Wales face Norway in Oslo tonight looking to edge nearer to a place in next summer’s European Championships. One woman who won’t be in the Norwegian capital is Megan Wynne, who recently suffered a serious knee injury. But the Bristol City star is targeting a return in time for next summer’s championship finals as she tells Steffan Thomas.
Megan Wynne is taking inspiration from Jess Fishlock as she travels the long road to recovery after rupturing knee ligaments.
The Bristol City Women’s star has an ultimate goal to represent Wales at Euro 2022, with Fishlock alongside her. Megan had been making waves in the Women’s Super League for the Robins – during a season-long loan from Tottenham Hotspur – when she suffered a huge setback in August just a month after making her switch of clubs a permanent one.
Shortly after returning to training following the Covid-19 lockdown, the 27-year-old was ruled out for nine months after damaging her anterior cruciate ligament.
While she acknowledges there will still be some dark days ahead, Megan points towards Wales’ most capped player Fishlock as an example of resilience in the face of adversity.
“This is the first serious injury I’ve had,” she says.
“There are a few girls at Bristol who have gone through the same injury as me and they’ve been really supportive and helpful.
“It’s quite a common injury in women’s football. One of the girls recently made her comeback after nine months out with the same injury so that gave me some hope.
“You’ve got players like Jess Fishlock who have recovered from the same injury as well. Although it is a bad injury, and you wouldn’t wish it on anyone, I’m confident I can come back stronger.”
Wynne’s perception that her injury is a familiar blow for many top female players is one that has been interesting sports medics and bio-mechanical experts for some time.
Research in both the UK and the USA has claimed top women players may be four to six times more likely to suffer serious knee ligament injuries compared to their male equivalents.
The work is examining specific exercises that may help players to lessen the risk.
— Megan Rose Wynne (@MegsWynne) August 13, 2020
“The injury happened in training,” adds Megan. “We’d only been back in training a few days and it was the first contact session back.
“It was in a game scenario. I was playing up top and one of the girls on the other side had the ball played into her.
“I thought I could nick it, so I lunged forward in front of her and she fell on the inside of my knee, which is an impact injury. The knee was in a weird place and it caused the knee to twist and rupture that ligament.
“Normally, they say you hear it pop or you feel it go. It felt a little bit weird but I thought I’d just twisted it.
“I was even okay to jog around, but it was only in the evening when it started to swell that I got concerned.
“It required major keyhole surgery. They take some of the hamstring and re-attach it back with the ACL which was floating around in the knee, so they attached it back together.
“I was in a lot more pain after the surgery than I was before which is quite strange, but because it was a full rupture it wasn’t there anymore so they had to put it all back together.
“I don’t think I’ll be doing any running until the five month mark. It’s about getting the leg straight and learning to walk properly. One step at a time.
“It’s about building it up now, but it looks like a nine month recovery timescale.”
One of the often overlooked consequences of suffering a serious injury as a professional sportsperson is the loneliness it can cause.
Day by day, week by week.. felt good to venture out for the first time 😍✨ pic.twitter.com/pt0XsZ495i
— Megan Rose Wynne (@MegsWynne) August 18, 2020
While your team-mates are out training, you are subjected to months of rehab in the gym away from all the socialising and banter.
Megan – who qualifies for Wales through her grandparents – is braced for a tough few months, but insists she is at the best club possible to support her through her recovery.
“It’s been really tough being away from the squad,” she says. “The first game of the season came and it was really tough not being out there on the pitch.
“For me, the worst thing is I’ve only been full time for the last two seasons. I went full time at Spurs last season and didn’t get the chances I needed to show what I could do.
“I went on loan at Bristol City and then Covid happened, so I thought this season was my chance to go out there and show what I’m about. I worked really hard over the lockdown period on my own.
“I came in for fitness testing after the lockdown and felt the best that I’d ever felt so to suddenly have all that taken away from me was the worst thing. But I’m lucky to be in an environment where I could have a scan and surgery so quickly.”
Wales travel to Oslo on September 22, where they will face Norway in a crucial Euro 2022 qualifier. Jayne Ludlow’s side are a mere four points behind the group leaders as they seek to book a place in the Euro finals which will be held in England.
Megan has missed out on the big qualifier, but is confident Wales have the ability to reach a major championship finals and is excited for the future of women’s football in Wales.
“I think over the last few years we’ve seen the rise of the Wales women’s national side. Now, it’s about taking it to the next step and actually qualifying for the first major tournament.
“I think the squad that we’ve got is full of really talented players and most of us are playing in the WSL, which is now one of the most sought after leagues in the world.
“I think we are a team that’s only going to get better with a lot of talented young players coming through. It’s now time to push on and show what we can do. Jess is the most capped player in Wales so she was definitely an inspiration to many players who have come through the Welsh system.
“We can learn a lot from her and having her back in the squad will be a massive boost. Her experience and leadership will definitely get the team motivated.”