Wales Boss Rhian Wilkinson Calls For More Injury Research After Losing Elise Hughes

WREXHAM, WALES - APRIL 05: Rhian Wilkinson, Head Coach of Wales, looks on during the UEFA Women's European Qualifier match between Wales and Croatia on April 05, 2024 in Wrexham, Wales. (Photo by Jan Kruger/Getty Images)

Wales Boss Rhian Wilkinson Calls For More Injury Research After Losing Elise Hughes

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By Gareth James

Wales boss Rhian Wilkinson has welcomed the “science” to understand why so many female footballers suffer anterior cruciate ligament (ACL) injuries after losing Elise Hughes for the rest of the UEFA Euro 2025 qualifying campaign.

Hughes was top Crystal Palace scorer with 16 goals in 21 games as the Eagles secured promotion to the Women’s Super League by winning the Championship title.

The 23-year-old also scored twice in the 6-0 win in Kosovo last month as Wales followed up their opening victory against Croatia in style.

But Hughes was soon undergoing surgery after rupturing her ACL on Palace duty, joining the likes of WSL stars Beth Mead, Jill Roord, Leah Williamson, Sam Kerr and Vivianne Miedema who have suffered similar injuries.

Initial research has shown ACL injuries are two to six times more likely to occur in women than men, and about two-thirds of them happen in women’s football when there is no physical contact.

Wilkinson said: “The research is not finished, it has only just started. Finally people are recognising it’s not a small problem, it’s a major problem in the women’s game.

“I can only theorise that it’s connected to a real uptake in the number of games being played.

“The stresses on their bodies and a lot of our girls and women are not getting top, top training until much later at 15 or 16. So academies are starting now so these players will then maybe prepared for the load.

“We’re actually putting women who maybe had their first full-time coach at 16 into two or three-game weeks, and there’s a fatigue that hasn’t been accounted for.

“The men are complaining that their off-season is short now, but for women it’s happened very suddenly. I look forward to seeing the science behind it as I only have my thoughts on it.”

Wilkinson has named a 26-strong squad for the double-header against Ukraine, who started their campaign by beating Kosovo and losing in Croatia.

Wales host Ukraine in Llanelli on May 31 before playing the same opponents in Poland four days later – and Wilkinson has yet to name a captain for the two games.

Sophie Ingle stepped down as Wales captain after the 4-0 win over Croatia, with Jess Fishlock taking the armband in Kosovo while winning her 150th cap.

Wilkinson said: “I’m feeling a lot of pressure to name someone, but there are a lot of women on this team who could wear the armband.

“So I’ll take my time to make that appointment.”

Squad: O Clark (Bristol City), L O’Sullivan (Cardiff), S Middleton-Patel (Watford, on loan from Man Utd), P Soper (Ipswich, on loan from Charlton), R Roberts (Real Betis), C Estcourt (Reading), J Green (Leicester), H Ladd, G Evans, M Davies (all Man Utd), L Woodham (Seattle Reign), E Powell (Bristol City), S Ingle (Chelsea), A Griffiths (Southampton), A James (Seattle Reign), L Joel (London City Lionesses), R Rowe (Rangers), C Jones, F Morgan (both Bristol City), J Fishlock (Seattle Reign), C Holland (Liverpool), E Jones (Sunderland), K Barton (Charlton), M McAteer (Sunderland), O Francis (Man Utd), T Teisar (Cardiff, on loan from Bristol City).

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