England Women's Football Team Selection Affected by ACL injuries

06/06/2023

Sports Writer, Millie Simon, assesses the England Women's football team selection and the worrying number of ACL injuries in the women's game.

Article Image

Image by Ailura

By Millie Simon

The Fifa Women’s World Cup 2023, hosted by Australia and New Zealand, is just under two months away. The USA (four time champions of the Women’s World Cup) are looking to defend their impressive winning streak. There is also the expectation that the Lionesses could do well after their impressive win at last summer’s European Championships. At the same time, the Australian women’s team are in contention for success on home turf, not least thanks to the presence of their striker Sam Kerr.

Earlier this week, England’s manager Sarina Wiegman announced her England squad heading to the World Cup, which contains a few changes from the winning Euros team.

Former England captain and Arsenal defender Leah Williamson, Chelsea forward Fran Kirby and Arsenal forward Beth Mead, are all missing from the England line-up after sustaining serious injuries during the domestic season.

Leah Williamson, England’s European Championship captain, is absent from the World Cup line-up due to an anterior cruciate ligament injury picked up whilst playing back in April. Whilst Williamson’s captaincy was an integral part of England’s success, Wiegman has chosen Chelsea defender Millie Bright to captain the Lionesses during the World Cup, with Manchester United goalkeeper Mary Earps as vice-captain.

Lioness fans are excited to see Aston Villa forwards Jordan Nobbs and Harrogate- born Rachel Daly featured in the line-up. Nobbs wasn’t included in the Euros competition due to an injury; and Daly, having previously played a defensive role, is now a forward for both Villa and England after scoring 22 goals in the last domestic season, winning the Golden Boot.

Some supporters have criticised Wiegman’s decision to not include Manchester United defender Maya Le Tissier, despite having a successful season playing every single league game and helping Manchester United reach second place in the Women’s Super League. Whilst she’s not in the starting twenty-three, Wiegman has selected her as a reserve.

Whitby-born Beth Mead, sustained an ACL injury back in November 2022, and whilst she was determined to recover in time to make it to the World Cup, Wiegman announced there was no chance she would make it into the squad.

Women’s football has received a lot of attention in the last few years over the increased number of ACL injuries. The ligament is found inside of the knee and joins the thigh bone to the front of the shin bone. Some players can rely on rest and rehabilitation to regain strength in the knee, but most have to undergo surgery for this potential career-ending condition.

Recovery time can last between nine to twelve months, resulting in an extended period of time away from the pitch, potentially missing out on significant tournaments.

The growing number of such injuries has invited a lot of speculation as to why the women’s game is more affected than the men’s, with some suggesting that genetic make-up of female players make them more susceptible to tearing their ACLs.

Four players during a period of six months have sustained ACL injuries from the Arsenal women’s team alone. Dutch international and Arsenal top scorer, Vivianne Miedema (who’s currently suffering from a torn ACL), suggests a number of reasons why women are more affected.

She explains that football boots are still in some cases designed for men only, and with the poor condition of many of the football pitches that the women have to play on, injuries are a lot more likely to occur.

She also adds that women’s football doesn’t have the same access to resources as the men’s game, such as full-time physios. Miedema points out that the women’s game has increased from 30 matches a season to 50, with only minimal increases in specialist physio therapy resources.

In an interview she noted that influential associations such as Uefa and Fifa are more interested in the financial returns being generated by the increased games, rather than the physical and mental health of the players themselves.

With two of England’s most experienced players missing from the squad due to ACL injuries, Wiegman will have to considerably change her strategy from the Euros win last summer.

That said, England still go into this World Cup with high expectations from fans and pundits alike.

Their success at the European Championships has fuelled growing interest in the women’s game and being unbeaten for 30 games, England certainly have a target on their back.

The team lost their unbeaten run with a 2-0 defeat to Australia in April. Whilst Wiegman reassured fans she’s not worried about this defeat, Australia are one of the favourites going into their home World Cup - clearly with good reason.

The FIFA Women’s World Cup this summer will be the biggest tournament in the competition’s 32-year history; confirmed to begin on 20th July with England’s first game on 22nd July against Haiti.