England captain Leah Wiliamson will miss the 2023 Women’s World Cup after Arsenal confirmed that the defender ruptured her anterior cruciate ligament in a WSL defeat by Manchester United on Wednesday evening.
Williamson went to ground in pain after 11 minutes of the match at Leigh Sports Village, and was carried off the field on a stretcher. The 26-year-old now faces surgery before a long road to recovery, and will miss the World Cup in Australia and New Zealand, which begins in July.
“We can confirm that Leah Williamson suffered a ruptured anterior cruciate ligament in our Barclays Women’s Super League match against Manchester United on Wednesday night,” Arsenal said in a statement on Friday.
“Leah was substituted in the first half of the game at Leigh Sports Village and underwent further assessment on Thursday to determine the extent of the injury. Leah will now begin a period of rehabilitation and is set for an extended spell on the sidelines. She will undergo surgery in due course.
“Everyone at Arsenal will be supporting Leah closely throughout the journey ahead and we would ask that her privacy is respected at this time.”
England, who won Euro 2022 to position themselves as one of the favourites to win the upcoming World Cup, will have to do so without their leader.
Williamson is the third player Arsenal have now lost to a season-ending ACL injury following forwards Vivianne Miedema and Beth Mead.
It is a problem not just at Arsenal but across the women’s game, with female players considered six times more likely to rupture an ACL than their male counterparts. A number of theories relate to the shape of women’s bodies, the menstrual cycle and the fit of their boots, as well as scrutiny over the standards of strength and conditioning care in the game, but there is no clear concensus for the reasons behind the trend.