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Cricket Load Management

Cricket Australia’s new youth pace bowling guidelines

With cricket season in full swing players will need to start thinking about managing their bodies and staying injury free. Cricket is quite different to a lot of other sports as there is no body contact so most injuries are a result of overloading or poor load/body management. The most obvious and common of these is the lower back for a fast bowler. While a number of factors are involved with the injury risk of cricketers including bowling action, surface played on, and history of other injuries, today we will focus particularly on load management as this is something that is not always well understood and applies to all cricketers.

Cricket Australia’s new guidelines for junior cricketers

Cricket Australia has been very proactive in providing advice and guidelines for bowlers (particularly juniors) on managing loads to reduce the risk of injury. They have recently adjusted their advice so it’s a good time to review their recommendations and ensure you are applying it to your own training.

Studies have found that a “spike” in loading (significant increase compared to the preceding week) gives the highest risk of injury. For this reason rather than setting an upper limit per week which caused some people to do little one week and hit the limit the following week Cricket Australia has set weekly targets instead. If you are consistently bowling a similar amount each week there will be no sudden increase.

However these loads can’t be sustained indefinitely so a lighter training week every 4-5 weeks is advised and should be approximately ½ of your normal weekly load.

The limits are age group specific and are advised as follows:

Over 19 year olds will be able to bowl more again but be aware that the bones in the back are still softer and therefore more at risk of injury until you are around 24 years old.

While it is not essential you bowl exactly to the target all the time, it does give an easy guideline to follow. The most important factor is there is no week where the balls bowled jumps noticeably from the week before.

A number of junior bowlers find this an issue when representative trials and games come around as they are required to bowl more often in a week. The simplest answer to this is to tally the number of balls bowled in all cricket during a week and reduce club/school training loads the weeks of representative duties.

The Importance of stretching before bowling

Other than managing the number of balls bowled stretching is a useful tool to ensure your body is moving well prior to bowling. You will often see Mitchell Stark and Patrick Cummins stretching at fine leg before bowling and you should do the same.

Ideal stretching exercises for bowlers

With the action of bowling and the main injury risk occurring during follow through, lower back rotation is important is the best stretch to start with.

  • Lying on your back with your shoulders flat, reach your right arm out and use your left arm to bring you right knee up to approximately 90 degrees and across your body.

Hamstrings are the muscle group that also need a stretch and can easily be stretched while in the field.

  • While standing put one leg out in front of you completely straightening the knee. Keep your back flat and slowly lean forward to feel a stretch in the back of your leg.

Injury prevention for keepers and batters

Keepers and batters also have some injury risks, particularly from repetitive bending while keeping and batting. While bending forward once will not be likely to injure your back, wicket keepers will bend down repetitively the whole innings while fielding and batters will likely have to bend with each ball they face while making lots of runs!  Equalising the stress/strain on the spine is the main principle in dealing with these issues and simple arching backwards stretches are very effective reducing the accumulation in strain before the back become stiff and sore.

Overloading injuries are a risk at any age

While the most at risk group of cricketers are fast bowlers under 24 years old any cricketer can develop an overloading injury if they are not managing their body well. So whether you are a spinner or a 30+ player it is important to be mindful of how much you are training and playing.

If you have any issues or concerns with your cricket training load or any pain you may have developed due to your training contact us to arrange an appointment with our physiotherapist Jonathan Bastin, who plays cricket for a local club.

Jonathan will be happy to carry out an assessment and develop a management plan to ensure your injury does not worsen.