World Cup time in Germany for the International Women’s Football Teams

It’s an exciting time in Germany right now as the Women’s Football World Cup kicked off today with the hosts off to a winning start against Canada, and with France beating Nigeria.

Since 1991, the tournament has been held every 4 years, this being only the second time that the tournament has been staged in Europe since it was last hosted by Sweden in 1995. Germany will be looking to win the Cup for the third time running, and as hosts are the current favourites and the team to beat according to most commentators. There are 16 teams competing for the title, with the final taking place on the 17th of July in Frankfurt.

Having had the privilege of working with the England Women’s under 23’s team for a few years prior to taking on my current role with Leyton Orient FC, I am taking a particular interest in the England Women’s team and hoping that they will go at least one step further than the quarter final stages which is the furthest they have gone so far in the tournament last time out in China in 2007 and in Sweden in 1995. Another fan is my 12-year old niece Anna, who plays for a local team in Sheffield. They had a great season and managed to win their local Cup tournament this year making this uncle particularly proud!

I have nothing but the greatest of respect for top-level Women Footballers who are incredibly dedicated athletes, often competing in a world far removed from that of their male International counterparts and receiving only a fraction of the financial rewards of the men. They commonly work in other occupations or are to be found studying for qualifications in their spare time, all the while pursuing their careers as top-level International athletes. Their level of dedication and training matches that of the men for the most part, and I have found them an absolute pleasure to work with and have been humbled by their dedication to their Sport.

I had the pleasure of watching the England Women’s measured performance during their 2-1 win against the USA earlier this year in preparation for their World Cup bid. The game was held at our very own Brisbane Road stadium, my team Leyton Orient’s home ground, and I had the fortune to sit back, relax, and watch the game as crowd doctor on that occasion. England got off to a great start with 2 early goals and managed to keep in front until the end, despite a goal from the visitors and a USA-dominated second half.

Women’s Football is not without its particular problems when it comes to injuries, with most of us being aware of a well-documented significantly increased risk of ACL injuries in women when compared to their male counterparts. Hartmut and colleagues’s 1 year prospective study of the Women’s Bundesliga published last year in CJSM followed up 254 players from all 12 Women’s Premier League teams in Germany and reported an injury rate of 3.3 per 1000 hours (games 18.5 per 1000 hours ; practice 1.4 per 1000 hours). Most of these (31%) were ankle injuries, with 22.1% knee, 12.9% thigh, and 7.1% head injuries, with a seasonal peak towards the start of the season and with injury rates doubling in the last half an hour of play. The authors noted that most of the severe injuries were non-contact injuries, and speculated that these may well be prevented by ‘certain coordinative training methods’ (Hartmut G et al, 2010). 

This FIFA health and fitness guide for players and coaches, written by Katharina Grimm and Donald Kirkendall and based on original articles published as a supplement on Women’s Football in the British Journal of Sports Medicine in 2007  ,explains some injury prevention strategies for women footballers, and includes the ‘PEP’ programme (Prevent injury and Enhance Performance) with specific exercises focussed on the prevention of the more common injuries including ACL injuries, ankle and head injuries. It also provides additional useful information about nutrition, bone health and some more general topics in a format friendly to coaches and players. Well worth a read.

(picture by WOGERCAN10)

About Chris Hughes
Associate Editor, Clinical Journal of Sport Medicine

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