Injuries could cause havoc on Premier League return - Sue Smith

RECOVERING from a serious injury can be as much a mental as a physical challenge for a footballer.

Jack O'Connell and David McGoldrick of Sheffield United (Picture: Simon Bellis/Sportimage)

I think fatigue was a contributing factor in the ruptured anterior cruciate ligament which ended my England career, and with plans to squeeze the remainder of the 2019-20 Premier League into just 39 days, I hope no one is going to have to go through what I did.

Doncaster Rovers Belles were the successful team I watched growing up so signing for them in 2012 was a big thing for me, and within 25 minutes of my debut at Barnet, I had scored my first goal.

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Ten minutes later I went to block a ball down the line and landed badly. I was in agony. I knew it was pretty serious.

Lys Mousset and Oliver Norwood of Sheffield return to contact training as part of the Premier Leagues project restart at the Steelphalt Academy, Sheffield. (Picture: Simon Bellis/Sportimage)

I did my rehab at the English Institute for Sport in Sheffield and I remember thinking, “I hope I’ve got a good physio.” Rob Johnson had a picture of Jess Ennis on the wall so I asked if she was a client and he told me he helped her through a few injuries and that put my mind at rest.

I had to get my mind around the fact I would not be playing for nine months, although actually I beat that target. The thing I really struggled with was training at Doncaster. I was fine at the EIS and kept seeing a progression as Rob set me little challenges.

I quite liked being on my own, which is not like me, but hated being in the gym at Doncaster because it meant seeing the girls on the grass and not being able to join in.

It was the same at games. Doncaster tried to keep me included and asked me to come into the changing room and give advice, so it was a bit more like a coaching role. It was not what I wanted to do, but at least I was still involved. Even now when I go back to The Hive as a pundit, I still have a really horrible feeling.

Manchester City's Raheem Sterling (left) goes down under pressure from Liverpool's Trent Alexander-Arnold and Sadio Mane (right) during the Premier League match at Anfield, Liverpool. (Picture: PA)

The first time we played there after my recovery I did not want to play. I did, but I was rubbish!

Dale Forsdyke, our physiotherapist, was brilliant with me. Before the match we did a warm-up, with contact, on the exact bit of pitch I did the injury on to show I was physically fine. Many conversations with our sports psychologist Adam Gledhill helped me to not be so anxious about playing. Even so, I came off 20 minutes into the second half.

My 12-month England contract expired in April, a month after the injury, and I got a phone call saying they were not going to renew it, but would review the situation in a year. I totally understood, but it was a kick in the teeth. The flip-side was England covered my surgery and I had it done within a week, which I am sure would not have been the case without them.

I was so grateful to Doncaster for continuing to pay my wages because at first the injury meant I could not do any extra work either. I did pick up a few bits of media work, but it was a worrying time. I must have been a nightmare for my family and friends.

The FA Cup final will be held on August 1 with the quarter-finals given provisional restart dates of June 27-28, the Football Association has announced. (Picture: Nick Potts/PA Wire)

Women are up to eight times more likely to injure their ACL than men. Theories as to why include your ligaments being quite lax depending on the time of your menstrual cycle, hip width and hamstring strengths.

Reading have only had one ACL injury in almost five years and Bristol City are conducting menstrual cycle-related research. Chelsea women’s coach Emma Hayes is very hot on injury prevention and gearing training to individual players’ cycles. I am 100 per cent convinced fatigue had a part in my injury and that is something the men will have to be aware of this summer, when Sheffield United have 10 league games between June 17 and July 26 – plus FA Cup games.

I picked up my injury on the back of four Cyprus Cup matches for England in eight days. We flew into London on the Friday, I got a car to Sheffield, and on the Sunday we travelled to Barnet.

It was more than just the physical intensity of international football, I was also under pressure to make the 2012 Olympics squad. Clubs like the Blades, pushing for Europe, will be playing every game at 100 per cent.

The last time I played 11-aside was a charity game – nowhere near Premier League or Football League intensity, yet I was still sore for three or four days.

So the Premier League and Championship sports scientists will have to be on their guard when football resumes because long-term injuries are horrible.

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