The reason why many incredible women athletes are backing out from the Women's FIFA World Cup is shocking, to say the least.
Women's football has been picking up over the years, with pro football booming on an international and premier league level. With more clubs opening for women every day, women are slowly but surely paving their way into the realm of sports.
On one hand, while there is so much growth and potential for women in the field of football, there are also some roadblocks women, in particular, seem to be facing while playing the sport, which is shocking, to say the least. And here’s what it is.
The most common factor in women’s football
With the world gearing up for the Women’s Football World Cup, there is so much to look forward to in 2023. But, despite being exceptional players, stars such as Leah Williamson, Beth Mead, Vivianne Miedema, Janine Beckie, Christen Press, and Catarina Macario will not be a part of the upcoming World Cup, which just began last week. And the reason will shock you.
It is none other than a common injury, which is an ACL tear. ACL or anterior cruciate ligament tear is something that all these women are facing at the moment. It is also something that Ellie Carpenter and Alexia Putellas also suffered from, but they luckily recovered on time, just in time for the most awaited women’s football tournament.
Now coming to the elephant in the room, why the ACL tear?
Women in football and ACL tears
As per ESPN, this is what the Press had to say about it in ESPN’s Futbol Americas:
"I think the amount of ACL injuries in professional women's soccer in the last two years has just been shocking, And I think if the caliber of players from Beth Mead to Miedema to Alexia [Putellas], in every league; international players doing double duty, stars. ... If this happened on the men's side, we would've immediately seen a reaction of how are we going to solve this and figure this out and make sure that these players are going to be available at the biggest moments of their career."
The reason women suffer from ACL injuries
It is a known fact that women athletes suffer from ACL tears at a two to eight time rate as compared to their male counterparts. It is a pretty common injury for women athletes, particularly football players, as per several medical studies and journals. While genetics and training play a huge role in preventing/adding to injuries, it is more complex than that.
As per an ESPNs article on the topic, Dr. Holly Silvers-Granelli, the owner of Velocity Physical Therapy in California, there are various key factors as to why women injure their ACLs as compared to men.
Key factors for ACL tears
The physiological reason is the first and foremost reason, with women having smaller ACLs as compared to men. Along with this, the notch in the femur that the ACL passes through is narrower as well, which leads to more potential for injury in women.
The second reason is the playing ecosystem. The grass vs. artificial field debate comes into question here, along with the football boots or cleats that women wear. It is a fact that cleats specifically for women have only been in design and production for the past seven years, and women-specific cleats aren’t as advanced as the ones that men have. Just like cleats, even in terms of training, women are only slowly gaining access to high-quality facilities and coaches to guide them.
And the third and possibly the most obvious reason is hormones. Women have a shift in hormones at various phases of their menstrual cycle, which in turn alters the laxity and looseness of the ligaments.