The sight of junior cricketers taking to the school field or club practice nets is one of those signs for me that summer is on its way.
But as a physiotherapist, I do worry that after months without playing, the unusual physical demands of batting, bowling and fielding, especially coinciding with a youthful growth spurt, exposes young cricketers to a higher risk of injury.
Older, wiser players, someone like Freddie Flintoff, are more likely to suffer from long term wear and tear injuries, such as knee problems; but they’ll be more aware of the risks and take precautions.
Teenaged players, however, think they’re indestructible and yet, without preparation, they could be risking not only a missed season but a long-term injury.
The most common injuries for young players I see at the Petersfield Physiotherapy and Sports Injury Clinic are pulled muscles, hamstrings, shoulder and, among bowlers, lower back pains.
These can all be avoided with proper stretches and core strength building exercises. Here are our tips to avoid the most common injuries.
Tips to reduce cricketing injuries in young players
- Lower back pains. Bending backwards (hyperextension) and rotation are all part of the bowling action and cause wear on spinal tissue. Proper monitoring by coaches, combined with core strength exercises are important.
- Hamstring strains. A good warm-up of at least 20 minutes will help avoid one of the most common injuries. Avoid sudden increases in activity or taking on too much workload.
- Side abdominal strain. Again, core exercises to strengthen the body trunk are the key. Mobility exercises for the back, shoulders and abdomen also help.
- Shoulder pain. Caused by repeated throwing or bowling, the risk can be reduced by using proper throwing techniques as well as shoulder muscle strengthening exercises.
- Sprained ankles. It sounds trivial but it’s very common and still takes a keen young player out of the game. A good warm up will help, along with regular strengthening exercises.
Avoid long-term problems – get help early
At the first sign of pain, it’s important to see a physio and not try to battle through it. Don’t store up more problems for the future with a stiff upper lip.
It’s also important to work on proper technique with a trained coach, whatever your position on the field. There are also some very good, specific exercises, especially for bowlers, to ensure that young cricketers can enjoy a fun and injury-free season.
And finally – respect the sun
Don’t forget to look after yourselves during a game, especially in hot conditions. It may not be a common problem in an English summer, but more school teams are touring abroad and players aren’t so used to the conditions as their hosts. It’s important to protect against sun damage, heat stress and dehydration during training and play.