Laura Wienroither became the fourth Arsenal player to suffer an ACL injury last season. However, the camaraderie that those four injured players built, going through the same process together is something that has massively helped her journey so far.
The defender was the last of quartet to suffer the dreaded fate. Beth Mead and Vivianne Miedema had been out since before Christmas, while England skipper Leah Williamson ruptured her ACL in April, ruling her out of the World Cup. It then happened to Wienroither a few weeks after on 1 May.
Now four months into her recovery, the Austrian says that her rehab has been massively helped by the fact she is not alone and has had her fellow ‘ACL gang’ for support.
Giving an update on how she is, Wienroither said, “It’s a slow process, but I’m getting there.
“Obviously, it’s an injury where you can’t really rush anything; you need to take your time. And that’s what I want to do as well. I just want to take my time, no matter how much or how long I need.”
Wienroither joined Arsenal in January 2022 and was one of Jonas Eidevall’s first signings when his tenure as manager began. Since then, she has made over 40 appearances for the club across the WSL, UWCL, FA Cup and Conti Cup, but the ACL injury in May cut her season short.
“To be fair, I’m actually feeling really good. I don’t know if I should be like this,” she joked. With a laugh, she continued, “But I’m doing well; I feel like Leah helps me a lot. I mean, we’re going through the same thing at the exact same time.”
Speaking on how the pair have been brought closer through the injuries, Wienroither called on fond memories of Williamson supporting her through her rehab, whilst laughing and joking when the time was right for it. The journey over the last four months has show the young defender just how much her teammates are there for her through all the ups and downs so far.
“It shows you that people around you are people who are actually there for you,” she said. “And that’s, for me personally, what I saw over the last couple of months so I have a lot of appreciation.
“I wouldn’t know what I would have done without them,” she continued, referring to her ACL companions. “I think it’s just nice to share experience with someone who’s actually going through the same thing as well. And just to know that it’s okay not to be okay sometimes, I feel like that’s what we learned throughout this year.”
The group has been nicknamed the ‘ACL four’ by Arsenal fans: “I feel that’s what we are here for our teammates; if someone is kind of feeling low, or whatever, we just try to push them up again. So that’s a positive experience.”
Recalling the process that Mead and Miedema went through, Wienroither revealed how watching the duo in their battles several months earlier and how they dealt with challenges differently helped her when eventually facing those same hurdles.
“It’s always nice when you can talk with someone about things, and they actually know how it feels. I think we have each other’s back. And that’s a good thing throughout this rehab,” she explained.
18 months ago, when moving to Arsenal from Hoffenheim in Germany, the 24-year-old faced an adjustment to a new country, league, and language, something which she said she found easier given the kindness and friendliness that people around her showed during the adjustment period.
“I really appreciate it because I think that’s not a given. It’s not what you would have in every single club,” Wienroither said, turning her attention to her first day at Arsenal.
Last week, stepping up her recovery with the club, Wienroither began running on an anti-gravity treadmill designed to get injured players back into activity without putting strain on affected limbs.
Four months down in her rehab, Wienroither drew attention to the increased congestion in the women’s football calendar and the impact that can have on injuries.
“Big picture, there are obviously so many games, especially in women’s football in England, where the quality increases and the pressure increases,” she said.
Whilst players suffer the consequences, they have no say over the scheduling and planning of the league in addition to other competitions or international breaks. Following calls from Sarina Wiegman and Rachel Daly for more consideration for how the women’s football calendar is structured, Wienroither also called for change, highlighting that the players have little influence over the logistics.
“I feel like everyone involved in football needs to take responsibility to make it work in the best way for players as they can, trying to protect players as well as they can,” she said.
“Because we can’t change any schedule, we can’t do anything about two games every single week. So we can just prepare and have the best responsibility in ourselves, but we can’t change the bigger picture. So that’s why I feel like there needs to be something done [higher up].”
Right now, Wienroither is less concerned with playing in the games and is focused on supporting her teammates while concentrating on her rehab. Yet she detailed how it does take time to get used to sitting on the sidelines and watching from the stands, something she will be doing for another few months as her recovery progresses.
“I definitely will watch every single game, and I think I’ll be Arsenal’s biggest fan from the deepest of my heart this season,” the player said. “I’m just trying to be at every game and still be part of the team and support them as well as I can from an outside perspective. I think that’s also what teammates are for. Even though I can’t be on the pitch and help them, I’ll definitely support them with everything I can.”
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