Calf strains, concussions, and the dreaded ACL tear. These are just some of the stars of the 2023 FIFA Women’s World Cup.
With more teams, longer club seasons, and fewer resources committed to helping women in sports recover when they pick up a knock, the tournament has been plagued by injuries. Major stars have been sidelined. Talented newcomers have had their hopes of representing their countries on the world stage dashed before rosters were even named. And underdogs have had their unexpected paths to glory roadblocked.
They’re not the kind of headlines you hope to see from a major sporting event, but they’ve become all too common in the world of women’s soccer and they’ll likely keep happening until funding, research, and more attention is given to the game. Until then, here’s a running list of all of the talent kept off the pitch due to injuries this year, including those who got hurt during the tournament but have fortunately returned to action.
Injured During The World Cup
Jorelyn Carabali (Colombia)
Colombia center back Jorelyn Carabali suffered a nasty knock during the team’s stunning win against Germany in group play. Carabali made a challenge for an aerial ball and was smashed between Germany’s Alexandra Popp and her own teammate. She received a few minutes of treatment on the pitch before being stretchered off. It’s suspected she suffered a concussion and may miss the team’s next match.
Keira Walsh (England)
England’s central midfielder and a key leader for the Lionesses, Walsh suffered a knee injury during a match against Denmark during group play. After an awkward challenge sent her to ground, Walsh immediately signaled for the training staff, saying, “I’ve done my knee.” The fear was that Walsh had suffered a tournament-ending ACL injury but doctors later cleared her of that. She sat the bench during England’s match against China and her return to the pitch is doubtful at the moment.
Sam Kerr (Australia)
Australia’s leading goal scorer shared that she had suffered a calf injury during training just two hours before the Matildas’ opening match against Ireland. The host country would go on to win the match, lose to Nigeria, and pull off an incredible comeback against Canada, all while the talismanic Kerr sat the bench. Kerr has assured fans she’ll be able to play during the knockout rounds — she was able to play in a limited role during the Canada match but, ultimately wasn’t needed.
Wendie Renard (France)
On July 24, France’s captain Wendie Renard went in for an MRI after sustaining a calf injury. Her status during group play was in doubt, with the team’s new coach, Herve Renard, calling it a wait-and-see situation. Renard has suffered calf injuries in the past, the most recent happening in 2022 when she was on loan with the NWSL’s Portland Thorns. Thankfully, Renard returned to the pitch for France’s final group-stage matches.
Mary Fowler (Australia)
Australia’s promising young striker Mary Fowler, who subbed in for Kerr during the team’s opening match, was put in concussion protocol after a particularly intense training session left her injured. Fowler was forced to miss the Aussie’s match against Nigeria, which they lost 2-1, but was able to return to play in their final group-stage game against Canada.
Ada Hegerberg (Norway)
Just before kickoff of Norway’s match against Switzerland, star striker Ada Hegerberg was pulled from the starting XI and seen walking back to the team’s locker room. She would later tell fans she suffered a groin injury in the moments leading up to the game and, after consulting with the medical team, decided to pull out of the match so as not to waste a substitution. Hegerberg missed Norway’s game against the Philippines and is doubtful to return for the team’s knockout round match against Japan.
Aivi Luik (Australia)
Australian defender Aivi Luik also suffered a concussion during the same training session that saw Fowler go out with one. The two injuries caused fans to question coach Tony Gustavsson’s methods but the Swedish football manager said the team was simply “unlucky.”
Jennyfer Limage (Haiti)
Haitian midfielder Jennyfer Limage suffered the tournament’s first ACL tear in her team’s match against England during group play. Limage went down after a challenge from England’s Alessia Russo and was later stretchered off the field, screaming in pain and holding her knee. She is slated to undergo surgery for her ACL injury and a ruptured meniscus and will miss the rest of the tournament.
Out Before The World Cup
Mallory Swanson (United States)
U.S. forward Mallory Swanson tore her patellar tendon in a physical match against Ireland ahead of the Women’s World Cup. She underwent surgery for the injury just days later and is currently recovering.
Christen Press (United States)
USWNT World Cup champion Christen Press suffered an ACL tear while playing for her club team, Angel City FC, in June 2022. She recently underwent her fourth surgery to repair cartilage in her knee.
Catarina Macario (United States)
A rising star for the USWNT, Lyon striker Catarina Macario had just become the first American player to score in a Champions League final when she tore her ACL in June 2022. She was expected to return to playing for her national side in time for the 2023 FIFA Women’s World Cup, but she’s suffered setbacks in her recovery journey and is now focused on getting back to the pitch in time for her club debut with Chelsea.
Fran Kirby (England)
In February, midfielder Fran Kirby suffered a knee injury in Chelsea’s Continental Cup semi-final match against West Ham. She spent the next three months trying to rehab and get back on the pitch before ultimately making the announcement that her medical team advised surgery as the only option forward.
Beth Mead (England)
Beth Mead, the most prolific English goal scorer in the 2022 Champions League, suffered an ACL injury in November that has required a long recovery process and ultimately caused her to miss selection for this year’s World Cup squad.
Sam Mewis (United States)
After the 2021 Tokyo Olympics, USWNT midfielder Sam Mewis underwent surgery for a progressive knee injury. She’s spent the last two years rehabbing to get back to the pitch, suffering multiple setbacks and undergoing more surgeries. Her timeline to recovery is still uncertain.
Vivianne Miedema (Netherlands)
World-class goal scorer Vivanne Miedema suffered an ACL tear during Arsenal’s 1-0 loss to Lyon during Champions League group stage play in November 2022. She’s since undergone surgery and is looking forward to getting back to the pitch in time for the next club season.
Becky Sauerbrunn (United States)
The USWNT captain and center back suffered a foot injury while playing for her club, the Portland Thorns, back in April. Her World Cup fitness was in question just weeks before the team made their final selections but ultimately, she wasn’t cleared to play in time for the tournament.
Tobin Heath (United States)
After suffering a hamstring injury with Arsenal in early 2022, Tobin Heath tore her ACL while playing for OL Reign in August. She underwent surgery for the tear in September and is currently getting back to match fitness.
Leah Williamson (England)
In April of 2023, England captain Leah Williamson suffered an ACL tear during a match with her club team, Arsenal. She underwent surgery in May and is now rehabbing the injury.
Hazel Nali (Zambia)
Just days before the Women’s World Cup kicked off, Zambian goalkeeper Hazel Nali suffered an ACL injury, causing her to miss her team’s tournament debut.
Marie-Antoinette Katoto (France)
France’s promising young striker suffered an ACL tear in July 2022 during the Euros and has suffered setbacks in her journey back to match-ready fitness.
Janine Beckie (Canada)
During a preseason match with her club team, the Portland Thorns, Canadian forward Janine Beckie suffered an ACL tear that ended her NWSL and World Cup hopes. She’s currently rehabbing the injury.