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Fran Howells is slowly on her way back to full recovery following a horrific injury sustained at the start of the season whilst playing for Cardiff City against Millwall Lionesses.
The highly rated young defender has told Women's Soccer Scene about the full extent of her injury and how she has progressed since then.
"I remember a few things," said Fran when asked about the incident. "I can remember that the Millwall striker was trying to turn a lot, so I thought I would try and get in front of her to get possession. As I stepped forward with my right leg, she turned and her knee hit the side of mine. I felt a sharp pain run through my leg and when I looked down I could see that my knee didn't look right. I can also remember screaming a lot!
"I had dislocated my knee cap. The tendons that hold my knee cap in place had ripped and stretched, but I was very lucky that I didn't fracture anything and that there was no serious ligament damage. I am allowed to start training with the team after October half term."
Although she aims to be back in training, Fran is not willing to rush things before considering a playing comeback. "It's a gradual recovery," she says. "I can start training quite soon but I don't know exactly when I can play matches again. As much as I would like to get back playing, I don't want to rush back and do my knee more damage, so I am going to take it easy and see how training goes first."
In recent weeks, Cardiff have brought themselves back into the Southern Division promotion race and Fran is delighted with her team mates' progress during her absence: "I think the girls have done very well so far this season. We haven't lost a game yet against some of the toughest opposition in our league amd everyone is confident we can keep the run going. I think the team has shown great spirit to get the results with a few players out through injury."
Fran has also been forced to miss international duties, as part of the Wales under-19 squad which recently qualified for the second phase of the UEFA Championships. The next phase does not take place until April, giving Fran plenty of time to become available for selection again. "I was in contact with the girls throughout the tournament and I was thrilled to hear they had qualified," says Fran. "They battled hard in the heat and I had every confidence from the start that they could get to the next stage."
Fran has been greatly boosted by well wishes and support from friends and team mates as she goes along the road to recovery, a fact which has not been lost on her. "There are some people I would like to thank very much for their help and support," she says. "Firstly, all my football mates and coaches for keeping my chin up! My parents, for doing the same as well, and Jane, my physio at Arsenal for getting me up and running so quickly!"
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