Women's football has seen an incredible surge in popularity in recent years, with more viewers, sponsors, and players participating in the game than ever before. The Barclays Women’s Super League continues to develop, and this year’s dramatic and enthralling FIFA Women’s World Cup in Australia and New Zealand captured the imagination of us all, with the Lionesses making their first World Cup Final.
But, as the game grows, so too do the risk factors involved – and one stands out more than most.
Throughout this article, we'll delve into the reasons behind the increased risk of ACL (Anterior Cruciate Ligament) injuries among female footballers, real-world examples of players impacted, and the paramount importance of insurance coverage to protect female athletes from the potential financial devastation of such injuries.
What causes this increased risk within the women’s game?
It’s not a clear-cut picture yet, and scientific study on the matter continues apace. The correlation is clear, and while causation is still somewhat unknown, there are some clear factors that are having an impact.
Physiology: One significant factor contributing to the higher rate of ACL injuries in women's football is physiological differences. Studies have shown that women tend to have a higher risk due to differences in knee anatomy and muscle activation patterns. These variations make them more susceptible to ACL tears, especially during sudden pivots, jumps, or tackles. Compounding the issue, some studies have noted the impact that menstruation and contraceptive medication can have on the laxity of the knee ligaments.
Boot and kit design: Surprisingly, even the design of football equipment can play a role. Historically, football kit has been primarily designed with men in mind. Ill-fitting boots and kits can affect a player's stability and increase the likelihood of injury. Tailored equipment specifically designed for women's anatomical needs is essential in reducing this risk.
Increased game time: As women's football gains more attention and popularity, players are participating in more matches, both domestically and internationally. The increased game time raises the exposure to potential ACL injuries due to the higher frequency of physical demands. The FIFA Women's World Cup serves as a prime example, with players facing rigorous schedules that can lead to fatigue and, unfortunately, injuries.
While we continue to study the why, it’s clear the risk is prominent.
During this year's FIFA Women's World Cup, notable players like England's captain Leah Williamson, the Netherlands' all-time leading women's scorer Vivianne Miedema, and England's top scorer in Euro 2022, Beth Mead, were all unable to participate due to ACL injuries.
Additionally, rising star Cat Macario from the US Women's National Team (USWNT) and Germany's Giulia Gwinn, who was named the Best Young Player at the 2019 Women's World Cup, faced the same unfortunate fate. Switzerland's teenage midfielder Iman Beney also had to withdraw from the national team just a day after receiving her call-up.
The urgent need for insurance coverage
While men's football has seen tremendous financial growth, women's football still faces a glaring wage disparity. Male footballers, particularly those at the top of the sport, often accumulate generational wealth over their careers. They may have the resources to support themselves in the event of a career-ending ACL injury.
However, the same still (though this is improving) cannot be said for female players.
Many female footballers do not earn the exorbitant salaries of their male counterparts. They often rely on their football careers as their primary source of income, and as a result insurance becomes an indispensable safety net that provides financial security in the face of a career-threatening injury.
Women's football is on an exciting trajectory, gaining recognition, support, and admiration worldwide. However, the heightened risk of ACL injury continues to plague the sport, and players are only now realising the potential implications it can have on not just their playing career, but long-term earning potential.
With higher wages, prize money, and sponsor fees on the table for female footballers, the risk of loss becomes even more important, and a comprehensive policy can provide female footballers with peace of mind, knowing that they are financially protected against the uncertainties of a career-threatening ACL injury.
As women's football continues to thrive, insurance coverage becomes a crucial aspect of safeguarding its future and ensuring that athletes can pursue their dreams without fear of financial ruin.