UW Athletics is not a crutch to rely upon


Next time you’re at CIF, make sure to not twist your ankle or aggravate any muscle that would cause you to temporarily lose your ability to walk, because there won’t be a crutch to rely on. We hear a lot about how the University of Waterloo doesn’t exactly excel in athletics, recreation and general sports culture. Personally, in my time here I have seen much that goes against this narrative among our varsity teams; just about every women’s basketball game I’ve been to, we have comfortably and confidently come out victorious. But hey — even if the teams are bad, if they lose every game, if they look like high schoolers compared to the behemoths they come up against — at least the players have proper support systems around them when it comes to safety and injury prevention (I hope). Sadly, this simply does not exist, even to the bare minimum, in recreational or intramural activities.

I write this after a personal experience stunned my naive sense of trust in UW to invest in injury prevention and care. I was enrolled in semi-competitive intramural basketball last semester, playing alongside my brother and his friends. On one particular play, one of the other team’s smaller players ran into the post-area, smashing into my team member who was grabbing the rebound, causing him to land in an unexpected direction, coming down awkwardly on his ankle, in such a way that would make all but the most experienced nurse wince. He lay there in pain, arms over face, groaning the way that one does when an ankle bone feels out of place. The ref eventually told us the game would continue, and that our teammate needed to be escorted to the bench. This decision, I don’t have a problem with — the game must go on, and even our injured teammate understood. It is what followed that got my blood boiling, and what should upset and disturb anyone playing rec sports at UW. 

Once the game ended, which was not long after the injury, I went to the front desk at CIF, as, in the meantime, we had him place his foot elevated on the bench as he sat on the ground. I was looking for crutches, hoping he could borrow them to get home that night, and return them on a future day. I am sad to report that UW Athletics had NO crutches available for students to borrow, in the case of any leg injury that may occur to a student engaged in recreational sports. This is absolutely outrageous! This would cost the university almost nothing! It is such an easy system to implement — when a student needs to use crutches, they sign them out with their Watcard in the same way a history student signs out a book at the DP library, and in, let’s say, three months or less, they must be returned. It gives the individual time to recover and get their own pair if they so choose, after they have gotten home from the initial injury. There would be at most, what, 25 crutches taken out at any particular time? Even if there are more injuries, too much for the university to reasonably care for — something is better than nothing. This seems reasonable to me. 

But, as it exists today, the crutch of responsibility is on the students’ friends, who must assist the injured individual to their car, and call their parents to bring them a pair from home, which is what happened in the experience I had. If, by chance of unluckiness, the student is at CIF or PAC alone when they get injured, the crutches they must rely on are fellow students who they’ve never met.

There are situations I can think of that would be much more painful and egregious then what my teammate experienced — if it were a worse injury, if they had no parents or friends to help, if they had little money, if they had a midterm the next day. A sad feeling I had when the front desk assistant blankly stared into my eyes, knowingly ill-prepared and sympathetic, stating their lack of crutches — never mind people to help — for my teammate and friend who was in great physical pain. I can not fully describe the puzzled anger. Why? Why doesn’t UW have crutches available for us students? What does this tell us about this institution? 

I argue that UW should provide students with the ability to sign out crutches, for free, with their Watcard for a period of up to three months. If crutches cost $50 — cheap ones cost around $32 — and 25 are bought for this purpose, then that comes to $1,250; $1,250 to prevent students from having to get home alone with a potentially broken ankle in the dark on a slippery sidewalk — sounds good to me. What do you think, UW?