Research shows why female players face growing ACL risk

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Written By Maya Cantina

The demands of professional football are making female players more vulnerable to issues like anterior cruciate ligament injuries, the world players’ union has found.

Increased workloads, travel and lack of rest were shown to be factors in the serious injuries sustained.

Of the 139 elite players Fifpro analysed, 58 were injured over the 2021-22 and 2022-23 seasons.

Knee injuries were the most common, with 12 players suffering ACL problems.

Fifpro’s player workload monitoring tool was used to collect data from leagues in England, France, Germany and Spain.

Compared to non-injured players, those with damaged ACLs were shown to typically have made a higher number of appearances for club and country, travelled long distances more often, and regularly had to cope with under five days between matches.

The report also found injuries to the thigh and hamstring were frequent among top players.

Fifpro chief medical officer Prof Dr Vincent Gouttebarge said it was “especially ACL injuries” that had been shown to be associated with fixture congestion.

He added: “Not only should a better-balanced match calendar be coordinated among all international and national stakeholders, [but] travel demands and quality of multi-disciplinary teams who are managing players also need to be considered to provide footballers with healthy playing conditions.”

Two-time Women’s Ballon d’Or winner Alexia Putellas was one high-profile player to sustain an ACL injury on the eve of the European Championship in 2022.

The midfielder spent 10 months in recovery before making her return with Barcelona in April and then lifting the Women’s World Cup with Spain in the summer.

Three-time Women’s Super League champions Arsenal have been without a number of players because of ACL injuries over the past year.

Arsenal defender Leah Williamson and forward Beth Mead both missed England’s Women’s World Cup campaign in Australia and New Zealand because of ACL injuries, while Gunners team-mate Vivianne Miedema is slowly making her comeback after knee surgery last December.

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