St Mirren boss welcomes study with numerous women footballers crocked by ACL injuries

St Mirren Women head coach Kate Cooper
St Mirren Women head coach Kate Cooper -Credit:Allan Picken

Kate Cooper has welcomed the launch of a project to explore why so many women footballers suffer career-threatening injuries.

The Professional Footballers’ Association (PFA), Fifpro, Nike and Leeds Beckett University have joined forces to fund research into anterior cruciate ligament (ACL) injury prevention.

And it’s something the St Mirren women know all too well as there are 11 players at the club who are currently out with an ACL injury or have recently recovered from one.

Project ACL was launched earlier this week and comes off the back of numerous high-profile ACL injuries in the women’s game, with stars such as Arsenal’s former Ballon d’Or Féminin nominee Vivianne Miedema and England and Arsenal players Beth Mead and Leah Williamson affected.

Saints have three players out with ACL injuries including long-term absentee Maxine Fury, who has been on the NHS waiting list most of this season awaiting surgery.

Lauren Christie from the senior team and academy prospect Sophie Rodger are the other two players side-lined by the injury.

The first team also includes three players who have had and have now recovered from ACL injuries and, across the youth teams, another five.

“It’s a really welcome step forward and I think that it’s great,” said head coach Cooper. “It’s one of the things that we recognise as a club. We’ve got kids at the grassroots level who are facing that every single day and these injuries are taking them out of the game.”

The problem is so extensive in the women’s game that Cooper says more than 10 per cent of the club’s players, across the first team and youth squads, are suffering from, or have endured, ACL injuries.

She added: “The women’s game is massively under-researched and under-resourced and if we’ve had so many ACL injuries at the top level then that’s being replicated on a much larger scale all the way down.

“The ones that make the news are just the tip of the iceberg. The problem underneath that is large.”

The project will work with clubs and players in the FA Women’s Super League (FA WSL) to better understand their current working environment, identify best practice and provide solutions to support the reduction of ACL injuries.

The PFA say ACL injuries are two to six times more likely to occur in women than men, and about two-thirds of ACL injuries occur in women’s football when there is no physical contact.

However, there is little understanding about how to reduce their frequency in professional women footballers, with most existing research and injury reduction programmes focusing on amateur players.

Cooper explained: “The things we need to take into consideration – is it training methods? Is it football boots? Because you have to remember we’ve effectively played in football boots that were designed for men, not for women.

“Is it connected to the menstrual cycle? Is it connected to muscle mass and how our body’s built? Is it playing surfaces?

“Hopefully this research will give us a clearer picture on that and we can start taking more targeted preventative measures.

“I think there will be a number of factors that will need to be addressed then it’s about how we respond to that and prevent future injuries.”

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