Are Women Too Delicate To Play Soccer Safely?
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From the Washington Post news section:

Team ACL: The growing women’s soccer club that no player wants to join

By Ella Brockway
July 18, 2023 at 8:43 a.m. EDT

… Studies show female athletes are two to eight times as likely as male athletes to tear an ACL, one of the bands of tissue that connect the femur and tibia at the knee. Since 2021, at least 87 players from eight of the world’s top women’s soccer leagues have torn their ACLs. Some of the sport’s biggest stars—such as U.S. attacker Catarina Macario, Dutch star Vivianne Miedema and the English duo of Beth Mead and Leah Williamson—will miss the World Cup because of this injury.

This recent wave is not a statistical anomaly but further proof of an ongoing issue that has no simple solution. Addressing it, many in the sport say, requires a zoomed-out approach that begins at soccer’s lowest levels and peels back all the layers of a gendered problem, from the physiological to the environmental.

The basic fact is that females are more delicate than males, so they tend to get hurt more playing sports. Despite the cleverness of contemporary sports surgeons and patching jocks back up, that can have long term consequences, such as arthritis following ACL injuries.

In a moment of global growth for women’s sports, the ACL crisis strikes at the heart of a broader challenge. How can the infrastructure of women’s sports not simply replicate what exists for men’s sports but be optimized for female athletes? At the top levels of women’s soccer, players argue, such resources have not yet been provided.

Wouldn’t it be more likely that at the top levels, women players are getting “such resources,” and yet top players are getting hurt in large numbers?

There follows a seeming complaint in the Post story: Now that the U.S. women’s world cup team is paid the same as the men’s world cup team, they are expected to play as many games as the men.

Players are expected to be professional footballers. There’s an increase in matches, then there’s an increase in new competitions.

Some of the article is informative:

In movement-heavy sports, a sudden change of direction or an improper landing could spell a tear. Roughly 70 percent of ACL injuries result from noncontact situations.

“The quintessential ACL-busting cohort is in female soccer players,” said Andrew Pearle, chief of the Sports Medicine Institute at the Hospital for Special Surgery. “The numbers are really kind of tragic.”

But the article often doesn’t dare go there. For example, should the rules of women’s soccer be changed to slow down the game, the way no checking into the boards is allowed in women’s ice hockey. Or in much of the world, women don’t play basketball, they play a less rough game called netball that seems to attract a more heterosexual element than hoops.

Similarly, all these crazy winter Olympic sports involving flying through the air have taken a nasty toll on women Olympian’s knees. The obvious response should be to slow down women’s courses and ban women from doing the most dangerous stunts.

But if the majority of ACL tears in soccer happen just because a woman far away from the action suddenly changes direction, can soccer ever be made safer for women? What kind of rule change short of banning running (there is “walking soccer” for oldsters) would help? Maybe females should play other games instead?

But nobody can dare suggest that America’s long, much celebrated investment in women’s soccer was a bad idea.

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