Football player and gold medalist Mariann Gajhede Knudsen’s new mission to improve player safety

Mariann Gajhede Knudsen is a Danish professional football player and physiotherapist who started playing football at the age of 10 in Denmark, and has played as part of the Danish National Team for many years. Last year, she retired from her football team, Linköpings FC in Damallsvenskan, which is Sweden’s highest football division for women, where she played as a as the central midfielder from 2011 to 2016. Her last achievement was to take home the gold medal in the Swedish Championship 2016.

– I come from a small town in Denmark called Skagen. I played a lot of sports growing up, but football was always my favorite, and also the one I was best at. When I was 15 years old, I was selected for the regional team. That’s when my professional career took off.

When Mariann started high school, she was already playing for the largest team in the region. At the age of 18, in 2003, she started playing on the Danish National Team. In 2008 and 2014 she was named best player of the Danish Football Association.

– It felt good, I was very proud of myself, and also a little impressed. But it all went so quickly, from being so young and all of a sudden playing at the A-level.

Retiring as a gold medalist
In 2011, Mariann was transferred to Linköping FC in Sweden. During her six years as part of the team, she has truly made a name for herself as a central midfielder. Mariann is retiring from football as a 32-year-old gold medalist.

– It’s amazing what we have achieved as a team. Last year, we performed at a consistent level of play all year. I think that we really deserved the win.

Product development together with the Rehband R&D team
Upon joining Linköping FC in 2011, Mariann suffered two consecutive shoulder injuries. She came in contact with Rehband because of problems with her dislocated shoulder.

– My left shoulder was first dislocated a few years back when I was filming an instruction video for younger football teams in Denmark. And then twice again, on short notice, when out on the football field just after I started playing for Linköping FC. After that the situation has been pretty bad, and I’ve experience sub-luxation two to five times a year.

Mariann’s background is in physiotherapy, and she has a deep understanding of the human anatomy, and sport injuries in general. Mariann is part of Football Research Group, working to reduce the impact of injuries and to improve player safety through world-leading experience of epidemiological studies in football. The group has worked on the UEFA Champions League Injury Study on behalf of UEFA since 2001.

During her years in Linköping FC, while being one of the most valued players, she also worked as a physiotherapist for the whole team.

– I’ve had a close cooperation with Rehband, testing out different products and giving my feedback. Rehband has also helped another player from Linköping FC, who had been having problems with a knee ligament. Rehband knee supports helped her get back out on the football field safely.

Mariann’s input and perspective coming from her experience as a physiotherapist, an athlete, and an athlete with an injury, has been very valuable for the Rehband development team.

– It’s one thing to test different products in a lab, but it’s completely different to look at how they are performing out in everyday life. I’ve worked with Rehband and given them feedback on the different products I have been using, and also allowed them to observe how the products react after having been out on the football field every day for a long periods of time.

Mariann explains that in football, warming tights are among the most commonly used Rehband products. Especially in cold climates such as Sweden and Denmark, the warmth provides extra support and makes it easier to warm up and be efficient out on the field. But she is the most impressed with the shoulder support.

– My shoulder has been such a problem, it even dislocated in my sleep. Rehband helped me by developing a product that ensures that I can sleep without a problem. I’m very grateful for that. When I think of Rehband, the word that comes to mind is quality. We’ve had a very fruitful cooperation. I’ve needed to support my shoulder, otherwise I would have needed an operation and been out of the game for a long time. When you have a chronic problem, it means a lot having that kind of support. I wouldn’t have been able to play without it.

– Without Rehband’s shoulder support, I would never have been able to play these years in Linköping FC. For that, I am very grateful. The Rehband team has worked close together with me, and throughout our cooperation, they have also helped with tailoring the traditional shoulder support to fit my needs.

Mariann may be retired as a football player but has no plans on retiring from the sport. During the past year she’s been studying to become a football trainer. She also plans to pursue a career as a physiotherapist.

– I just got my A-license as a football trainer and will start training a boys team of 12-year-olds next year. It’s such a big difference being a player out on the field and being the person doing the actual training of the team. I really look forward to this new chapter.

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