Beth Mead: Road To Recovery
November 19, 2022: Beth Mead ruptured her ACL in a Women’s Super League match that saw Arsenal take on Manchester United at the Emirates Stadium.
(Beth Mead Getty Images)
November 19, 2023: Beth Mead made her first start for Arsenal on the anniversary of her injury, against Brighton in the WSL.
After a gruelling 11-months on the sidelines recovering from a ruptured ACL, England international Beth Mead is back.
The Euros winner was in the form of her life as she picked up accolade after accolade and looked set to have another successful season with Arsenal last season.
She finished second to Alexia Putellas in the 2021-22 Ballon d’Or Feminin, and became the first female to win BBC Sports Personality of the Year.
Mead had the World Cup coming up, another competition she looked forward to impressing in after winning the Golden Boot and Player of the Tournament award at Euro 2022, but unfortunately sustained an injury only eight games into the WSL season that would see her spend an extended period of time on the sidelines.
Talking to BBC Sport, Mead said: "I knew I hadn't felt that in my knee before, it was like someone had hit it with a hammer […] the scan confirmed the worst."
The 28-year-old had surgery in December with the dream of making more history with England at the World Cup set to start in July, her motivation to getting back to full fitness.
Her comeback since has been nothing short of incredible.
Mead was quoted saying she was “ahead of schedule” in May but wasn’t sure she would be fully fit in time to make the World Cup squad.
She told the Telegraph: "She [Sarina Wiegman] is preparing for a World Cup without me, but I could still be picked. And miracles do happen. I’ve certainly not given up. She has not given up on me going either. Not yet.”
Ultimately, the Arsenal forward ran out of time to make it into the Lionesses squad that travelled to Australia and New Zealand, but said it was a ‘clever decision’ made by Sarina Wiegman who wanted to ensure she returned to full fitness for the 23/24 season.
And now she is back.
The former Sunderland star made her first appearance back from injury in the WSL when the Gunners faced Aston Villa at the Emirates Stadium on Sunday October 15th.
She came on as a late substitute in the 88th-minute before setting up Alessia Russo for a 94th-minute winner that collected their first three points of the 23/24 WSL season.
35 days later, on the anniversary of her injury, Beth Mead made her first Arsenal start.
The Gunners faced Brighton at the Broadfield Stadium, and Beth Mead was in the line-up. She played 64 minutes in their 3-0 victory with manager, Jonas Eidevall, commenting after the game: “Today was 60 minutes and next time we’ll see.
“It’s a huge step in her return to play by starting a game.
“It gives us a really important tool at this point in the season, when we can see that we have great competition in our forward positions.”
Her return to the pitch has gone up and up since.
On November 21st, Mead received her first call-up to the England squad since sustaining her ACL injury as the Lionesses prepared to face the Netherlands and Scotland in the UEFA Women’s Nations League, two vital games in their quest to qualify for the 2024 Paris Olympics.
At half-time of the Lionesses’ clash with the Netherlands, Beth Mead made her return to the pitch in an England shirt.
She told the BBC: “I’ve worked hard - I’m super proud of myself.”
Her presence on the pitch sparked England’s comeback from 2-0 down at half-time with Georgia Stanway pulling one back before Lauren Hemp fired home the equaliser just after the hour mark.
Ella Toone scored yet another crucial goal at Wembley in the 91st minute to give England the three points and keep their dreams of Olympic qualification alive.
The 2021-22 Ballon d’Or Feminin runner-up made the most recent step in her return on December 5th as she was named in England’s starting XI for the first time since the Lionesses’ meeting with Japan in November 2022.
Not only was she making her first start, she also scored her first England goal back from injury.
Just before the half-time whistle was blown, Mead rippled the back of the net to put England 4-0 up against Scotland, a goal which was then followed by Fran Kirby and Lucy Bronze’s second-half strikes that saw the Lionesses achieve a 6-0 victory over the Scots.
Unfortunately, the Netherlands scored a late injury-time goal that saw them top the group on goal difference meaning the Lionesses will not be at the Olympics representing Team GB, but Beth Mead’s incredible return to football does not stop here.
She is continuing to impress with her return to football sparking excitement amongst the footballing community that she will come back to reach the level she was at prior to rupturing her ACL, scoring endless goals and putting in performances worthy of player of the match week in, week out.
Research does still need to be done to prevent the staggering figures of ACL injuries amongst female footballers, but Beth Mead’s road to recovery does provide some hope and inspiration to those currently sidelined that a return to the top level of football is possible with hard work, determination and motivation.
Mead never gave up and now look where she is.