While cricket may not strike you as the type of sport where impact injuries are something to worry about, they are a far more common occurrence than you might imagine. Fast bowlers, especially those who are still maturing physically, are susceptible to a wide range of injuries that can result in lengthy layoffs. While the very nature of the sport means that it is difficult to avoid injury completely, it is possible for bowlers to minimize the chances of suffering from high impact injuries by following proper training protocol and using sportswear that is designed to protect them from the impact of the landing stride when delivering fast balls.
Common Cricket Injuries and How to Avoid Them
Below, we look at some of the more common injuries suffered by cricketers, why they occur, and how you can minimize the chances of suffering from them in the future. As mentioned above, it is nigh on impossible to avoid injury completely if you are a fast bowler but you can significantly reduce the odds of having to deal with specific injuries on a regular basis by following the suggestions of professional cricketers, orthopaedic surgeons and physiotherapists who specialize in sporting injuries.
Patellar Tendonitis – Sometimes known as jumper’s knee, for obvious reasons, patellar tendonitis is a condition that results from the patella tendon being overstressed. The patella tendon is subject to continual stress through the delivery action employed by bowlers in cricket, which is why it is a common problem for fast bowlers across the globe. The pain associated with this condition is caused by the breakdown of fibres in the tendon and, as with all types of tendonitis, it is extremely unlikely to improve without a period of complete rest. Lengthy layoffs are the bane of professional and amateur cricketers alike so prevention is definitely better than a cure as far as this particular type of injury is concerned.
The best way to reduce the risk of patellar tendonitis as far as young bowlers are concerned is to avoid overtraining and to learn how to recognise fatigue during both training and competitive match situations. You may also wish to consider using equipment that is designed to cushion the foot during bowling, such as insoles with impact protection. You will still need to be careful not to over train when using protective sportswear such as this but it should help to reduce the stress on your knee when bowling at speed.
Torn Ligaments – Another injury that commonly occurs in the knee area, ligament tears can arise as a result of the extreme stress inflicted on them by twisting motions, sudden changes in direction and repeated impacts. The impact felt in the knee of the landing leg when you are delivering a fast ball is a force that is equivalent to as much as ten times your body weight so it is not hard to understand why ligament tears in this part of the body are such a common occurrence among fast bowlers. Again, these types of injuries can be mitigated through the use of cushioned insoles such as those mentioned in the section on patellar tendonitis but it is also important to take preventative action as outlined below.
Anterior cruciate ligament (ACL) tears are among the most common of knee ligament injuries in cricket and other sports, occurring in all age groups. Although there are no rigid rules one can follow in order to avoid ACL injuries, it is possible to reduce the risk of suffering from a torn ACL by working on weak muscle areas, such as those in the hips, that can result in awkward landing positions, and by training to strengthen the hamstrings on a regular basis. Recent studies have shown that certain jump routines and pivoting exercises can be useful weapons in the athlete’s arsenal against ACL injuries.
Medial and Lateral Meniscus Tears – The two cartilage discs in the knee (known as the meniscus) act as shock absorbers, which is why fast bowlers can easily damage them. The lateral meniscus is most likely to be damaged from twisting motions rather than impacts whereas the medial meniscus is susceptible to high impact injuries. Andrew “Freddie” Flintoff, former England fast bowler, batsman and slip fielder, suffered from recurring medial meniscus injuries and eventually had to announce his retirement in 2010 due to continuing problems with his knee. With long-term injuries such as these, surgery is often the only practical option but as far as Flintoff was concerned, retirement was the better option, having already undergone several major surgical procedures for his knee prior to that point in his career.
If you want to avoid finding yourself in such a position in the future, careful training and protective gear can make a big difference but it will also come down to your genetic makeup and whether your body is built to withstand the kind of stresses inflicted on it when playing cricket competitively on a regular basis.
- Lumbar Spine Injuries – As far as fast bowlers are concerned the back is probably the most problematic area after the knee, with the lower spine being most vulnerable to stress fractures. Again, this is due to the impact force that is generated by the bowling action and can be mitigated with insoles that feature impact protection, along with a training protocol that is designed to strengthen other areas of the body that support the back. Young players can be particularly susceptible to lower back injuries during growth spurts so it is important to adjust your training routine to take account of this fact if you are still in your teenage years. The English Cricket Board (ECB) Fast Bowling Directives include recommended maximum numbers of overs per session for different age groups and should be adhered to in order to reduce the risk of injury in adolescent fast bowlers.
- Plantar Fasciitis - Fast bowlers are particularly susceptible due to the heavy impact particularly on the leading foot landing on the heel of the foot. The plantar ligament that runs under the foot can get irritated and become inflamed from repeated high impact. Getting some good shock absorbing insoles like Enertor Comfort insoles can provide protection against this impact.
If you need specific advice about training routines and injury rehabilitation, you should speak to your coach or contact a medical professional who specializes in sporting injuries.
This article was written by the Marketing team at Meulemans Cricket Centre, a Perth based cricket gear specialist.
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