Why Do Fast Bowlers Get Spinal Injuries?
Updated: Jan 11, 2022
Despite being a non- contact sport, injuries (particularly to fast bowlers) are surprisingly common place. A study in 2004, showed that as many as 1 in 3 elite underage fast bowlers will sustain an injury during a season!
One of the most common injuries for a fast bowler, is a stress fracture to the lower back. A stress fracture is an overuse injury that occurs when a bone gets repeated force put through it over and over again, without adequate time to heal and recover.
There are a number of risk factors that can cause a fast bowler, particularly a young one, to sustain a lower back injury.
Poor Load Management
This is the one that most people are probably familiar with. Too much bowling at too young an age. This includes bowling at matches, and training.
If you think of a typical up and coming young bowler, the amount of teams that they may play for in a season is ridiculous. A under 16 bowler may play for
- School (during the week)
- Local Club (Saturday morning)
- Representatives/District (Sunday)
- Green Shield (During the summer holidays)
- Senior Cricket or Grade Cricket (Saturday afternoon)
Lets not discount the training they would have to do for each team as well. All this adds up.
However load management has had a poor rap, with many interpreting it as stopping players from bowling or training.
A better way of thinking of load management, is a method to allow bowlers to bowl as much as possible with sustaining an injury.
Historically, Cricket NSW and Cricket Australia have had some systems in place limiting fast bowling. For example, Under 16 bowlers could not bowl any more than 6 overs in a spell, 12 overs in an innings, and 18 overs in a day.
Recently they have added more restrictions: 14 overs per a day, reducing the amount of training sessions during a week, and calling off play/training on particularly hot days.
The unfortunate reality is that many of the traits of a fast bowler, are the same traits that increase the risk of injury
Faster bowlers tend to:
- Land on a straight knee
- Run in faster
- Have a high amount of torsion (twisting) through the lower back)
All these traits increase the risk of a stress fracture through the lumber spine.
- A straighter knee means more force will travel up the spine. A flexed knee means more force is absorbed at the foot/knee/hip
- Running in faster means there are more force on landing
- Twisting creates a 'sling shot' type effect on delivery of the ball. This also creates another force the back has to deal with while bowling.
There is little that can be done here, as changing these traits will most likely result in the bowler not being as fast or effective.
A 'Mixed' type bowling action
There are two main types of bowling actions. A 'Front On' action where the bowler has their chest facing the batsmen, and a 'Side On' action where the bowlers shoulder is facing the batsmen
A 'Mixed Action' occurs when the bowler is 'Front On' for their upper body, and 'Side On' with their lower body. This creates a twisting force through the spine, centred on the L4/L5 vertebrae.
The best way to manage this, is to have this action corrected as early as possible
In conclusion, managing the load of a fast bowler along with making sure their bowling technique is safe can be the difference between a long successful cricket career and one that ends prematurely.