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UEFA introduces a new initiative to better understand anterior cruciate ligament (ACL) injuries

The initiative is the result of UEFA’s commitment to the health and wellbeing of female athletes.

UEFA Women's Nations League football match between England and Netherlands, at Wembley Stadium, in London, on December 1, 2023.
UEFA Women's Nations League football match between England and Netherlands, at Wembley Stadium, in London, on December 1, 2023. AFP via Getty Images

UEFA has announced the introduction of a new initiative centred around awareness and prevention of anterior cruciate ligament (ACL) injuries. The initiative is the result of UEFA’s commitment to the health and wellbeing of female athletes, and an ongoing effort to make the game safer for players.

This type of injury in women’s football has been the subject of attention for a long time. The establishment of a UEFA women's health expert panel, whose work and attention is dedicated exclusively to women's football, reflects the sport's rapid development. Specifically, in regard to ACL injuries, the panel set up a group of internationally renowned experts and researchers, whose mission is to better understand ACL injuries and their prevalence in women's football.

One of the first steps announced by this group today is the creation of an ACL injury awareness questionnaire addressed to all individuals in the women’s football community, with the aim of gathering more insights and addressing the unique needs of each segment of that community. This initial step will help gain an in-depth understanding of the daily challenges faced by individuals affected by ACL injuries in women’s football, be they players, coaches, physicians, physiotherapists, or parents.

The long-term goal is to publish a UEFA consensus on ACL injury prevention and management by the summer of 2024, plus an up-to-date ACL injury prevention programme. The consensus will provide evidence-based guidelines on topics ranging from ACL injury prevention and common risk factors to injury mechanisms and optimal return-to-play strategies, all tailored specifically to women’s football.

This initiative will be at the core of a broader awareness campaign on ACL injuries and prevention, which is expected to start in the second half of 2024, to promote and educate stakeholders on prevention programmes at all levels of women’s football.

Speaking on the occasion of the third UEFA Football Doctor Programme workshop in Zagreb, UEFA Chief Medical Officer Zoran Bahtijarevic, said:

"Addressing the prevalence of ACL injuries in women's football is crucial for the wellbeing of athletes and the advancement of the sport. UEFA's proactive step in establishing a panel of experts reflects a commitment to understanding and reducing these injuries in the future. The questionnaire will aim to gather insights and current awareness, but also to collect robust data to be used as the basis of our consensus and prevention program.

"The collaborative effort from the football community is extremely important, and the hope is that this initiative will foster a safer and more sustainable future for women's football worldwide,” Dr Bahtijarevic added.