I feared opiate addiction after my anterior cruciate ligament injury

She hasn’t worked out, either, why she felt ill. Five days earlier, she had played in Chicago, after returning from eight months on loan at Lyon. Elements, time zones, altitudes. “But I’ve also played here for seven years and done that and been fine,” she says. “At the very beginning, it was definitely a process of trying to understand why it had happened. I went through it over and over for a long time – you have nothing else to do apart from be in pain and think about what’s happened. Then it got to a point where I just realised that I’d never be able to pinpoint it.”

She went to games but rarely the training ground, rehabilitating in Seattle for three months “because if I had to go through this process, the one thing that was going to make it really difficult was if I was in my everyday routine, but not doing my everyday things. That would have sent me over the edge. 

“I wasn’t in that environment every day because I just couldn’t deal with the stupid conversations. I couldn’t deal with everybody going-” her voice takes on a slow, simpering quality – “‘How are you? How’s it going? How’s your knee?’ It would just p— me off. ‘Why are you asking me these stupid questions? I’m fine. I’m not dead. I’m injured. If I had hurt my thigh, we wouldn’t be having these stupid conversations that are forced every day.’

“And they don’t mean it – they’re trying to be nice, supportive – but it’s… The conversations we want are not the b——- that everybody thinks you want to hear. 

“I just want you to be normal with me – but it’s impossible because every time you see me, you just look at me like I’m an injured person. And really injured. You feel sorry for me. I have to go through this, but what I don’t need is my team to feel sorry for me, because that just makes me feel even worse.  It was better for me – and probably for everybody else – that I was dealing with my rehab separately.”  

For the subsequent three months, she received specialist care in Australia and Fishlock returned with the all-clear in February. The notoriously slow recovery process – three months in, she still couldn’t climb stairs – left her fearing, at times, that she would have to quit football. “100 per cent. It takes so long to get back to a normality that I would just be like, I cannot see how I’m going to play again if this is what I’m feeling at three months. Those things come into your head when you’re trying to do the very basic things but can’t.” 

She has been told that it may take around two years for her knee to feel totally settled. “It doesn’t feel normal as in, it doesn’t feel like my right knee, like it was. But I think this is my new normal.” Her rehabilitation was complicated by scar tissue – her body produced it faster than it could get rid of it – and she still has to manage this.

“I think it’s important for people to understand that just because you get cleared to play, your knee is still a little bit of way off from being like a knee,” Fishlock says. “You’re cleared to play because you’re strong, you have enough range of motion and your power is still there – but it takes a little while until you can wake up and not really think about it.”

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