Championship players need medical insurance now, says former Palace striker Gemma Bryan

Gemma Bryan with her former Crystal Palace teammates
Gemma Bryan with her former Crystal Palace teammates

Former Crystal Palace striker Gemma Bryan believes her old club could learn a lot from London City Lionesses after she was left out in the cold following a career-threatening injury, writes Tom Dean.

Millwall’s breakaway club are currently the only team playing in the FA Women’s Championship that provide private medical insurance for their players and face a trip to Palace on Sunday, where the situation couldn’t be more different.

Bryan, 32, tore her ACL while playing for Palace back in April but was released in the summer without undergoing the surgery required to fix her knee and has since had no contact from her former club.

New rules mean top flight women’s sides in England must have medical insurance for their players, but similar rules will not extend down to the Championship until the 2020-21 season.

In the meantime, injured players will continue being left to deal with the physical and mental turmoil themselves – which is exactly what happened to Bryan.

“These injuries are going to keep happening and I know that next season the FA are bringing in rules to say that every club has to have medical insurance for their players which is positive,” she said.

“Insurance is a must – you wouldn’t drive a car without insurance in case it got damaged –it is a no-brainer.

“I think if you are going to be a top-level football club in this country then there needs to be some standardisation of how players are looked after. Obviously, that resonates more with me now because I am one of the unlucky ones that have been injured.

“I am just hoping that players in the future will be protected a little bit better than I have been.”

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Unable to pay for private treatment, Bryan, who works as a gym manager, is still on the NHS waiting list and has even had a GoFundMe page created on her behalf.

The striker, who has scored over 100 goals for Palace, said the only help she had from the club was an initial MRI scan, which was organised by the Crystal Palace’s men’s side.

Bryan said she feels more let down by the communication she received from the club rather than the lack of medical treatment, with the mental struggle of being ‘left in limbo’ proving difficult to overcome.

“Palace started signing players in the summer and I was still a bit unsure what was going on with me,” she said.

“I had no contact from the club saying we aren’t going to re-sign you. I had my friends and family and even my teammates asking me what was going on and I just had to say, ‘I don’t know.’

“The point I am trying to raise is more to do with player-welfare than them paying for my injury.

“The mental health issues are important. I have played football my entire life so to go from that to not playing at all is quite a drastic change.

“I have got to support myself at the same time and if I had the surgery straight away, I’d already be halfway on the road to a full recovery- the longer I have to wait is just more time lost.”