We now know that the most significant cause of spinal stress fractures in fast bowlers comes from excessive side bend, or "lateral flexion" in scientific speak. This is often caused as a result of the body compensating in the delivery stride for things that have not worked correctly further back.
This could be the angle of approach, the angle of bound or misaligned back foot contact.
However, we sometimes get a situation where all of the above are OK and the bowler is still displaying excessive side bend at point of release.
So what can we do about it?
Here is my solution:
1. Reduced height intervention poles
The poles can be placed in a position through the crease that is right up against the body of the bowler at point of release. If the bowler bends to the side, then his front arm, or a part of the upper body on their non-bowling side, will touch the intervention poles giving kinaesthetic feedback. This feedback will inform the body of adaptation that needs to be made.
If your supporting language is appropriate, then the bowler will start to develop strategies to solve the problem without you having to coach the action.
2. Theraband pulls
Theraband is a physiotherapy and rehabilitation resource that is used significantly with throwers and fast bowlers in cricket.
Look up images and video on the Internet of Theraband exercises. Here's a great drill:
- Loop the Theraband around the bowler’s chest (under the arms) and hold both of the ends of theraband in your hands.
- Always stand on the non-bowling side of the bowler when holding the Theraband ends.
- Ask the bowler to have a couple of running steps into their bound, you move/run with them as they go through the bowling action.
- As you move with them, take up the tension in the Theraband and pull gently towards yourself. This will force the bowler to resist the pull by using their core (transversus abdominis in particular) and this will start the process of training the body to stay more upright at point of release.
- Take it slowly at first and pull with just enough tension to feel the Theraband become tight at point of release.
- As the bowler gets used to the drill, you can increase the pull to increase the challenge.
As with any drill, the aim is to remove the coaching intervention and place the bowler back into an open environment. Test if the bowlers technique can stand up to the rigours of full pace.
If not then revert to one or both of the drills above, if all is good then crack on as normal.
If we can reduce the incidence in side bend with our bowlers then we will be giving them more chance of a healthy & positive experience when bowling fast.