There’s an injury epidemic in women’s football and growing concern and discussion over how to address it. Freelance journalist Alina Ruprecht had the chance to ask FC Bayern Frauen coach Alexander Straus about the situation in December and transcribed his answers on Twitter:
“I don‘t think it’s based on the club or the federation only. The higher authorities need to have a look at it. The schedule for the next years is going to be crazy. (...) It comes down to squad size and rotations. If players play week in, week out, there will be problems.
“If you go back a couple of years, (…) the amount of games that the players played, and how rapidly it changed after the pandemic, it‘s very important to control the load in this period. Maybe we went from zero to 100 too fast.
“Now, a lot of the best players in the world are out with serious injuries, especially ACLs. We cannot close our eyes to it, it‘s an issue that needs to be addressed. (…) The main thing is, like always, to put the players in front.
“They are human beings and [we should] not just think of them as football players. (…) We have a fantastic medical team here (…). It‘s difficult, but we do everything we can at Bayern. We need to protect the girls.”
Bayern Munich’s Giulia Gwinn is among the high-profile stars who recently suffered an ACL tear — which she suffered while on international duty with Germany. Arsenal FC’s Vivianne Miedema and Beth Mead both tore their ACLs as well in the closing weeks of 2022. And FC Barcelona's two-time Ballon d’Or winner Alexia Putellas tore hers while preparing for the European Championships last summer.
Swedish footballer and Chelsea FC star Magdalena Eriksson (penned an op-ed for iNews UK entitled — “There is simply too much football and it’s starting to hurt players like me.” This was in response to FIFA’s unilateral decision to create even more football — expanding the men’s Club World Cup as well as creating a women’s edition of the tournament. In it, she details her own struggles after the EURO summer of 2022 and pointed to a disparity in physiotherapy resources across women’s clubs. She also pointed to the state of the field, highlighting the need for “women-specific research” in an arena where models are informed more by data and experience from the men’s game.
Indeed, one school of thought is that it isn’t merely the quantity of fixtures but the timing of them — as well as the managing of training loads throughout the year:
Women's football arguably doesn't need fewer games, but more games. The problem is that there are periods of MANY games and periods of hardly any games within the season.— Marc P. Lamberts (@lambertsmarc) December 17, 2022
More games + spacing it out correctly over the season will contribute to better management of fitness. https://t.co/NU2iE0sEt6
With the FIFA 2023 Women’s World Cup on the slate for next summer, and the 2024 Paris Olympics the summer after that, the match congestion isn’t going to take a break anytime soon. That only highlights the greater urgency for the governing bodies of the sport to take steps to address the situation and mitigate any further fallout to the players.