McKinley ready to return after missing season with back injury

Alexa McKinley

Alexa McKinley is tired of sitting on the sideline.

The Marian women’s basketball player and 2021 Columbus North graduate was plagued by various injuries that started about a year ago, which forced her to redshirt this past season for the Knights. McKinley has put the injury behind her and is looking to make a huge impact for the team next year.

The injury happened in the spring of last year when McKinley was doing a deadlift during a team lifting session. She thought initially that she only had a sore back and was going to be fine for the upcoming season.

Thinking the back injury was gone, McKinley was playing basketball and having physical therapy last summer and doing all the preseason workouts with her team when she came back for the fall semester. A couple of weeks before the first team practices for the season, she began feeling numbness in her leg.

When speaking with the athletic trainers about her newest symptoms, they recommended McKinley get an MRI. The results then showed that she had a herniated disc in her lower back and a bulging disc in her neck, which doctors believe was causing the numbness in her leg.

The extent of the recovery time varies from person to person and the given severity. It can take several weeks to several months to fully recover. It meant McKinley would miss the season, which prompted her to redshirt and come back fully recovered for next year.

“I was honestly surprised because I knew I was having pain, but not to that extent,” McKinley said. “I really didn’t know anything about that injury, so I was really unsure on how long it would take me to recover because there was a lot of unknowns. I had done all the summer, in-school training and conditioning and everything, so I was upset I did all that and wasn’t able to play.”

It marked the first time in her basketball career that McKinley missed games due to a significant injury. While it was tough for her to watch from the bench, it opened her eyes about basketball off the court.

“It was definitely really hard because I’ve never been in that spot before. Sometimes stuff like this happens, but you have to make the best of it,” McKinley said. “I definitely learned to appreciate my teammates more, and it helped me see basketball from a different angle that I haven’t before. It just gives you a whole new perspective of how things work. You learn more from your teammates by watching them than playing with them sometimes.”

McKinley was sent to OrthoIndy and was given the option of either doing physical therapy or getting a steroid shot. She opted for PT in hopes it would finally fix her injury and get back to normal. A physical therapist comes to Marian a couple times a week, and she does PT for a couple hours during the week.

McKinley said she’s progressed a lot in her recovery, but still has those days where her back isn’t feeling good. She also added that she doesn’t have the numbness or pain in her leg anymore.

“That’s fully gone, so that part has definitely gotten better. My back, it just depends upon the day, but in general, it is a lot better,” McKinley said. “I try to avoid those things that put stress on my back and irritating it because I’m trying to get back to playing. It’s gotten better, and I’m much closer to playing.”

McKinley and the rest of her Marian teammates participated in a demonstration during last year’s Indiana Basketball Coaches Association two-day basketball clinic. She got to meet Purdue men’s basketball coach Matt Painter and Indiana women’s basketball coach Teri Moren. McKinley also got to see and catch up with North girls coach Brett White and boys coach Paul Ferguson while she was there. McKinley said the team is scheduled to do it again for this year’s IBCA clinics later this month.

McKinley is set to graduate in the spring of 2025 with a bachelor’s degree in business marketing and communications and a minor in digital design. She is undecided on what career path she wants to pursue.

Marian had a historic year this past season and was the top seed in the NAIA women’s basketball tournament, but it lost a heartbreaker in the quarterfinal round.

After missing the season, McKinley is anxious to get back to competition on the basketball court next year. She started fully practicing with the team at the tail end of the season last month.

“I’m so excited,” she said. “In the last few months of school, I’ve been to some open gyms, some live play, so that will be fun. I haven’t done that in a while and being able to move around without worrying about my back hurting at all, so I’m excited.”