Cricket may be a relatively slow-paced game, but still many injuries can occur. Although most happen unavoidably (or not if you are fielding at silly point). Fielders, who often spend long periods of time standing still, may also injure themselves when they are called to make sudden movements with often little regard for personal safety.

Which player is most likely to succumb to injury?

It wouldn’t surprise many with the answer being fast bowlers. Lumbar spine or lower back injuries have plagued fast bowlers over the last 50 years including Dennis Lilley, Bruce Reid, Brett Lee and modern day players like James Pattinson, Mitchell Starc and Mitchell Johnson. Unfortunately, these stats also appear to be rising!

Why is this happening in cricket?

The unnatural spinal positions i.e. hyperextension and rotation of the lower back and repetitive high impact forces are associated with the high rates of lumbar spine bone stress injuries. Extrinsic factors such as bowling technique and bowling workloads are also potential reasons.  It is this repetitive action of bowling for long spells places excessive stress on the tissues of the lower back, where stress fractures of the vertebra spondylolysis, pars defects or spondylolisthesis can develop.

Graphic of fast bowler and stages to Spondylolisthesis (from Pars Interacticularis through to Spondylolysis).

Stages to Spondylolisthesis (from Pars Interacticularis through to Spondylolysis).

Of particular concern is the increase in bone stress related injuries to adolescent fast bowlers. Younger bowlers pushing for extra pace, often sacrifice their technique, which make them more susceptible to lower back injuries as they often lack the skeletal maturity or strength to cope with long spells of bowling.

What to do?

Lower back pain of any nature isn’t normal and shouldn’t be left unchecked. Mild lower back pain can very quickly become troublesome and debilitating, often resulting in time on the sidelines. Your physiotherapist can assess and treat your lower back to provide pain relief and a return to sport plan. However, prevention is always the best treatment and should be considered part of your weekly preparation. A strong, supple body can be achieved through a personalised exercise program designed by your physiotherapist. A program involving stretching, strength training and Clinical Pilates is ideal to improve your flexibility and strength of the entire body, particularly your lower back, posterior chain and core muscles.

Your physiotherapist can assess your lower back and discuss treatment options with you.