one of our sources said. “Players would play midfield for 60 minutes during a game with no subs and then play all of practice the next week, which is what increased injuries towards the end of the season. I ended up being game-day-only because I had to preserve my body.” 

Our other source chimed in on the coach’s treatment of players during practice. 

“I think seeing the injured players at practice made teammates super scared. There started to be a bit of segregation,” they said. “If you were hurt, you weren’t even allowed to watch the drills. You were just pushed off to the side. The whole team was in desperation mode and there was pressure to come back and get better quickly.” 


After the testimony of our sources, the Hamline Athletic Department was made aware of our investigation into these claims. In that time, Women’s Lacrosse Coach Karen Heggerenes was named the 2022 Intercollegiate Women’s Lacrosse Coaches Association (IWLCA) Kristina Quigley Scholarship Recipient and later left her position at Hamline after eight years as the inaugural coach of the program. 

According to Athletic Director Jason Verdugo, Heggernes left to take care of her recently adopted son and to pursue a new “job opportunity with non profit homegrown lacrosse.” She was made unavailable for comment related to this story by the Athletic Department before her departure.

Head Athletic Trainer Tara Dooley, who works directly with the lacrosse team, provided general insights on her relationship between the athletic trainers and sports teams.

“There is no hierarchical relationship between athletic trainers and coaches. They should be on an equal authoritative level and work collaboratively regarding the health and well-being of the student athlete,” Dooley wrote in an email. 

She explained that athletic trainers are supposed to have autonomy to make decisions regarding injuries and illnesses of players. They work with team physicians and athletes to find the plan for returning to play. However, there is daily pushback from players on when that time is. 

“I feel that [pushback] is part of the process to return for many athletes. They need to convince themselves just as much mentally as physically they are ready to return to activity. We functionally test them to show us and them that they are capable of returning without risk of re-injury or a new injury,” Dooley said. 

Speaking on when athletes are allowed to return, Dooley explained that some injuries have no debate, such as concussions, cardiac conditions or life-threatening conditions. Other minor injuries are allowed wiggle room from person to person. 

“Athletes are heavily involved in the decision making process and counseled on the risks of returning to play without adequate recovery. For that situation, we would just ensure that it is documented in their medical record that they returned to sports against medical recommendations,” Dooley said. 


The Hamline Women’s Lacrosse Team now has a new head coach. Adam Dobis has been part of success previously at the University of Indianapolis as an assistant coach for their women’s lacrosse team and is now committed to building the relationship between him, his players and the athletic trainers. 

“Communication is the most important thing. It’s about how their bodies feel physically and mentally on a day to day basis. Anything having to do with injuries, I leave that up to [the athletic training staff]. They have their expertise in that field,” Dobis said.

As far as daily practice plans, Dobis is strategically planning around keeping players injury-free.

“We have set-in-place workout schedules. We lift three times a week now, we have a yoga session once a week,” Dobis said. “Our players are raving about yoga and they see how much it benefits them both physically and mentally. We’re just trying to keep our muscle groups loose and making sure we’re doing all we can to be ready for game day.” 

Looking ahead, the women’s lacrosse team is looking to finish the season strong against three MWLC rivals, capping their season at home on April 29 against Wartburg College.