Sam Mewis provided an update on her knee injury, which has kept her off the pitch for the U.S. women’s national team since 2021.
The USWNT and Kansas City Current midfielder underwent a second surgery on her right knee in January 2023, and she detailed her progress before and since the procedure on the latest episode of the “Snacks” podcast for Just Women’s Sports.
Her goal right now is to “get as healthy as possible,” she told co-host Lynn Williams. But Mewis, 31, described the months leading up to her decision to have the second surgery as “one of the lowest points of my life.”
The initial injury occurred during a November 2017 match for the USWNT, after which she was sidelined for about six months. While she knew she was dealing with “a really serious injury” to her knee cartilage, she returned and became an integral part of the 2019 World Cup-winning squad.
Mewis managed to play through the injury until 2021, when her knee stopped responding positively to rehabilitation, she said. She played in the Olympics, winning the bronze medal in August, but has not played for the national team since then. She played in two preseason Challenge Cup matches for the Current in March 2022, and those mark her latest appearances in a professional match.
As time went on, she kept getting presented with “worse and worse choices and options” for treatment, she said.
“I think that was the lowest point, I just felt so frozen and numb by the prospect of not getting to have the career I thought I was going to have and I thought I had worked for,” she said.
After considering all her options, she chose to undergo another knee surgery in January, which followed an arthroscopic surgery in August 2021.
Mewis described the procedure as “a big deal,” which is why she hasn’t talked about it much to this point. The surgery placed cartilage donor grafts in her knee, which she said was a “really difficult decision.”
“I felt like I had taken all of these steps to try to get back to playing and I just kind of kept hitting a wall,” she said. “I kept failing in my rehab and having to start over and try all these new things and get more injections.
“And we just had reached the end of the line, where I didn’t like any of the options that were offered to me, which were basically stop or try and get this big surgery. And so it took me like months to make this decision
“There were no guarantees when it came to the surgery either. It was a big surgery. I was on crutches for eight weeks and no impact for, like, eight months.”
Williams remained by her friend’s side as she made the decision.
“You didn’t know what the outcome of the surgery is going to be so you had to be in the right mental space to make sure you were OK with going through this really big, maybe life-changing thing,” Williams said, noting that it was hard to know how to support Mewis as she grappled with her injury.
But Mewis was glad to have Williams’ support, she said.
“I could not decide what to do. And I was so lucky to have you there with me as a friend. I just felt so conflicted,” she said, noting that she sought input from a number of surgeons. “I just wanted more opinions. I wanted somebody to tell me that there was another option and that they knew what I needed to do to fix it. I asked everybody’s opinion, I almost feel like I got too much information.
“And that made me even more conflicted. And I was really just sad. All I wanted was to play.”
Ultimately, Mewis opted for the surgery. She did her rehab at home, where she was surrounded by loved ones. And in hindsight, she believes that she made “the best decision I could with the options that I had.”
She also has gained a lot of perspective over the last couple of years, she said. Her goal now is to “get as healthy as possible.” She is still going to the gym and physical therapy, and she is working toward her goal of getting her knee back “as good as it can get.”
“It still isn’t ever like what I would have chosen,” Mewis said. “It’s so hard to talk about, because I’m in a better place now. So I’m almost laughing about it. But I really wasn’t well.”