The administration has long been focused on eliminating the student-athlete divide, but they have overlooked one of the most fundamental ways that they enhance the division: by providing the services of the athletic trainers’ office only to varsity athletes. This limitation in our sports medicine is a problem not only because it propagates a student-athlete division on campus, but also because health care is a human right. Furthermore, it is a right that we have paid for; every student at the College is required to have health insurance, yet we are not allowed equal access to our school’s healthcare facilities.
We have many club sports whose athletes are just as deserving of the athletic trainers’ services as the athletes in varsity sports. Club athletes are just as likely to get injured, but without any help from the athletic trainers, they are much less likely to receive treatment for those injuries. If they want any medical treatment, injured club athletes must venture to the Health Center, which is not as conveniently located or as well-prepared to provide quick access to sports medicine. The Health Center isn’t meant to care for sports injuries, but it’s the only option the College provides for injured club athletes. As a result, many club athletes are left to buy their own bandages, ointments and heat packs, although these items are available free to their peers in varsity sports.
I began my time at Williams as a varsity athlete on the cross-country team. Cross country is a sport known for its high injury rate, and I soon grew accustomed to stopping by the trainers for an ice bath or an ice pack after a hard workout. When I developed an overuse injury in my knee this fall, I relied on the athletic trainers for evaluations, therapy exercises, heat treatments and ice baths. They were incredibly caring and responsive to my questions and concerns. This spring, I joined WUFA, our women’s club ultimate Frisbee team. I’m personally still able to visit the trainers’ office because I’m still a member of the cross-country team, but it strikes me as entirely unfair that my new teammates are not able to visit the trainers with me.
Several times during practice I’ve seen my teammates fall, collide or twist their ankles. It pains me to realize that their injuries will not receive the same treatment as those of my cross country team mates. An ankle sprain is just as painful and will take just as much time and treatment to heal when it occurs during an ultimate scrimmage as when it occurs during a trail run, and it should receive the same standard of care.
In order to ensure that there is not a student-athlete divide on campus, we must begin by eliminating the student-athlete divide in the services provided to students.
One of the most powerful ways to do this is by opening the athletic trainers’ room to students who participate in club sports.
I know that providing the services of the athletics trainers to so many additional students will be expensive. The athletic trainers are already quite busy, especially in the mid-afternoon rush before practices start, so serving club athletes may require hiring additional trainers. However, this is not a convincing argument against expanding the trainers’ services. In fact, the large number of students participating in club sports makes the disparity in Williams’ healthcare services all the more shocking because so many students are receiving second-class medical care. Yes, it will require additional funding to provide club athletes with access to the athletic trainers, but the issue is important enough to merit the investment, and this investment, once made, could substantially improve the health of many Williams students.
The next time I go into the trainers’ room, I want to be able to take my teammates on WUFA with me. And when we get there, I’d be happy to wait in line behind a member of the water polo team, the sailing team, the club volleyball team, the cycling team, the rugby team, the men’s ultimate team or any other athletic club on campus. When that day comes, Williams will be one step closer to eliminating the student-athlete divide, and the world will be one step closer to providing everyone with equal access to healthcare.
Alison Smith ’15 is from Chapel Hill, N.C. She lives in Gladden.