Changing the game

Senior overcomes arthritis to play club lacrosse


Sam Findley

Madison Harrigan stands with her lacrosse stick during the girls lacrosse team’s senior night on May 2.

Ava Hoover, Staff Writer

Senior Madison Harrigan has been a part of Center Grove athletics since the second grade. In elementary and middle school, she was involved with the swim team, dance and color guard. Over the past two years she has played on the Center Grove JV lacrosse team, and, most recently, she started playing “Max Lax,” which is a faster version of lacrosse. 

Through all of this, however, she has had to manage arthritis. She was first diagnosed when she was only two years old. Balancing sports and her diagnosis of arthritis has been challenging at times. 

“Arthritis made it harder for me to keep up with certain activties,” Harrigan said. “I remember when it was really bad in second grade and my doctor told me that I could not run, which meant I was not able to do any of the sports I did.” 

But Harrigan did not let this diagnosis keep her from participating in school sports. Harrigan had to restrict herself from doing sports that require a lot of running so she wouldn’t get hurt.

“So that’s why I did swimming and then later, color guard,” Harrigan said. “I did color guard because I saw a callout meeting for it. It looked fun, and I liked to dance. That’s why I chose color guard, and I did lacrosse because my sister did lacrosse since she was in third grade and then I managed the team a little bit in middle school.”

Through her two years of lacrosse, she discovered “Max Lax,” a high-intensity lacrosse program. Due to the competitive nature of the sport, she had to again adapt due to her arthritis.

“Max Lax is a lacrosse league. On Thursdays we would play two 20-minute halves which are faster games, time-wise, and then the field is smaller so you have to move faster. It also makes the game faster and makes the game more intense,” Harrigan said. “It was definitely a learning curve for me but also good because I had to learn to adapt and keep up. It’s more competitive because we played all lacrosse in our state instead of just our division.”

One way that she has dealt with the pain is medication.

“I managed the pain by taking an injection once a week called ‘Humira,’ and it keeps all of my inflammation down, and then I take prescription Tylenol as needed when it’s really bad,” Harrigan said. “Then I also take extra vitamins to make sure everything is up to date so a lot of medications. I make sure to take care of my body, it’s my highest priority.”

However, she eventually had to turn to surgery in order to increase the flexibility and mobility of her ankle.

”I had a surgery in seventh grade and what that did was I had extra bone chips that had to be removed. I was missing a bone in part of my ankle that had to be replaced so that was a total reconstruction,” Harrigan said. “I had one in September of 2022, and that was a little bit of reconstruction, but mostly taking down the bone inflammation and to just have a more mobile ankle.”

While Harrigan’s surgeries have been tough for her to go through, she is grateful that they have allowed her to succeed at sports. 

“It helped me do better at sports and daily life and fitness,” Harrigan said. “My surgeries are probably one of the hardest things I’ve had to overcome. You’re in bed for a week or two, and you’re very limited to what you can do so that was emotionally and mentally really hard. If I didn’t have the surgeries and I didn’t have lacrosse I wouldn’t be the person I am because it made me a stronger person.” 

Because of her experiences, Harrigan has become an arthritis advocate and gone to Washington D.C. to lobby for research for the Arthritis Foundation. She has also been the foundation’s Jingle Bell Run and Walk honoree. She was the “Face of Arthritis” for a campaign with massage envy, a massage therapy company. 

Harrigan has not let medical diagnoses get in the way of doing what she loves. She has been through surgeries and continues to take medication to allow her to enjoy sports. She has learned to not only build physical strength, but also the mental strength that it takes to be successful.