May 07, 2024

Anterior cruciate ligament injuries: a challenge to address in women's football

May 07, 2024

Anterior cruciate ligament injuries: a challenge to address in women's football

A rupture of the anterior cruciate ligament (ACL) is the nightmare of any footballer. Just think that in October 2023, while playing for the Brazilian national team, Neymar suffered precisely a rupture of the anterior cruciate ligament in his left knee, and after several months, having missed virtually the entire sports season with Al Hilal, he will not be physically fit to compete in the Copa America, starting at the end of June. However, if this is a grim injury in men's football, in women's football, the available information reveals an even more frightening reality.

According to FIFPro, citing recent research, the likelihood of an ACL injury is two to six times more likely to occur in a female player than in a male player, with about two-thirds of these injuries occurring in situations where there is no physical contact in women's football.

It was precisely this injury that sidelined several athletes from the 2023 World Cup. However, the reality of this injury in female athletes, as well as how to reduce it, is still poorly understood, given that most existing research focuses on male athletes and, in the case of women, the available information is based on amateur players.

To help combat this problem, at a time when women's football is growing at an accelerated pace, FIFPro, the Professional Footballers' Association, Nike, and Leeds Beckett University have founded the ACL Project, in which they collaborate together to accelerate research aimed at reducing these types of injuries.


The goals of the ACL Project

The ACL Project actively focuses on players from the FA Women's Super League to better understand the current working environment, identify best practices, and provide solutions to support the reduction of ACL injuries.

This project will conduct academic research analysis related to professional women's football, ACL injuries, and existing injury reduction programs, as well as an assessment of the needs of multidisciplinary teams and structures of the 12 FA Women's Super League clubs to better understand their resources and access to facilities.

Over three years, there will also be real-time tracking of workload, travel, and presence in "critical zones" of FA WSL players through the FIFPRO player workload monitoring tool.

The aim is for the partners to translate optimized techniques and academic findings into clear strategies to support clubs and players in implementing best practices to increase athlete availability.

Although this project focuses on the top tier of English women's football, the goal is for the findings, through FIFPro and other partners, to share research results with FIFA and regional confederations.