England captain Leah Williamson ruled out of World Cup

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England captain Leah Wiliamson will miss the 2023 Women’s World Cup after Arsenal confirmed that the defender ruptured her anterior cruciate ligament in a WSL defeat by Manchester United on Wednesday evening.

Williamson went to ground in pain after 11 minutes of the match at Leigh Sports Village, and was carried off the field on a stretcher. The 26-year-old now faces surgery before a long road to recovery, and will miss the World Cup in Australia and New Zealand, which begins in July.

“We can confirm that Leah Williamson suffered a ruptured anterior cruciate ligament in our Barclays Women’s Super League match against Manchester United on Wednesday night,” Arsenal said in a statement on Friday.

“Leah was substituted in the first half of the game at Leigh Sports Village and underwent further assessment on Thursday to determine the extent of the injury. Leah will now begin a period of rehabilitation and is set for an extended spell on the sidelines. She will undergo surgery in due course.

“Everyone at Arsenal will be supporting Leah closely throughout the journey ahead and we would ask that her privacy is respected at this time.”

England, who won Euro 2022 to position themselves as one of the favourites to win the upcoming World Cup, will have to do so without their leader.

“Until I have the words to express my feelings properly I will struggle to verbalise them,” Williamson posted on Instagram. “The noise around the situation is loud and I need some quiet to let it all sink in.

“Unfortunately the World Cup and Champions League dream is over for me and everyone will think that’s the main focus, but it’s the day to day of what I’m about to go through that is the most draining of my thoughts. I had my tears and made my peace with it the night it happened and since then I have been following the steps I’m told to, in order to best help myself in the short and long term.

“Ultimately, I think it’s just my time. In the past couple of years alone I have watched teammates beat serious illnesses and adversity with the biggest of smiles on their faces. I also hold perspective that globally there are much greater difficulties and therefore my circumstances right now are just that, circumstantial, and I’ve seen a lot worse.

“I haven’t had a day since last October when I’ve walked on to the pitch without a physical or mental question mark over me, and that’s professional sports. So now I have to listen to my body, give it what it needs and if everything happens for a reason, then we’ll see what road this turn sends me down.

“I have given and will continue to give everything that my body, mind and heart possibly has to the Arsenal and Lionesses, I will still be there through thick and thin for all of my teammates and their biggest supporter. I feel your love and support, so thank you! All I ask is for a little bit of time and space to deal with all that is to come…XXX.”

Williamson is the third player Arsenal have now lost to a season-ending ACL injury following forwards Vivianne Miedema and Beth Mead.

It is a problem not just at Arsenal but across the women’s game, with female players considered six times more likely to rupture an ACL than their male counterparts. A number of theories relate to the shape of women’s bodies, the menstrual cycle and the fit of their boots, as well as scrutiny over the standards of strength and conditioning care in the game, but there is no clear consensus for the reasons behind the trend.

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