England Netball CEO Joanna Adams has shared with Sky Sports that the prevalence of anterior cruciate ligament injuries in women is an issue that is top of mind within the organisation, as they investigate what more can be done about them.
This season, ACL injuries – and statements subsequently announcing them – have become all-too familiar sights. Maddy Proud, club captain of the NSW Swifts, was the latest to have her season ended in the cruellest of fashions this week.
The statement from the Swifts, confirming the worst, means that the 25-year-old now faces a long road to recovery that could mean up to 12 months on the sidelines.
The NSW Swifts can confirm the unfortunate news that club captain @maddyproud has ruptured the anterior cruciate ligament in her right knee and will miss the remainder of the 2019 @supernetball season. She’s down, but not out. Leave your love in the comments, full details on our website ❤💙 #GoNSWSwifts
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In May, a second ACL rupture in two years cruelly denied Commonwealth Games gold-medallist Beth Cobden the chance of playing at a home World Cup.
Also this season, Queensland Firebirds’ Mahalia Cassidy required a second knee reconstruction in three years, whilst Madi Browne was ruled-out during Magpies’ pre-season training.
Research into ACL injuries has already highlighted a greater prevalence in women than men, and one of the potential reasons for that has been linked to hormones and to the menstrual cycle.
“I was absolutely shocked when I read that – that the amount of ACL injuries that women have is absolutely determined by the menstrual cycle,” England Netball’s CEO said to Sky Sports.
“That is unbelievable. We can do so much preventative work if that is actually proven and it is a scientific fact.
“We’ve spoken internally that we should really be leading this piece of work.”
Adams and the team at England Netball quickly sought the opinions of those around them to try and start to shape a clearer picture on the topic.
“It is quite shocking. We’ve just done a bit of a straw poll on it, and actually when you look at it, it is accurate. The ACLs that our players have had, they have said that it was at that time of the month,” added Adams.
“It is a bit of a shocker, really, but at least we know it now, we can address it and hopefully do something about it. ACL is a big issue.”
This area of physiology, and the further work that’s needed behind it, is something that spans across women’s sport and isn’t solely related to netball.
England footballer Jordan Nobbs, whose own ACL injury ruled her out of the ongoing Women’s World Cup in France, spoke openly about her own beliefs supporting the potential link between the menstrual cycle and the injuries.
Nobbs, like Adams, is keen for further research to take place, and on International Women’s day in March, the English Institute of Sport announced their SmartHER campaign.
The campaign is aimed at being ‘smarter in how it supports female athletes from a performance perspective as well as general health and well-being’.
One element is undertaking athlete research projects, of which investigating the effects of the menstrual cycle is a specific project itself. Other projects include identifying new tech to monitor female hormones and the optimal environment for female athletes to thrive.
Three years ago, Sky Sports looked at the rising number of ACL injuries in netball, and since, the sport has continued to accelerate forwards at pace.
Athletes are faster and stronger than ever before, and the evolution of the sport, with continual contesting, means that the toll that a match takes on netballers’ bodies is greater than ever before.
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