It has been a roller coaster of emotions this season for Liverpool FC Women’s team goalkeeper Rylee Foster. The young Canadian was immense during a penalty shootout in the FA WSL Cup match against Aston Villa. Just days later, she was a passenger in a car with friends that wrecked while on holiday in Finland.
“It was the international break and I took the time for the first time in my life to go and visit some friends and kind of unwind a bit and reset before the season kicked on,” Foster described in an interview with Liverpoolfc.com.
“Within 24 hours of being there, the car accident happened and everything kind of went downhill. My memory of that part is pretty much gone but I know I was ejected through the windscreen and a three-day trip in Finland ended up being an entire week in the hospital.
I had seven fractures to my neck and I was told that to go home my fractures needed to be stable. They put me in a hard collar at that moment. They knew the fractures were pretty bad but thought they would be OK within three months’ time. I’d be able to recover and get back to normality.”
After returning to Liverpool, Foster thought she was on the mend, and the worst was behind her. Unfortunately, and fortunately, a consult between club doctor Amelia Woodhouse and neurologists at the Walton Centre in Liverpool revealed the neck injury was worse than expected.
“I’d given Dr Amelia, the team doctor, my CDs which had all my imaging on there. It was then, when they were able to upload all the imaging on to their system, they gave me a call on a Wednesday morning when I was at breakfast with my family to rush over to the hospital as soon as possible.”
“They told me if I don’t get the halo application done that day I would risk severe injury and paralysis because my bones were actually separating apart further. The halo would essentially completely immobilize my neck to 98 per cent. It’s screwed into the four locations in my head, two at the front and two at the back. It transfers all the weight to the chest plate and to the poles so I don’t have any on my neck.”
With the full extent of her injuries revealed, the doctors told Foster they felt she likely would never be able to play the sport she loves. Trying to accept that fact was extremely difficult.
“You almost think your world is over in a way. And I know I was very fortunate to come out of the accident alive. But it’s almost like everything you worked hard for is being pulled away from you. I can’t change what’s happened in the past, what I can do is get myself better with the best quality of life I can. The first two weeks was really challenging for me, probably the darkest moments of my life. But I honestly can’t say I lived in a dark state for too long.”
Through the next few months, Foster turned to Tiktok to share her story, and to document what life is like with the halo device attached. She also began providing updates on where she was in the recovery process, sharing her hope that her prognosis might not be as dire as first expected.
During her interview, Foster revealed some wonderful news.
“I was told that I would never play again, I would never really have a quality life again. And I found out the other day that my bones are almost fully fused and they’re going to be removing the halo device on March 1. From there I can start the rehab process. There’s going to be a lot of rehabilitation needed to get back to just a normal, quality active lifestyle.”
It will still be quite some time before Foster is back to full activity. Liverpool’s manager, Matt Beard, made Foster promise she would take is slow and try to be patient.
“When I told Matt the other day that I could make a full recovery he made me make one promise and that was to be patient with the process and that’s just what I want to do.”
For the time being, Rylee Foster is just excited to return to some sort of normalcy.
“It’s just about enjoying the moment and taking every step at a time. I’m going to be at every game possible, I just want to be there at every game to support the girls as long as I can. So I’ll be at every game - and in a few weeks without a cage on my head so it’s exciting!”
Foster was keen to point out all the support she has had during this scary and challenging process, from the club staff to the fans.
“There’s so many people that have supported me and they deserve to understand and be along with me for the journey. Teammates coming to visit especially when it was really fresh, everyone was there. Without their support this wouldn’t have been easy.”
“The way the club medical team have handled this - Amelia has just taken this in her stride. She’s just a great bubble to have, someone to bounce ideas off and have conversations with and share concerns with. There’s this honest transparency because she’s a doctor but also because she’s just a really good person to talk to.”
“The physio staff, Hina [Chauhan] and Chris [Underwood], have been so supportive and I know they’re already planning ahead and I’m so thankful.
“And the fans, Liverpool fans alone are just the best fan group I’ve ever been a part of. The messages I receive, I can’t reply to every one, but just to see that and hearing my name chanted in the stands after games - that support goes a long way.”
“I want nothing more than to bring them through this, so I’m really thankful for everyone’s support.”