When members of the New England Free Jacks professional rugby team needed someone to watch their backs, they sought out Hopkinton resident Karson Mui.
Mui, a sports chiropractor, has worked with the team for four years, including this season, when the team went 16-2 and won the Major League Rugby championship.
“I’ve seen the team grow from kind of a fledgling professional team to what it is now,” he said. “It’s been a pretty crazy journey.”
In addition to seeing the players in his office, Mui handles pregame prep work and is on the sideline at home games in Quincy to address any immediate needs. While he says he was brought into the organization because the team desired someone who could do spinal manipulation, he also does a lot of soft tissue work.
Mui has a long history of working with athletes, although it’s primarily been managing venues for action sports such as Nitro Circus — which features dirt bikes, skateboarding and various stunts. He also works as a branch director for medical volunteers at the Boston Marathon finish line area.
Mui started working at the Boston Marathon in 2012, and he was in the main medical tent in 2013, when the finish line was bombed.
“I was one of the first people to go out that door to see the actual cloud of smoke from the bombing, and I was part of the first wave of [doctors] who went out,” he recalled. “I didn’t get to the finish line to see the gruesome portions of it, but I ended up doing a lot of escorting people into the main medical tent, and I did a lot of shrapnel care that day, patching wounds and filling gaps. We had everybody come through us — we saw all the amputees and everyone right there.”
That horrific event did not stop Mui from returning the next year and every year since.
“No hesitation,” he said. “I’m the type of guy who does not let things put him down, and it was the only way I could beat the [constant] nightmare, was to actually go back and go through it.”
Mui’s path to chiropractic care was not a direct one. After studying biotechnology at Northeastern University, he started working in the biotech field for about two years before deciding he did not want to work in a lab.
Recalling how he was helped by a chiropractor when he dealt with injuries as a wrestler at Wellesley High School, he did some “soul searching” as he sought out a career in which he could directly help people. He got a graduate degree from Palmer College of Chiropractic in Florida and returned to Massachusetts to open a practice in Newton. Mui also has done hundreds of hours of extra training to obtain diplomate status, which puts him in elite company nationally.
In 2018, he moved with his young family from Cambridge to Hopkinton, where his brother resides.
The next year, he started working with the Free Jacks, who keep him busy.
“It’s a pretty high-contact sport,” he said. “They’re hitting each other with no pads on, no helmets — everything’s all about technique. The front-row guys have a lot of neck issues, the backs are quick but they get rattled by guys twice their size, so a lot of times I’m dealing with chronic or acute muscular-skeletal injuries that develop over time because of the sport.”
Normally, Mui does not attend road games — there are other medical personnel who travel with the team — but for the championship match on July 8 in Bridgeview, Illinois, he was called into action.
“It was the championship, so they wanted the whole kit and caboodle,” Mui said. “They wanted the hometown feel for these guys, and it worked.”
The “underdog” Free Jacks recorded the game-winning score with five minutes remaining and held on for a 25-24 victory over the San Diego Legion.
“It was absolutely bananas,” Mui said.
The champions trophy is a giant shield, and Mui was watching it in the airport terminal as the team waited for its flight home. A man approached Mui and asked for team autographs and took a photo with the shield. It turned out to be Dropkick Murphys lead singer Ken Casey, whose Boston-based band had performed at the game.
Mui is hoping to return to the Free Jacks next season, and in the meantime he will continue to work with Nitro Circus and some action sports Olympic qualifiers. He said he had an offer to work at the Paris Summer Olympics next year but doesn’t want to leave his wife and two young daughters — as well as his practice — for that much time.
“I’ve been everywhere, all around the country and international as well,” he said. “But family comes first.”
Pols on parade
The Hopkinton Republican Town Committee would like to see the annual Horribles parade return to town. The event has been on hiatus since the pandemic, with the Main Street Corridor Project contributing to its cancellation the last two years.
Members of the HRTC put together a display on a pickup truck featuring American flags and a poster reading “Horrible Hopkinton has no July 4th parade,” and they drove the traditional parade route at noontime on a rainy Independence Day.
“The Hopkinton Republican Town Committee was disappointed that there was no organized parade to celebrate Independence Day,” the HRTC wrote in an email. “So in the best tradition of Hopkinton on the Fourth of July we had our own. … Building on our past, we have plans for the future.”