Discomfort, anxiety … then joy: the experience of a soccer player being injured.

Discomfort, anxiety … then joy: the experience of a soccer player being injured.


Last Saturday, I participated in my first football game since December 14th. It had been ninety-three days since I broke the fifth metatarsal in my left foot, but I was excited to finally play in front of our home fans in Munich. Surprisingly, I wasn’t as nervous as I thought I would be. The girls played a great game, and we ended up winning 5-0 against RB Leipzig. This gave me a good feeling in my body as I ran out onto the field.

I would like to share with you my journey of recovering from the injury. It was the most significant injury I have ever had since breaking the same bone in my other foot at the age of 17. This previous experience helped me recognize the familiar sensation when it occurred again, during our Champions League match against Ajax at home. I felt the bone crack immediately and was able to inform some of my teammates about it before the physiotherapist arrived.

The fifth metatarsal, a small bone located on the outer part of the foot and connected to the pinky toe, typically doesn’t require treatment for a non-athlete. However, for those who play football, it often requires surgery due to the constant stress and strain caused by the frequent changes in direction. Luckily, in my case, it was just a minor fracture and the bone remained in its proper position. The following morning, I underwent surgery at 10am to have a screw implanted as a preventive measure against future injuries.

Upon reflection, it is not surprising that I developed a stress fracture given the intense strain I had put on my body. I had been experiencing various issues in different areas, except for my left foot, and had mentioned to my partner, Pernille, a few weeks earlier that I needed to hold on until Christmas. After seven weeks at the World Cup, I took a short break before diving into training with my new club. Within one and a half weeks, we had our first cup game, followed two days later by the Nations League. Given this strenuous schedule, it is understandable that my body reached a breaking point.

When a soccer player sustains an injury, the common question is always, “When will you return?” Personally, I found it helpful to not set a specific timeline for my recovery. My coaches and rehabilitators may have had a goal, but I chose not to ask them. If I were to advise other athletes, I would suggest taking it one day at a time.

Rewording: The initial days following my surgery were challenging as I struggled with physical discomfort and had to come to grips with the journey ahead. Early on, I resolved to have faith in the process, which included wearing a boot on my left foot for five weeks. Fortunately, I was still able to take a planned holiday to Gran Canaria during Christmas and spent my mornings lounging on a beach chair and swimming. Upon returning to Munich, I continued to wear the boot for two more weeks and also resumed working out in the gym.

At Bayern, if you sustain a long-term injury, you will join a rehabilitation group. This means you will not work with the team physio, but instead with a designated physio and a strength and conditioning coach. Essentially, we become a mini team within the larger team and our relationship is quite enjoyable as we can exchange our experiences and provide one another with support.

After five weeks, when the cast was removed, everyone expressed their joy. However, for a footballer, the process of starting to walk again can be challenging as it involves enduring pain. Unlike a regular person, a footballer cannot simply prolong the use of crutches and keep the cast on for a few more weeks. The faster they can walk, the quicker they can run and return to the field. Therefore, they must constantly gauge their pain tolerance. First, there is pain from walking, followed by pain from running. With each increase in physical activity, the pain intensifies. This can take a toll emotionally and mentally.

One of the most difficult moments occurred when I was encouraged to run, but it did not feel natural, so I had to stop. Despite it being a small obstacle, in that moment, I felt terrible and doubted that it would ever heal. This took place on a Thursday in early February. I expressed, “No, I do not want to continue, it is painful.” However, I returned on Monday and was able to resume running. Before this, I had been using an AlterG anti-gravity treadmill, which utilizes air-pressure technology to support body weight. Therefore, I was only jogging with 20% of my actual body weight.

On February 13, I returned to training with my rehabilitation coach. I had been wearing high-quality running shoes with orthotic inserts, but now I was concerned about fitting my foot back into my tight soccer cleats. Therefore, on the first day, I borrowed a pair two sizes larger to avoid any discomfort.

Following a week of running in a linear path, I was required to incorporate more dynamic movements such as sudden turns and directional changes. After that, the next step is sprinting and kicking the ball. My dominant kicking foot is my left foot, but unfortunately, it can be uncomfortable due to a screw in my foot. Even currently, if I do not make proper contact with the ball, it causes pain, thus serving as a strong motivation to strike it correctly.

My first session training with the team was on 2 March but this almost felt like the hardest part because when you’ve not kicked a ball for two and a half months, you’re scared of picking up a muscle injury and you have to come to terms with the fact it will take some time until you’re back to your old self.

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Magdalena Eriksson (second left) celebrates a Bayern Munich goal against PSG in November, before suffering the metatarsal injury.View image in fullscreen

The most important aspect is to rely on instinct once more. For a player returning from an injury or who hasn’t been starting games regularly, there is a tendency to overanalyze. During actual gameplay, you are in a rhythm and everything happens naturally.

I would like to emphasize that each stage of the rehabilitation process presents great challenges, both mentally and physically. It can be difficult to stay positive when one’s well-being is dependent on the state of their injured body part. However, a major benefit is that I have been able to watch a lot of football again. Prior to my injury, I had grown tired of the sport and was only watching my own games. But now I am keeping up with the Premier League, Champions League, Frauen-Bundesliga, and WSL, and it feels as though my passion and love for the game have returned.

As I stepped onto the field on Saturday, I was filled with a deep sense of gratitude. I would like to take this opportunity to express my gratitude to those who have supported me wholeheartedly during this time. My heartfelt thanks to my family and Pernille for lending an ear to my concerns. I am also grateful to my teammates and the medical staff who have pushed me to my limits every single day. And a special shout out to all the amazing Bayern fans, your warm reception upon my return meant the world to me.

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Source: theguardian.com