Low back injuries in Adolescent Fast Bowlers
Cricket registrations have opened for next season and junior players are starting to think about pre season training, whilst some have even started training in representative team academies. Its a crucial time of the season to start to get fit, work on technique and be ready to be at your best when trials happen and the season starts.
Studies have shown that between 38% and 46% of young fast bowlers sustain an injury related to their bowling activity. A large number of these injuries are lower back injuries.
It can also be a potentially dangerous time for young fast bowlers coming off a rest period during the off season. One of the greatest risk factors for lower back injuries in young fast bowlers is a rapid increase in work load and this can happen easily after a rest period followed by a sharp increase in workload.
Having been involved in cricket coaching, watching representative level cricket and managing cricket injuries as a physio over the past few years I have seen a large number of lower back injuries in young cricketers.
There are two main types of lower back injury that affect fast bowlers; side strains and lumbar spine stress fractures. Both can lad to a significant period of time away from bowling and cricket in general.
A side strain refers to a tear of the internal oblique, the external oblique, or the transverse fascia at the point where they attach to the four bottom ribs. In bowlers, side abdominal strains occur on the non-bowling side of the body and the majority are strains of abdominal muscle insertions on to the lower ribs. Side strain injuries occur as a result of a forcible contraction of the muscle on that side while they are fully stretched as the bowling arm is cocked for bowling.
A side strain can put you out of action for several weeks or even months. Many bowlers try and come back too soon after this injury and end up having more time off, so it is really important to get the injury managed properly.
Lumbar Spine Stress Fractures
At least 10 of my sons' contemporaries have suffered a lumbar spine stress fracture in the past few seasons. All are fast bowlers and all started with increased workloads after a winter break. All have had significant time off from playing cricket.
In the adolescent skeletal system the bones are relatively soft compared to adult bones. This means that they are more susceptible to repetitive loading as seen in fast bowling. Receptive extension, lateral flexion and rotation can lead to increased load on a part of the vertebrae called the pars interarticularis and to a stress reaction. If the bowler continues to load up the lumbar spine then that stress reaction can develop into a stress fracture.
There can be a 3-4 week delay between high workloads and an increased risk of injury. Therefore it is important for young fast bowlers to be aware of any pain, discomfort or tightness they start to get in their lower back and seek guidance from an experience cricket physiotherapist straight away.
Risk Factors in lumbar spine injuries
Increased bowling workload including spike in workload
Mixed bowling action
Muscle weakness and imbalances across a number of muscles
There is little research on how to prevent lower back injuries in adolescent fast bowlers. Most of this happens once the bowler reaches State Academy programs, but not much happens at Community level. Maintaining bowling workloads within recommended limits, working on the bowling action to change from a mixed to side on action and adoption of a strengthening program to ensure that you reduce the risk from muscle weaknesses and imbalances will all help to prevent these injuries. It is a collaboration between bowler, coach, physio and often also the parent which will ensure the success of a prevention program.
It is easy to manage bowling workload on match days, as mostly junior cricket has bowling limits. The difficulty arises where training takes place in two or three different teams as well as dad taking the child to the nets. Each team wants the player to bowl at training, and this is often when the overload happens.
Pre Screening and Strengthening program
We have developed a screening process that tests the intrinsic risk factors for lumbar spine injury. It takes roughly an hour to run through the screening process and you will get a report of the findings afterwards. From the results of the screening process we will develop a strength and conditioning program to help prevent injuries associated with fast bowling. We will also work with your coaches and parents to help you manage your bowling workload and if necessary help change your bowling action.
Call us on 9838 8449 to book your Fast Bowler Pre Season Screen and get started on the path to injury prevention.