How to manage outbreak of ACL Injuries in Female Football

Anterior Cruciate Ligament Injury


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Vivianne Miedema of Arsenal suffers ACL

Players are afraid and concerned at the push of anterior cruciate knee ligament injuries in women's football, says Birmingham City's Siobhan Wilson.

Star players such as Leah Williamson and Vivianne Miedema have suffered the injury in the last few
months. There were three or four players in the period of two weeks, defender
Wilson, who injured her ACL in April, told The Sports Desk podcast.

That's no luck. Each female player probably does have a concern.

Scotland midfielder Caroline Weir is the most recent top player to sustain the injury, rupturing
her anterior cruciate ligament playing for her country against Belgium.

Surgeon Nev Davies,who has expertise in treating knee problems, told the podcast there had been a
plague of cases in the women's game at grassroots level.

Davies said: The datawe are getting through, not just from the UK but from around the world, you
talk about an endemic of ACL injuries and obviously we're hearing about the
elite game and the Lionesses because that's in the media.

Unluckily, there is this plague of ACL injuries that we're seeing.

With the 2023-24Women's Super League season which resumed on Sunday, 1st October, 2023 what is
the solution to the ACL crisis in the game?

As well as the injuryto Real Madrid's Weir, Manchester United midfielder Emma Watson sustained a
similar injury also playing for Scotland in September, 2023 - while Arsenal
forward Beth Mead is near to returning after missing England's World Cup challenge
with cruciate ligament damage.

At last People are realizingthat this is serious, added Wilson, who suffered her injury playing against
Southampton in a Women's Championship fixture in April.

I entered thechallenge and as I planted my right foot to change direction on to my left, my
knee has gone in and out. I heard a weird noise, like a pop, and I knew I had
done something wrong.

 


I didn't observe it untilI couldn't walk and I was on crutches.

When you get an injury and it stops you from performing the one thing you know, you feel like you lose
your identity a little bit, said Wilson.

Research shows female athletes are about six times more likely to have a non-contact ACL injury
than male counterparts.

It's a destructive injury for anyone at any stage of their career, added Davies, who said the unforeseen
effects of the injury were challenging.

I won't let my patients get back to playing football for 12 months following surgery because
we want to give it the best chance of a good result.

It eventually has a unexpected effect on their mental health.

Recently, Arsenal's Jodie Taylor - who announced her resignation from football recently - explained
the link between menstrual cycles and anterior cruciate ligament (ACL) injuries
in women's football as intimidating.

I do think menstrual cycles are a big part of it. I think it's loads, load management, it's the
amount of games that we're playing, and it all comes together, she said.

Expectantly, the more research that comes out will help. Because it is an issue. It is frightening.

Women's health specialist and sports scientist Dr Emma Ross told The Sports Desk podcast that
more venture was needed in the women's game.

She added: Unease is looming around ACL injuries that is impacting girls in the game right now.

More money and wealth into women's football will help because it means there will be more show
support teams, power and conditioning coaches, physios.

We suppose that ifyou're in a women's team attached to a big club, they will get access to all of
the things that the men's team get access to. That often isn't the case.

We cannot expect the women's game to grow at the rate it is growing if we aren't putting in the communications
to stop the players breaking.

With the new WSL in its first few weeks, Dr Ross said it was serious the elite women's calendar was
looked at to prevent ACL injuries.

A few of these players were at the Euros in 2022. They then had a domestic season and then went to the
World Cup. Now they are going into another domestic season, she added.

There should be a look at the scheduling and the calendar, and protect players. Or else we are going to lose them [to injury].

What makes ACL injury to occur

Emma Hayes, manager of defending WSL champions Chelsea, said there's still a lot of work still to do
when asked about the reasons behind the number of ACL injuries in the women's
game.

One of the biggest pieces of research, my medical team are going to kill me - I think this is an
important point - about the valuable lessons to learn around injury analysis is
that the vast majority come within 10 days of changes from international breaks
to club, or from club competition to international breaks.

Hayes added: It's not as simple as saying that different teams have a different training load or
travelling schedule, or recoveries etc. We need to really reflect on what we
do.

This is why I think it needs to be looked at by Uefa or Fifa.

If you want to do a piece of research, go back through all those major injuries and how quickly
they coincided with big changes, combined with menstrual stuff, training,
pitches etc. That's just my opinion. There's a lot of work still to do.

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