The coaches guide to preventing injury in fast bowlers

You are a cricket coach, not a strength and conditioning expert. But I don’t care how good your bowling coaching is.  

You want your bowlers to be able to make it on the park every week. And that means at least a basic understanding of modern injury prevention strategies. And that’s true whether you coach 10 year olds, adults or anyone inbetween.

It’s not enough anymore to know what a mixed action is and to stick to the fast bowlers guidelines. Sure, that’s where we start.

But let’s get serious.

Preventing injury in the warm up

As a coach, nobody would expect you to stand over your bowlers in the gym, or turn net sessions into military style boot camps. You are there to help your bowlers be fast, accurate and game savvy.

But you can do some basic work as part of the warm up.

Just make sure the players understand why they are doing these movements so they can continue with them during their gym sessions or when they are working with other, less savvy, coaches.

We can break the movements down into the ones that most need strengthening or mobilising to reduce the chance of injury.

These are:
 
Core stability

There is a lot talked about core stability in cricket. It’s not a magic pill that solves all injury problems as it is often billed, but it is important in preventing lower back pain and injury.

In my mind the key to core stability in cricket is your ability to maintain a healthy position of the spine while you are moving. Think of it as a way to stop a mixed action (where the spine is twisted).

As a result of this, we are not interested in sit ups or crunches because you are moving the spine, not keeping it still.

Instead we look at core stability as a coaching progression, learning one step before moving on to the next (/and easy to teach during a warm up):

  1. Plank variations. Start young cricketers with a simple plank, side plank and glute bridge. Be strict on form (don’t sink or raise the hips) and gradually increase the time until you get to a minute. Don’t linger on planks though, move quickly to the next exercise.
  2. Anti rotation/flexion. Invest in resistance bands and teach the pallof press in the warm up. A set or 2 of 9-10 reps is plenty.
  3. Power production. Up until this point, it’s all been about teaching the body the right program for keeping the spine in place. This final step increases the amount of power you can produce with your whole body while keeping spine rotation to a minimum. Do this with med ball throws (if you can afford them) or at a pinch use clap push ups.

The key is not to destroy your bowler’s abs in the warm up, just to teach them the muscle memory it takes to keep the spine in a healthy position while bowling.

Hip mobility

You don’t hear about many hip-related injuries in bowlers, but immobile or weak muscles around the hips cause the lower back muscles to try and compensate for the weakness. This means preventable pain for the bowler.

However, hips are a complicated area and a lot can go wrong which is difficult to identify and correct. As a coach you don’t need to get into it, stick to general mobilisation drills and cross your fingers

There are about a thousand safe drills for improved hip mobility and you can do almost any of them as part of a general warm up. As a guideline, you can’t go wrong with any lunge variation. Get the bowlers moving through a wide range of motion and feeling the stretch in their hips and groin area.

Make sure the movements are dynamic (i.e. you are not holding the stretch for more than 1-2 seconds) and form is perfect.

Scapulothoracic strength

Don’t run off, this is simpler than it sounds. It prevents shoulder injuries.

The scapulothoracic joint is a joint in the shoulder that is stabilised by several muscles of the back. Because of the way we play and train, these muscles are normally weak. This causes an imbalance in the body that increases injury risk.

A few quick exercises in the warm up go a long way to correcting this:

Rotate through the exercises and do 1-2 sets of 8-12 reps every warm up.

Shoulder mobility

If the scapulothoracic joint needs to have its muscles strengthened, the glenohumeral joint needs to be mobile (that’s the ball-and-socket joint we think of as the shoulder). Again, it’s a simple job. Just give the shoulder some mobility attention:

A couple of sets should do the job nicely, the key is to do the movements with high quality and as often as possible.

All this should take about 5-10 minutes and then you can move to more cricket specific warm ups before starting your session. It’s simple, effective and easy to do.

But most importantly, it will help prevent injuries in your bowlers.

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