Dr. Deepak Hiwale is "The Fitness Doc", a medical doctor, sports scientist and cricket lover with a special interest in preventing fast bowling injuries. In this article, The Doc tells us about the pitfalls of bowling fast, and how you can stay on the park.
Fast bowlers have always been thought of as unintelligent by batsmen. However, nothing can be further from the truth. Fast bowling an intelligent art but it is also downright hard work. What's more is that more intelligence and planning go into the making of a fast bowler compared to a cricketer with other skill sets.
This intelligence and planning is not only to make a fast bowler but to also increase his shelf life.
The sheer physical effort involved in fast bowling coupled with the fact that fast bowling is such an unnatural act, it doesn't come as a surprise that fast bowlers are constantly at risk of getting injured. Fast bowlers are the only breed of cricketers that are likely to get seriously injured both at a younger age and when approaching the 30s.
Comparatively, batsmen, bowlers and wicketkeeper are relatively safe from the injury risks.
How realistic is the injury risk when bowling fast?
Fast bowling injuries are career threatening - especially those that occur early on - yet research has show that most injuries are likely to be missed by physios and clinicians during the initial stages. A high degree of clinical and diagnostic suspicion is required to prevent further worsening. Injuries missed in the initial stages, therefore, may go on to become chronic and may severely hamper performance.
For example, injuries to lower back do not heal completely. A residual component of disc degeneration and nerve root compression is a very likely scenario.
Fast bowling is risky!
So, what does all that suggest?
Fast bowlers need to be fitter and stronger than other players. And, how do you get fitter and stronger than the rest of the guys in the team? The answer is by following a stringent fast-bowling specific strength and conditioning (S&C) program and a diet plan that complements it.
This kind of S&C and prehab training should be done off-season; which brings us to the next crucial question.
How do you prevent fast bowling injury?
With fast bowlers, a double peak (or J curve) for injuries exists. Younger fast bowlers are prone to injury on account of two principal mechanisms:
- Immaturity of the skeletal and cartilaginous components
- Bowling overload
So, strengthening the musculo-skeletal system (muscle strength and power included) and working on endurance – especially sprint endurance over shorter distances - will prepare the body for the rigours at hand.
A progressive S&C program consisting of a mix of strength training exercises (like squats), power movements (like high pulls), sprint intervals and exercises to strengthen fast-bowling movement pattern will not only see you progress in the pace department but also enable you to bowl long spells without risking injury.
Take home message
If you are aspiring to be a fast bowler, hitting the nets most days of the week isn't enough. In fact, there is a risk of over-bowling as a youngster.
If you are targeting bowling quick, long spells and lasting for many years in the international arena, you have to get top-notch strength & conditioning (and nutrition plan) under your belt.
A physically weak fast-bowler – no matter how quick or good he is – will have a very short shelf-life.
- Bali, K., Kumar, V., Krishnan, V., Meena, D., & Rawall, S. (2011). Multiple lumbar transverse process stress fractures as a cause of chronic low back ache in a young fast bowler - a case report. Sports Med Arthrosc.Rehabil.Ther Technol., 3, 8.
- Dhillon, M. S., Garg, B., Soni, R. K., Dhillon, H., & Prabhakar, S. (2012). Nature and incidence of upper limb injuries in professional cricket players a prospective observation. Sports Med Arthrosc.Rehabil.Ther Technol., 4, 42.
- Dr Dennis, R. Evidence-based injury prevention for repetitive microtrauma injuries: The Cricket Example. 20-8-2007. Univeristy of Ballarat.
- Orchard, J., James, T., Kountouris, A., & Portus, M. (2010). Changes to injury profile (and recommended cricket injury definitions) based on the increased frequency of Twenty20 cricket matches. Open.Access.J Sports Med, 1, 63-76.