When you think of sports that cause injuries, often the contact sports such as rugby and football are the first to spring to mind.
But cricket has a surprisingly high incidence of injury with an average of 102 injuries per 1000 days of play across all formats at the elite level. One-day cricket has the highest incidence with 254 injuries per 1000 days of play and T20 at 136 injuries per 1000 days played.
Although the volume of match play is lower in the amateur game, similar injuries occur and here are a few I commonly see in the clinic.
This issue can affect bowlers of all ages but usually younger/adolescent fast bowlers aged 16-24. Most commonly this affects one side of the vertebrae in the lower back but can affect both sides on occasion and the cause is repeated stress and load through the spine.
Symptoms are usually an ache on one side of the back, pain with activity and pain with bending backwards into spinal extension. The particular combination of side flexion and extension in bowling and the high velocity of fast bowling makes these players especially at risk.
It is important to monitor bowling volume and limit overs, especially in younger players to prevent this. Good bowling technique is crucial, as well as a strength and conditioning programme to support the musculoskeletal system.
Hamstring injuries commonly occur during explosive sprint activities and can affect all cricketers but commonly outfielders. These are characterised by a sharp, sudden pain in the back of the thigh.
When a muscle contracts forcefully that force can exceed the capacity of the muscle and cause fibres to tear. You can have mild strains (grade I) or more severe tears (grade II or III) depending on how much of the muscle is torn and this will affect how long recovery takes.
A very short period of rest following injury may be required to protect the tissue but it is important to fully rehabilitate these injuries as they can become recurrent. We often see a rest-and-repeat cycle with these injuries if adequate strength is not regained following the injury.
A good warm-up and general strength training, along with regular sprint training can also help to prevent these injuries.
The rotator cuff is a group of muscles in the shoulder that contribute to movement but also have a huge role in the stability of the shoulder. Rotator cuff injuries usually cause pain in the shoulder or outer part of the upper arm and can cause pain and difficulty lifting the arm out to the side, throwing and lying on that side.
Sudden forceful movements when batting or awkward catches when fielding can cause trauma to these tissues as well as overuse issues when bowling.
There can be lots of contributing factors to these injuries such as poor technique, insufficient muscle strength, poor upper and mid-back mobility and too much training/bowling volume. So addressing the relevant issues with an experienced healthcare professional can help get to the bottom of these.
These injuries usually occur with sudden sprints or a change of direction and can affect all players. Most commonly these injuries cause damage to the ligaments that support the ankle on the outside but they can cause small fractures, bone bruising and cartilage injuries too.
Similar to hamstring injuries they can vary from mild to severe and can very easily become recurrent. It is really important to rehabilitate both the strength and proprioception (joint position sense) to ensure a trouble-free return to play.
Impact injuries to the fingers are common in cricket as the ball is so hard – you've no doubt all seen pictures of wicketkeepers' hands! They can affect batsmen and fielders too.
Fractures, joint and ligament strains are all common. These are injuries that if treated early can have really good outcomes. Unfortunately, lots of people ignore them in the early stages and then struggle to fully bend or straighten a few weeks down the line when it is harder to restore function. Establishing whether there is a fracture is crucial to ensure the correct management is put in place to keep those digits happy in the long term.
These can occur when changing direction in the crease or fielding, they can be traumatic through a forceful injury or degenerative affecting older players. These can cause pain on either the inside or outside of the knee, some swelling and pain with twisting or weight-bearing activity.
Some severe meniscal injuries require surgery but more moderate ones respond well to conservative management through rehabilitation exercises and a graded return to play.
Many other cricket injuries are caused by overuse or being impacted by the ball. It is essential to wear the appropriate equipment when playing hardball cricket and I'd always advise getting the very best helmet you can afford and wearing appropriate non-slip footwear.
As cricket is a summer sport also making sure you are protected from the sun with a hat and sun-cream and staying hydrated is also crucial.