How's your back Mr. Fast Bowler?
I'm betting it's sore. More bowlers are reporting to their coaches with a niggle or problem, especially in the lower back. Fast bowling coach Ian Pont says he has never seen so many young players with so many problems.
And it's getting worse, not better.
Fast bowlers are already the most injured of all cricketers (about 16% of injuries, compared to 4% in the spinners and batsmen, according to some research). On top of this, the research is showing a year on year increase to go with the personal observations of coaches.
The terrifying conclusion is this: Whatever we are doing now is causing fast bowlers to be injured more now than they were 10, 20, 30 or more years ago.
So what is it we are doing now, and how do we stop doing it?
1. Drive bowlers into the ground
Here's a myth: Fast bowlers don't bowl enough these days.
Tish and piffle is what I say. Reams of research, especially from Cricket Australia and the ECB, show otherwise. The correlation is simple: The more you bowl the greater your chance of injury. This is especially true for players under 18.
2. Have a total lack of understanding
Most cricket coaches are volunteers working in clubs or teachers doing their bit in schools. They are not full –time professionals and they do a stand up job running the game at grass roots.
Sadly, these coaches have a total lack of understanding of the fast bowling action. Many will have been on courses and will have been warned of the dangers of a 'mixed action'. They might even be bowlers themselves. What their courses and experiences have failed to do is identify a mixed action and correct it to stop preventable injuries in young players.
They see the TV commentators criticise coaches for 'overcoaching' a bowler and making his action robotic. Combined with their ignorance they become afraid to do anything for fear of coaching the naturalness out of a player.
3. Lead a life sitting down
Xbox, TV, driving, school, browsing the web, PlayStation work and even the machines at the gym; all these activities are done sitting down. No harm in that you may say, but the more you sit the less active you are and the more your body becomes strong in the muscles that flex your hips while being weak and inflexible in the muscles around your back and hamstrings.
This combination causes an imbalance that makes bowlers stiff where they should be flexible and mobile where they should be stable: A recipe for injury.
First and last: Do no harm
I'll admit the title of this article is a little dramatic. No coach or player wants injuries. The point that I'm making is that we are currently failing to prevent them.
We need to reset when it comes to bowling.
We need to start thinking of bowling coaching as injury prevention first.
How do we do that?
- Good coaches are not afraid of robotic bowling actions or losing games. They are afraid of putting a talented bowler in a wheelchair thanks to multiple stress fractures.
- Good coaches learn how the body works enough to realise that the spine is not supposed to be twisted when you are hurling a small object as fast as possible. They know that this does not constitute a 'natural' action and it needs to be corrected.
- Good coaches are careful about monitoring a bowler in games and training to make sure they bowl within the guidelines and stay injury free.
- Good coaches also know that most of the elements that make a bowler fast, also make him or her injury free: technique, strength, elastic power, stability and mobility.
- Good coaches know when they are preventing injury, they are improving performance.
- Good coaches know there is no such thing as over coaching. Just good coaching and bad coaching.
Some of these things are philosophical changes, but you can also make a technical difference. The way to do this, whether you are coaching your own action or others, is to understand the action and how to make it safe.
Do this with Ian Pont's "How to bowl faster" course on PitchVision Academy. Enrol on the course and never worry about doing harm again.
image credit: 6tee-zeven