On Tuesday, FIFPRO announced the launch of Project ACL, a three-year research initiative designed to address a steep uptick in ACL injuries across women's professional football.

Project ACL is a joint venture between FIFPRO, England’s Professional Footballers’ Association (PFA), Nike, and Leeds Beckett University. While the central case study will focus on England’s top-flight Women's Super League, the findings will be distributed around the world.

ACL tears are between two- and six-times more likely to occur in women footballers than men, according to The Guardian. And with both domestic and international programming on the rise for the women’s game, we’ve seen some of the sport's biggest names moved to the season-ending injury list with ACL-related knocks.

View this post on Instagram

A post shared by Just Women’s Sports (@justwomenssports)

Soccer superstars like Vivianne Miedema, Beth Mead, Catarina Macario, Marta, and England captain Leah Williamson have all struggled with their ACLs in recent years, though all have since returned to the field. In January, Chelsea and Australia forward Sam Kerr was herself sidelined with the injury, kicking off a year of similar cases across women’s professional leagues. And just yesterday, the Spirit announced defender Anna Heilferty would miss the rest of the NWSL season with a torn ACL. The news comes less than two weeks after Bay FC captain Alex Loera went down with the same injury. 

Project ACL will closely study players in the WSL, monitoring travel, training, and recovery practices to look for trends that could be used to prevent the injury in the future. Availability of sports science and medical resources within individual clubs will be taken into account throughout the process.

ACL injuries in women's football have long outpaced the same injury in the men's game, but resources for specialized prevention and treatment still lag behind. Investment in achieving a deeper, more specialized understanding of the problem should hopefully alleviate the issue both on and off the field.

Janine Beckie is one of many players who won’t compete at the 2023 Women’s World Cup as the result of an ACL tear. The Olympic gold medalist for Canada tore her right ACL last month while playing in an NWSL preseason game for the Portland Thorns.

It isn’t news that women’s soccer players are more likely to tear an ACL than their male counterparts. Studies have found that women are up to six times more likely to sustain the injury. But Beckie doesn’t want that stat to become normalized.

“I think that a lot of people have boiled it down for so long to ‘Oh, it’s just more common in women, and a common injury in women’s soccer.’ but it seems like there’s been this massive jump in the amount that it’s happening now. I don’t know what the reason is but someone needs to figure it out,” Beckie told Reuters.

The 28-year-old forward called for more resources for the women as the number of games on the calendar increases.

“You’ve changed the schedule to mimic the men yet you’re not giving the female players the same level of resources,” she said. “Premier League players are playing 40-, 50-plus games a season and are able to maintain fitness levels because they’re treated like gold, which they should be. If you’re going ask an elite athlete to play 50 games a season, you’ve got provide them the top-of-the-line care.”

Beckie isn’t the only sidelined player calling for action.

“I think it’s way too common in the women’s game,” England national Beth Mead recently told FIFPro.

“I think if that had happened in the men’s game, a lot more would have been done sooner. It’s important for us to drive the different factors and aspects around why it’s happening so often.”