Cricket may be a relatively slow-paced game, but many injuries still occur. Although most are unavoidable (or not if you are fielding at silly point). For example, 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 Pat Cummins. 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 that 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 makes them more susceptible to lower back injuries – 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.

Prevention is the key!

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.

Core exercises

Cricket bowling not only requires rotation but also a lot of flexion (bending). The following 4 anti-rotation core exercises can help build up rotational slings of your body. By resisting rotational forces and hence stabilising the core, these exercises are key to keep your back strong.

Start light with these moves and make sure that you maintain proper form throughout. Improper form could cause you to twist and compensate, leading to the exact thing you are trying to prevent!

Exercise 1: Pallof Press – 4 sets x 8 reps each side

  • Secure a band to a sturdy object at your shoulder level
  • Hold the free end with one hand over the other and step away from the anchor point to put tension on the band
  • Turn perpendicular to the anchor point, stand with feet shoulder width apart in a relaxed stance
  • Extend your arms and press forwards in front of you
  • Resist the band as it will try to twist your body toward it
  • Bring your hands back to your chest and then press again
  • You can also perform this exercise in a lunged stance or kneeling

Pallof Press - Anti-rotational exercises - Revive Physiotherapy and Pilates

Image credit: Men’s Fitness

Exercise 2: Single Leg Deadlift – 3 sets x 10 reps each side

  • Hold a dumbbell or kettlebell in one hand
  • Stand on the opposite leg
  • Bend your hips back and lower your chest until you feel your lower back is about to lose its arch
  • Squeeze your glutes and extend your hips to come up
  • Don’t twist or rotate through your hips

Single Leg Deadlift - Anti-rotational exercises - Revive Physiotherapy and Pilates

Image credit: Oxygen Mag

Exercise 3: Standing Band/Cable Anti-Rotation Chop – 3 sets x 8-10 reps

  • Stand perpendicular to a cable station in an athletic stance, shoulder width apart, your hips back and chest tall
  • Hold a cable rope or resistance band at chest height with a double overhand grip
  • Slowly rotate your arms across your body, hold for 2-3 secs, then return to the starting position
  • Make sure to prevent any motion in your hips and lower back
  • You can also perform this exercise in a lunged stance or kneeling

Standing Band/Cable Anti-Rotation Chop - Anti-rotational exercises - Revive Physiotherapy and Pilates

Image credit: Men’s Fitness

Exercise 4: Half Kneeling Band/Cable Chop – 3 sets x 8-10 reps each side

  • Attach a rope handle to the high pulley of a cable station. Alternatively you could use a resistance band
  • Kneel down perpendicular to the machine
  • Your outside knee should be on the floor and your inside knee should be at a 90-degree angle
  • With both hands use an overhand grip to hold the rope and pull it from above your shoulder, diagonally to below your opposite pocket
  • Rotate your torso as little as possible
  • Slowly let the cable return to the starting position

Half Kneeling Band/Cable Chop - Anti-rotational exercises - Revive Physiotherapy and Pilates

Image credit: Men’s Health

In previous blogs, we have looked in detail at lower back pain, disc injuries and sciatica.

We have also highlighted the statistic that 70 – 90% of people will suffer lower back pain in one point in their lifetime.

Hopefully today’s blog will be helpful for keeping all the cricketers out there on the field and not injured in the stands. For further advice regarding your training program, call Revive Physiotherapy and Pilates for an appointment today.

If you currently have lower back pain, contact your Physiotherapist prior to commencing any exercise program for advice regarding its suitability to your condition. If you experience any pain when doing these exercises, cease them immediately, and seek the advice of your health care professional.