Sarah Walsh calls for research into injury crisis in women’s game

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Former Australia forward Sarah Walsh stated that the reason behind the high occurrence of knee injuries in women’s soccer is due to insufficient research and investment. She made this comment in anticipation of the Women’s World Cup.

“I think at the heart of the issue is a real lack of research,” Walsh, who earned 70 caps for Australia between 2004-2012 and scored more than 30 goals, told the BBC on Sunday.

Several players will be unable to participate in the Women’s World Cup, which begins on Thursday, due to tearing their anterior cruciate ligaments (ACL). 

England, the reigning European champions, have been hit particularly hard, with the loss of their captain Leah Williamson (26), Euro 2022 Golden Boot winner Beth Mead (28), and Fran Kirby (30). Other key players from different teams who will be absent due to ACL injuries include Janine Beckie (28) from Canada, Delphine Cascarino (26) and Marie-Antoinette Katoto (24) from France, Vivianne Miedema (27) from the Netherlands, and Catarina Macario (23) and Mallory Swanson (25) from the United States. Research indicates that women are two to eight times more likely to experience ACL injuries compared to men in the same sport, and they are also 25% less likely to make a full recovery. 

There are various theories as to why women are more prone to ACL injuries, including wearing footwear designed for men, anatomical differences in female players, and hormonal changes during women’s menstrual cycles.

“The entire high-performance environment is designed by men for men,” Walsh said. “For a long time, women have been treated like little men. I would have loved to have known if my menstrual cycle would have affected any of my knee reconstructions.”

“We haven’t even scratched the surface. A hundred years of under-investment in women’s football has brought us to this point where we have lost a number of different players for this World Cup.”

“It’s a shame we won’t get to see them play. It’s something we need to invest in, research.”

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