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The Real Consequences: Unemployment, Isolation, and Lack of Insurance in Women’s Football Due to ACL Injuries

There is no consensus on how to address the anterior cruciate ligament (ACL) knee injury crisis in women’s football. Perhaps because there is no clear solution. What can we attribute the absence of several players from the 2023 World Cup, such as Leah Williamson and Beth Mead from England, Janine Beckie from Canada, and Vivianne Miedema from the Netherlands, to?

The ACL Club has recently gained six new British members, including Teyah Goldie from Arsenal, Faye Kirby from Liverpool, Emma Watson and Gabby George from Manchester United, Caroline Weir from Real Madrid, and Laura Holden from Aberdeen.

How much does the menstrual cycle, which 2017 research suggests can increase ACL laxity and the risk of injury during the ovulatory phase, play a role? Does the environment in which female players grow up, playing on subpar pitches and with limited knowledge of female physiology from medical teams, mean that every player is at risk of an ACL injury?

What about the packed fixture list, including an international calendar condensed due to the pandemic, which will see top players participating in five major tournaments (Olympics, Euros, World Cup, Olympics, Euros) in just five years from 2021 to 2025? Leah Williamson, for example, will not return until after Christmas after suffering an ACL injury in April.

It is hard to shake the feeling that if this crisis affected male players to the same extent, football would have found a solution by now. Sports science continues to research the mechanics of the female body, but funding for this field remains severely lacking. It is not an exaggeration to describe this generation of women footballers as guinea pigs.

No wonder so many female players feel that the true mental toll of the ACL crisis in women’s football is being ignored.

Three players have spoken to The Athletic, hoping that someone will listen. If the powers that be won’t protect them, they hope their fellow players can take measures to protect themselves.

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