Thorns FC

Medical Director Stephanie Ludwig starting a new chapter with Portland Thorns FC

Stephanie Ludwig spent two seasons with the Portland Timbers before being named the Director of Medicine and Head Athletic Trainer for Thorns FC in January.

Stephanie Ludwig is no stranger to headlines, in fact most Portland natives will remember her as the first female to be named head athletic trainer for the Portland Timbers, and just the second female to ever hold such a title in the history of Major League Soccer.

But that was two years ago. For the past two years Ludwig has proudly served as the Timbers’ head athletic trainer, working day in and day out with some of the top soccer players in the world, ensuring they are physically equipped to go out and compete at the highest level each and every week.

Ludwig was happy and excited to continue in her position with the Timbers, gratified by the work she did with professional male athletes and with no intention of seeking a change.

That is until October of last year when Ludwig was presented with an opportunity to interview for a position with Portland Thorns FC.

“It wasn’t something I was actively seeking, but I figured ‘why not listen?’” Ludwig explained. “I was incredibly impressed by the passion from Karina [LeBlanc] regarding the vision and direction the club was heading in, and suddenly I wanted to be a part of it.

“I want to make sure to thank the Timbers staff for their patience and willingness to let me pursue this opportunity. But there was this call, deep in my gut, it was time to make the switch.”


So, in January of this year the Thorns officially named Ludwig as their new Director of Medicine and Head Athletic Trainer.

“We’ve heard our new owners, Lisa and Alex, talk about women’s sports and women’s soccer as being at an inflection point and they are exactly right,” Ludwig shared. “It’s something I’m drawn to, something everyone should want to be a part of.”

Building out and leading her staff one can see that draw, as the Thorns now boast one of the largest medical staffs, nearly doubling in size from last year to now. But despite being quote-on-quote ‘in charge,’ Ludwig believes in the ability for everyone to learn and grow from one another, creating a deeply emphatic department that leans on each other to provide the best possible care for the athletes.

“At my core, and in my heart, I lead from where I’m from as a midwest kid, kindness was ingrained into me,” Ludwig said. “I believe that I can influence and be influenced, and that I can lead while still being challenged and growing.”

When asked why she ultimately chose to make the jump the answer was easy and simple, “Because of the city and this organization, specifically.”


Despite not being a Portland native, Ludwig feels a kinship to the Rose City. Like many who move here, she’s fallen in love with the small, but big city, and the feeling of being something bigger than yourself.

“This is the only place where the community embraces you just as much as they do the athletes. It’s Soccer City USA and the Thorns are at the center of it all,” Ludwig said. “Portland loves soccer and so do I. How could I not want to be a part of it?”

While her hiring with the Thorns won’t make the same splashy headlines as it did when she made history with the Timbers, the weight and gravity of the role remains the same.

But perhaps being a part of a history-making Portland Thorns team will mean more.