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Vivianne Miedema spends World Cup ‘waiting for next big injury’

Vivianne Miedema trains with Arsenal in July. The Netherlands star is recovering from an ACL tear. (David Price/Arsenal FC via Getty Images)

Vivianne Miedema is missing the 2023 World Cup with an ACL tear. And as an observer, she is concerned about the growing number of injuries at the tournament and in women’s soccer overall.

The Netherlands star laid out the feelings she is going through as she watches this year’s World Cup, which have ranged from sadness to frustration to fear, she wrote Monday in an op-ed for The Athletic. Miedema tore her ACL in December in a match for Women’s Super League club Arsenal, but she had been advocating for a better solution to the injury problem in the women’s game even before her own ACL tear.

Already, the World Cup has seen one ACL tear – Haiti’s Jennyfer Limage went down against England in a match had to stop watching. To see other players tear their ACLs is “the hardest part of being injured,” Miedema wrote.

Many analysts and fans feared the worst when England’s Keira Walsh went down with an injury in the Lionesses’ next game. While Walsh avoided a tear, her knee injury still underscored the recent rash of injuries in the women’s game.

“It’s worrying that we live in a world where there’s a need to announce it’s not an ACL injury,” Miedema wrote in The Athletic. “Because so many players are out with ACL injuries, we think every player who goes down with a knee injury has one, too. That isn’t always the case. Not knowing the outcome keeps us all scared.”

Miedema pointed to the number of players already out with injuries, including the astounding number of players from the U.S. who are missing the tournament, from Becky Sauerbrunn to Mallory Swanson, Catarina Macario to Christen Press.

“Every time I watch women’s football at the moment, I’m waiting for the next big injury to happen,” Miedema wrote.

While she has been proud for her Arsenal teammates, including Australia’s Steph Catley, it is hard to realize that she and several of injured teammates “not there. You feel so proud – but so sad.”

FIFA and UEFA need to change the packed playing calendar – and take responsibility for the number of injuries, Miedema says. The workload is too heavy for players in a game that is becoming quicker, more intense and more physical. She also would like to see squad numbers grow internationally and domestically, and she would like to see more support from managers and clubs through increased player rotation and more medical staff.

“Before I got injured, I’d been playing every single game for my club or the national team for eight or nine years. It’s just too much,” she wrote. “One positive to being injured is that this is the first time in my adult life that I haven’t had the pressure of having to perform or be a leader.”

With the World Cup shining a spotlight, Miedema hopes the World Cup will make “stakeholders realize something needs to change.”

“To watch a World Cup with 10 of the best players out injured — either at the tournament or recuperating at home — is not a good advertisement for women’s football,” she continued. “From bitter experience, I know it’s even worse for the players themselves.”