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ACL plague continues: Three women’s footballers join latest injury list

Three players suffered anterior cruciate ligament (ACL) tears while on international duty for the UEFA Nations League, contributing to the ongoing tally of footballers already afflicted by this debilitating injury.

Belgium and OH Leuven attacker Hannah Eurlings, along with two Scottish midfielders – Caroline Weir of Real Madrid and Emma Watson, the new summer signing for Manchester United – all received the unfortunate news of their ACL tears this past week, sidelining them until further notice.

Watson was the first of the three to rupture her ACL in Scotland’s final training session last Friday, ahead of their 2-1 loss against England.

The 17-year-old is currently undergoing treatment and rehabilitation at Carrington with United after joining them this past summer from the Rangers.

“Everyone at Manchester United will be working closely with Emma to support her recovery,” they said.

On Monday, she took to X – formerly Twitter – to announce the news. 

“Last Thursday I had to face my biggest footballing fear…Football is a journey full of highs and lows and I truly believe everything happens for a reason. This is a new challenge for me and I’m determined to smash every goal that United and I have set for the coming months. Thank you for all your kind words of encouragement and support. The comeback is on!”

Belgium’s first game of the tournament against Netherlands, which ended in a last-minute 2-1 win for the Belgians, saw Hannah Eurlings go down in the 35th minute that same day, later confirming a season-ending injury for one of their own.

Eurlings has been an up-and-coming young player on the Belgian side; even being given the title the ‘Eden Hazard of the Red Flames‘ by many media outlets in Belgium.

After making her professional debut at just 16 years old with OH Leuven, she began climbing the youth teams for Belgium, making her national debut two years later.

“Hard to accept the fact that I will not be able to do what I love the most,” she said in an Instagram post. “Already focusing on my recovery and eager to bounce back.”

Continuing to join the long list of 195 professional women’s footballers who have torn their ACL in the last year, Weir took a hard landing 13 minutes into Scotland’s late 1-1 tie against Belgium this past Tuesday.

Despite trying to play it off, she was forced off the pitch seven minutes later.

Scotland manager Pedro Martinez Losa expressed his concerns about her treatment during the game, alleging that Belgium deliberately sought to injure their “best player.”

He also criticized the refereeing standards in the Nations League after the game on Tuesday: “I think it’s very important that we compete at this level. We were punished on Friday with a decision from the referee, and tonight I don’t think the referee was even aware of what was going on.”

Real Madrid – whom she joined on a free transfer from Manchester City in 2022 – announced her injury Thursday on their website.

“Following tests carried out on our player Caroline Weir by the Real Madrid Medical Services, she has been diagnosed with a ruptured anterior cruciate ligament in her left knee. She will undergo surgery in the coming days.”

Weir posted on social media with her own announcement.

“Absolutely gutted to be sidelined for a long period of time…I know there will be difficult moments coming up but I’ve been lucky up until now to have never had a serious injury so I have a lot to be grateful for.”

The Scottish star received much support from other women footballers, including Alessia Russo, Lucy Bronze, Rachel Daly, Sam Kerr, and Leah Williamson.

The injury list continues to grow, with female footballers 6 times more likely to rupture their ACL than men, begging the question – why?

With limited research into the root causes of this plague, the apprehension shared by players on both the men’s and women’s sides deepens, as the nightmare scenario becomes a distressing reality for an increasing number of football players.

Fans and players of all levels have been pushing for more to be done to prevent these possibly season or career-ending injuries for a while, but nothing has been done about it.

Until more resources and research are put into the cause and prevention of ACL tears, we will unfortunately have to continue watching players suffer.

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