After injuries threatened her lacrosse career, Mount Holyoke’s Hannah Bisson ready for big senior season

Hannah Bisson tracks down a loose ball during a Mount Holyoke game last season. The South Hadley native begins her senior year on Saturday as the Lyons host Simmons University on Saturday at 1 p.m. As a junior, Bisson was second on Mount Holyoke in goals scored (17) and total points (21).

Hannah Bisson tracks down a loose ball during a Mount Holyoke game last season. The South Hadley native begins her senior year on Saturday as the Lyons host Simmons University on Saturday at 1 p.m. As a junior, Bisson was second on Mount Holyoke in goals scored (17) and total points (21). PHOTO BY BOB BLANCHARD/RJB SPORTS

Hannah Bisson maneuvers behind the net looking for an open teammate during a Mount Holyoke game last season. The South Hadley native begins her senior year on Saturday as the Lyons host Simmons University on Saturday at 1 p.m. As a junior, Bisson was second on Mount Holyoke in goals scored (17) and total points (21).

Hannah Bisson maneuvers behind the net looking for an open teammate during a Mount Holyoke game last season. The South Hadley native begins her senior year on Saturday as the Lyons host Simmons University on Saturday at 1 p.m. As a junior, Bisson was second on Mount Holyoke in goals scored (17) and total points (21). PHOTO BY BOB BLANCHARD/RJB SPORTS

By GARRETT COTE

Staff Writer

Published: 02-23-2024 1:58 PM

SOUTH HADLEY — Hannah Bisson sat in disbelief. It was a warm August day at Boston Children’s Hospital, and she was awaiting her third surgery to repair chronic exertional compartment syndrome (CECS) – which causes pain and swelling to affected muscles – in all four compartments of her legs.

This wasn’t how she had planned to end her summer.

Thoughts swirled aggressively between her ears. Would she ever play lacrosse again? Or, better yet, would she even be able to run again?

“I wasn’t able to run at all, and that was pretty horrible because I’m a very active person,” Bisson said. “But I tried staying positive through it, telling myself the surgery would actually work this time.”

Her first and second surgeries to treat the injury came a year prior, in July and August of 2021, where surgeons worked to cut and snip fascia. But when it came time to get back on the field at Mount Holyoke College for her sophomore season on the lacrosse team in the spring of 2022, the same pain that bothered her before the procedure was still there – this time only heightened.

Bisson gutted out the rest of the year, playing 12 games and scoring five goals for the Lyons, and scheduled the third – and final – surgery for that August.

“I still got the same exact pain that I had been getting before,” Bisson recalled. “I was again only able to run about five minutes at a time without severe pain and I would just have to stop.”

So the South Hadley native went to one of the best pediatric hospitals in the country in BCH, and this time they actually removed the fascia from her legs. The recovery was much longer, yet worth it in ways she never imagined while embarking on the burdensome journey of rehabilitation.

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The pain was completely gone to start the 2023 season, her junior campaign. Bisson could run freely for the first time since 10th grade. In turn, she put forth her best campaign as a collegiate athlete. Her 17 goals and 21 total points were both second on the team, but success was secondary to Bisson. The fact that she was on the field in good health mattered most.

“I was finally able to run last year for the first time, which was wonderful,” Bisson said. “And then I achieved one of my goals; I ran a half marathon. [Part of me did it] just because I didn’t have pain anymore.”

At South Hadley High School, Bisson was a standout athlete. She improved drastically during each of her three years with the Tigers, going from eight points to 18, then broke out for 40 goals in her junior season all while battling through shin pain, which she and those around her thought was shin splints – a common injury in high school athletics. Due to the COVID-19 pandemic, Bisson didn’t have a senior season.

When it was time to find a new home for the next four years, she didn’t look anywhere else but Mount Holyoke. Being close to home was something she always wanted, and after connecting with the coaches and enjoying her visits to campus, Bisson’s decision was all but made.

“I put that I played lacrosse in a questionnaire, so the coaches reached out to me,” Bisson said. “I expressed my interest to them, and the rest is history. I didn’t have other schools on my radar.”

The initial thoughts of shin splints turned more serious as she did workouts throughout the offseason preparing herself for her first year with the Lyons. As she continued to push herself, the pain progressed. Running was as hard as it had ever been, so Bisson visited the athletic trainer – who advised her to schedule an appointment with a specialist. She obliged.

Tests showed that pressures in her legs were through the roof, and she was soon diagnosed with CECS. The three surgeries followed over the next two years.

Doubt continued to set in; deeper and deeper.

“I thought I was never gonna be able to run again,” Bisson said.

Unfortunately, surgeries weren’t done for Bisson. She played the majority of last season with a triangular fibrocartilage complex tear in her right wrist, and had exterior carpi ulnaris tenosynovitis (inflammation of the tendon). At the time, there was no diagnosis. So, as Bisson has always done, she toughened it out and played through it – with the help of a handful of cortisone injections along the way.

Two days after the final game, Bisson was back in the hospital.

“That was really unfortunate. It was another setback,” Bisson said. “Finally being able to run and then having to have another surgery, this time for my wrist, it was daunting. Six weeks in an above-elbow cast, I wasn’t able to do any writing, and I had to re-learn how to eat and do basic things like take a shower.”

Having already undergone four surgeries while only playing two full seasons at Mount Holyoke (excluding her COVID-affected first year), the inevitable contemplation of quitting popped into Bisson’s mind.

“There was a period of time where I thought to myself, ‘Should I keep doing this to my body? Is it worth it?’” she said. “I would come out of games practically in tears. I had the skill set, but I couldn’t do anything. It was really upsetting. I was happy my teammates could play, but having to sit out and not be a part of the fun was devastating. I was kind of like, ‘Is it worth it for me to stay here? Should I find a new hobby?”

And that’s when she realized she couldn’t have made a better decision as a 17 year old than when she chose Mount Holyoke. The support system around her only lifted her up. Bisson’s teammates, who she calls her best friends, her coaches, the training staff, administration – everyone at the school – kept her mentally engaged.

Of course, her mother, Patty, was right by her side through thick and thin.

“I have to owe it to my mom for telling me that if I quit playing the sport I love, I’d probably regret it for the rest of my life,” Bisson said. “Those words helped motivate me to persist no matter how difficult the challenge, because I didn’t want to have any regrets. She was a huge support for me during my four surgeries, and she pushed me to keep going in my recovery and return to play.”

Bisson doesn’t look at what’s transpired as unfortunate. Rather, she used it as a window to learn and grow mentally and emotionally. Any setback was viewed as an opportunity. She couldn’t use her dominant hand, so Bisson strengthened her left hand.

Nobody would choose to face as much adversity as Bisson has had planted right in front of their face, but she didn’t shy away from it. Moving forward, that’s only going to benefit her as she embarks on the rest of her life.

“All of this has prepared me, as much as it’s sucked to go through, for life ahead,” Bisson said. “It was necessary for my development and growth, because you need to face adversity to learn from it. Things might come later in life where I’ll be able to stay positive because I know I’m capable of getting through it.”

Simply put, Hannah Bisson handles adversity better.

Bisson and the Lyons open their 2024 season on Saturday with a 1 p.m. home game against Simmons.