Thu. Jul 18th, 2024

The dreaded ‘ACL’ are three letters that strike fear into professional female footballers.

Over the summer anterior cruciate ligament (ACL) injuries were a hot topic, notably because one of the game’s showpiece events – the Women’s World Cup – was cruelly deprived of a handful of its most exciting talent.

Among them were Arsenal pairing Beth Mead and Vivianne Miedema, who suffered the same fate within one month of each other – two of four such instances of ACL injury within the Gunners squad overall last season.

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Beth Mead is consoled by team-mates Steph Catley and Lia Walti

Joined in Arsenal’s treatment room were England captain Leah Williamson and Austria midfielder Laura Wienroither, who were also forced to spectate from the sidelines as the biggest and best edition of the Women’s World Cup got under way in July.

During an exclusive sit down, Sky Sports got the chance to quiz both Mead and Miedema, who are also partners outside of football and share a home together, about their unique experience of supporting each other through one of the game’s most difficult, and often isolating injuries.

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Beth Mead returned to the pitch officially in October after nearly a year out

“It felt important to share our journey,” Mead began, when asked to detail why it was important to document her road to recovery so intimately. “There’s been quite a pandemic of this specific injury so we owed it to the next generation to try and figure out a better solution, a better plan that could minimise the risk of this nasty injury.”

The attention surrounding ACL trauma has grown since a spate of high-profile injuries rocked the sport; between 25 and 30 players – enough for an entire squad – missed the World Cup in the summer because of ACL tears.

But Dutch international Miedema is keen to avoid a scenario where young players’ development suffers because of the fear or worry of an ACL injury, and wants to be part of a growing awareness campaign around preventative measures, to help reduce the problem at source.

She said: “One of the reasons we wanted to do this documentary was so the next generation won’t be scared of injuring their ACL, because help exists. The next step we need to make is getting young girls more prepared to come into pro football. So far it’s not been a priority but I think it should be top of the list.”

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Mead scored the opener as Arsenal beat Chelsea 4-1 in front of a record Emirates crowd recently

Mead’s injury coincided with another particularly difficult time in her life, as her mother June lost her battle with ovarian cancer. Beth explains how the loss helped her process the bigger picture.

“It wasn’t nice having the job I love taken away from me for an extended period of time, but my perspective ‘everything happens for a reason’. It gave me some special time with my mum and my perspective was; I will come back from this injury.

“What my mum had, she couldn’t come back from. So what we suffered is nothing compared to what some people are going through.”

Miedema added: “Looking back, we’re very grateful that I could be there for Beth and she had the time to spend with her mum.”

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After Vivianne Miedema’s long-awaited return to action, we take a look at some of her best goals for Arsenal in the WSL

Both Beth and Viv admit to having very different outlooks when it comes to their respective injuries struggles, as is commonplace.

Some athletes are better at compartmentalising than others, particularly when it comes to such a lengthy rehabilitation period – ACLs have one of the highest recovery burdens, and account for nearly one-third of all playing time lost due to injury.

“Viv and I are very different in this so that’s why we always laugh,” Beth continued. “I love the game like I did when I was six-years-old, whereas Viv has a different outlook on football.”

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Arsenal’s Beth Mead reflects on the moment she returned to the pitch after a devastating ACL injury halted her career in 2022

Miedema said: “I don’t necessarily think it’s a different outlook on football. We both love the game, we apply the game and we’re both really happy to be back playing, but I do think I needed that break more than Beth did – she had the best summer of her life in 2022.”

Of course Miedema is referring to Euro 2022, a tournament the Lionesses won, with Mead as Golden Boot winner.

“You do start appreciating different things and in the end, it’s been a learning process for both of us,” she added.

Lastly, the pair spoke about how their Arsenal family rallied around during the tough times, and how the unusually high number of injuries suffered among the squad in a single season (four), actually made for a unique support group – one that was better equipped for the ups and downs of recovery.

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Biggest teacher’s pet? Your dream dinner party? Arsenal duo Beth Mead and Vivianne Miedema go head-to-head in Roll The Dice

“Last year, when everyone had the injuries, everyone stepped up on the pitch,” Miedema reflected. “But for us, the most beautiful thing was any time we needed anything, everyone would be ready to help us out. In the end it gave everyone a bit of motivation. It’s definitely bought the team closer together.”

Beth said: “We’ve had some nice memories and some silly moments when daft things have happened. It wasn’t all doom and gloom.”

Speaking about the emotion of her official comeback in mid-October, Beth finished by saying: “A lot of nerves, but a lot of excitement.

“We’ve worked hard to get to that point. I trusted the process to come back and be ready. It was at the Emirates, the place where I did my knee, which was a nice tick box to get it out of the way early.

“It was a really nice day for myself and the team.”

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The post Beth Mead and Viv Miedema: Arsenal duo discuss new docuseries Step by Step – a tale of loss, grief and recovery appeared first on WorldNewsEra.

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