In the second half of a club soccer game against Providence College earlier this semester, Kate Collier ’25 was shoved from behind and fell on top of her left leg. She felt her leg bend and pop, which “was kind of scary because usually for women, that means an ACL tear,” she said.
Some of her teammates rushed onto the field, while other players ran to get a trainer to look at her injury. According to Collier, the trainers refused to assist, saying they were only available for varsity athletes. Instead, Brown EMS was called and Collier was taken to the emergency room at Rhode Island Hospital, where she spent five and a half hours.
“It was just very hectic and I didn't even get to meet with a doctor,” Collier said.
Collier needed an MRI and went to Health Services the next day for a referral, but they were unable to give her one. After three days, she finally got a consultation elsewhere. Her MRI results confirmed her fears: She had a torn ACL, meniscus and MCL, as well as two bone bruises. She eventually scheduled a surgery through University Orthopedics, an orthopedic care practice staffed by faculty members of the Department of Orthopaedics at Alpert Medical School.
“The doctor that I saw (through University Orthopedics) works at Brown on Mondays and only varsity athletes can use him,” Collier said. “So, I have to do all my physical therapy (off campus) and drive there because I can't use the training room and other resources.”
According to Collier, another player on her team experienced a similar situation the previous weekend.
“Someone on our team broke her wrist and we ran to get the trainers,” Collier said. “We had to beg them — at first, they wouldn't come out and help because they were like, ‘we only do varsity.’”
“Soccer is just a really high-contact sport, and especially since it's a club sport and we don't train constantly, it’s really risky,” she added. “I think it's kind of unsafe to not have someone who we could rely on — even just somebody to get ice from or (with) some kind of medical training.”
Women’s Lacrosse Club saw a similar injury last year when then-senior and captain Lucy Masto ’22 tore her ACL in a scrimmage.
“She kind of just fell and was clearly in pain,” said Eleanor Masto ’24, her sister and current club lacrosse co-captain. “Because this also wasn't an official game — we were just scrimmaging ourselves — there wasn't anyone there.”
Lucy Masto’s teammates ended up walking over to another field, where a high school hosting tryouts for its field hockey team had a trainer on-site.
“We were able to get that trainer to come over, talk to my sister and wrap her knee even though she wasn't super helpful in knowing what was going on,” Eleanor Masto said. “But other than that, we just had her sitting on the sidelines, icing her knee.”
After the game, Lucy Masto got an appointment at a clinic in Boston, where a teammate’s father worked as an orthopedic surgeon. She eventually got an MRI to confirm that she had torn her ACL.
Despite her sister’s injury last season, access to medical resources and trainers remains limited, if available at all for club sports players, according to Eleanor Masto.
“As of right now, if someone were to get injured, we probably would assess the situation at hand,” she said. “If we thought it was going to be something bad, we’d maybe call EMS — I think that would be the only resource we have to go to.”
Eleanor Masto also mentioned that, in a meeting with Intramural & Club Sports Manager Susan Murphy, Murphy told club leaders that club sports do not have access to trainers, which are only for varsity athletes. Murphy did not return a request for comment.
“One example she gave us was that if there's a varsity game happening next to our game, and there's a trainer over there, we're technically not allowed to go over and get that trainer,” Eleanor Masto said.
Though club sports do not have access to trainers, recent increases in club sports’ funding could potentially help each team’s medical services, Eleanor Masto said.
In an email to The Herald, Deputy Athletic Director for Administration Jake Silverman wrote that “this funding, in conjunction with increased support from (the Undergraduate Finance Board), will provide our clubs with the resources they need to be successful.”
Additionally, Silverman added that “club practices and home games are staffed with supervisor positions which are all AED, First-Aid and CPR-Certified and trained on EMS procedures for acute medical issues that may arise” and “in some cases, club sport programs have developed relationships to receive athletic training support at contests through their budgeted funds.”
Still, Eleanor Masto said that a trainer provided by Brown for club athletes would be “really helpful.”
“Two people on the women’s club soccer team have gotten hurt already, so I think it would really be beneficial to have a trainer or someone who we can talk to,” she said.
For the running club, there’s usually Brown EMS, a trainer or at least a first-aid kit at meets, according to team captain Max Heller ’22.5.
If an athlete is injured during a practice, “we would probably send someone to Health Services because we're not supposed to send people to the trainers,” Heller said.
The University hires and pays for the trainers at meets hosted at Brown, but according to Heller, they are not always present.
In the past, the running club made an unsuccessful attempt to get access to trainers, Heller said. In 2019, the club compiled a spreadsheet of members and reasons they would benefit from a trainer. In the spreadsheet, which the Herald reviewed, athletes described long-term injuries as well as associated financial hardships — club athletes are often left to pay for their own medical costs that come with injuries. As a solution, Heller said that Brown University Athletics told the club athletes of a “partnership” with Ortho Rhode Island that people could go to, but it was not close to campus and not free.
Silverman wrote that club athletes who experience acute injuries “follow EMS protocol to receive the emergency care needed, if applicable, and are supported through Student Health Services for ongoing care needs for injury rehabilitation.”
According to Heller, club athletes have not had “great experiences with Health Services,” as he doesn’t think “it’s really the place to go for sports injuries.”
Instead, club athletes are left to deal with injuries on their own.
“Since we don't have access to any trainers, people typically do some sort of combination of self management, whether that's taking time off doing some strengthening, or going to see a (physical therapist), which can be expensive and hard to find,” he added.
A player on Brownian Motion, Brown University men's club ultimate frisbee team, also experienced an ACL injury at a tournament last year, according to team captain Jacques Nissen ’23.5.
“We called the ambulance and we had one of our players who is an EMT accompany him,” Nissen said. “We were pretty well equipped to deal with it in the moment.”
Still, Nissen said that “having access to a trainer is one of the biggest things (the club) is pushing for this year.”
“It’s made it hard on the team — everyone has to be proactive about their own injuries to get the care they need,” he said. “And, it also becomes very much a cost and inclusion issue as some players can’t afford the high costs of physical therapy.”