Treating athletes equally

In the past week, there has been a major improvement that allows club athletes a service that used to only be granted to varsity athletes: For the first time, club athletes can make appointments with the College’s athletic trainers to look at sports-related injuries. This improvement should be recognized for its worth, yet even after this new change in policy, a major inequality between club and varsity athletes remains at the level of trainer access each enjoys.

The College has always provided the service of athletic trainers to all its varsity athletes. My friends who have taken advantage of this service have always had the highest praise for the trainers and often claim that their quick recuperation was due to their deft work. At most varsity practices, there is a trainer on the field to attend to any injuries that may occur, and athletes who experience any type of pain can visit the training room that is open daily to all in-season varsity athletes from 1 p.m. to 7 p.m.

As a non-varsity athlete, I was always jealous of this service. When I sprained my wrist playing squash, I didn’t know where to turn and ended up pretending to be a cross country runner to get my wrist looked at. This situation just seemed wholly unfair to me. As a Williams student, my tuition is equal to that of any varsity athlete, and therefore I should be provided with the same medical aid. After all, Williams is a Division III school where the divide between varsity and non-varsity athletes is quite minimal, and as a result there should have been no legitimate reason for there to be such a significant disparity between the College’s treatment of the varsity athletes and the rest of the student body.

However, an e-mail from my rugby coach a few days ago informed me that Williams has mitigated this inequality by allowing club sport athletes to receive injury evaluation and rehabilitation advice from certified trainers. For the rest of the year, there will be a weekly clinic held at the Health Center from 1 p.m. to 2 p.m. where club sports athletes can set up appointments for one of four allotted time slots.

While this new practice may be a step in the right direction, it is far from an end solution. When non-varsity athletes (or varsity athletes who are not in season, since they too aren’t allowed to see a trainer) get injured playing their sport, they would in most cases go to the Health Center for medical treatment. While the doctors and nurses there are certainly qualified in the medical field, they unfortunately don’t specialize in athletic injuries. If a club sport athlete gets injured during a practice or game, his options for treatment are limited if all four of the time slots are filled up.

This paucity of available slots really poses a significant problem. The riskiness of some of the club sports should make it clear just how imperative it is for those athletes to be allowed the same access to the medical trainers as varsity athletes. Both rugby and water polo players are more likely to get injured playing their sport than golfers or squash players, yet because golf and squash are varsity sports at Williams, they have the right to visit one of the seven athletic trainers anytime they happen to slip on a misplaced divot. This is downright illogical. The ultimate frisbee team alone has more members than almost any other team on campus: There are bound to be quite a few injuries due to the mere size of the team, if not also the danger of the sport.

Williams has every right to limit the kinds of situations where athletes are allowed to visit the trainer – lest they start showing up to the training room to receive medical help whenever they pull their hammy sprinting to Snack Bar before equivalency ends. However, the trainers should be there to rehabilitate those Williams students who have injured themselves while playing a sport, regardless of whether it is a varsity sport or not. To prioritize the health of those who play a varsity sport over that of a non-varsity athlete is a case of ungrounded favoritism. The College has clearly taken steps towards understanding this unfortunate predicament, yet there are still restrictive clauses in place that need to be remedied as well – for club athletes add just as much to campus life as most varsity sports. They wear the same purple and gold colors, bring the same glory to Williams College across the country and, unfortunately, suffer from the same athletic injuries as varsity athletes. It’s about time for equal treatment for all Williams athletes.

Raphael Menko ’12 is from Philadelphia, Pa. He lives in Wood.