How to protect your shoulder from cricket injury | Cricket coaching, fitness and tips

How to protect your shoulder from cricket injury

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Injury and overuse of the the group of muscles and tendons around the shoulder (Rotator Cuff) is among the most common in cricket. Prevention is a simple matter of understanding.

A healthy, strong Rotator Cuff functions extremely well but as we get older the muscle and tendon tissue around this area lose some elasticity and can become damaged through repetitive use, which can cause pain and inhibit movement. Over time, the tendons wear thin and a rotator cuff tear can develop.

Six muscles connect to the humerus (arm) and scapula (shoulder blade); the deltoid, the teres major and four that make up the Rotator Cuff. These are the supraspinatus, the infraspinatus, the teres minor and the subscapularis. All with different jobs involved in moving your arm around your shoulder.

Rotator Cuff Liz Ward

These muscles have an incredible job to do. They not only responsible for the vast range of motion of the gleno-humeral (GH) joint, making it the most mobile in the human body, but are also maintain its stability, which is particularly necessary because the socket of this ball-and-socket joint is so shallow that it provides little stability itself.

These muscles not only generate the force needed to throw but also apply a braking action. With enormous joint loads during the Deceleration Phase of throwing, the Rotator Cuff muscles prevent the entire arm from following the cricket ball thrown by keeping the hemeral head (ball) in the glenoid fossa (socket).

Understanding the mechnics of throwing

Poor mechanics and posture around the shoulder are quite often factors in any shoulder injury, causing adverse strains and stresses in the rotator cuff. Looking at the biomechanics of throwing may further help in our understanding.

6 phases of throwing

  1. Wind-up. The cricketer prepares the kinetic chain and builds potential energy whilst raising the centre of gravity. This phase produces minimal stress to the shoulder.
  2. Early cocking. The arm is bent to 90 degrees with abduction to posterior of the body. External rotation is initiated with deltoids (early) and cuff (late) initiated.
  3. Late cocking. Foot is planted and there is maximum external rotation (170 degrees) with peak cuff activity: Mid phase: supraspinatus, infraspinatus and teres minor. Late phase: subscapularis as the torso opens.
  4. Acceleration. The cricketer now rotates the shoulder to the ball release point of 90o rotation. The velocity nears 7000 deg/sec. There is eccentric to concentric conversion with minimum load to GH joint during energy transfer.
  5. Deceleration (Most violent): The ball is released to 0o rotation. The contraction becomes eccentric to slow the arm with posterior capsule stress.
  6. Follow through. The cricketer rebalances as muscles return to resting levels.

When you consider that all this takes approximately 2 seconds (1.5s for Wind Up to Late Cocking, 0.05s for Acceleration and 0.45s for Deceleration to the end), you can appreciate the stresses we continually place on this area and perhaps see how we can help prevent injury by strengthening these muscles.

How to prevent Rotator Cuff injury

There are many exercises to strengthen this area. Pulleys in the gym are excellent; by pulling the cables in all directions, all four muscles and more are worked.

There are many exercises that can easily be performed at home; dynamic exercises requiring balance should be used, such as press-ups with one hand on a medicine ball, or walking forwards/sideways in the press-up position. You can even exercise in bed!

Lying on your side with your top arm following the line of your body, your elbow bent with your forearm coming out in front, holding a suitable weight. Raise the weight to the ceiling with arm flexed and close to the body; rotating at the shoulder. Count two up and four down. This exercise activates the supraspinatus, subscapularis, infraspinatus and the deltoids.

To activate the teres minor, as well as the infraspinatus, stand or sit upright, arms outstretched to your sides with 90o elbow flexion so that weight is held in front of you. Rotate at the shoulder until the weight is raised to head level, pointing upwards. Slowly lower the weight and repeat, exercising both arms.

All the exercises possible with a pulley can be performed at home with the use of exercise/stretch bands.

Always remember to set aside enough time for a complete warm up prior to any exercise; dynamic stretching and core exercises for balance and proper biomechanics, then move on to free weight resistance training of the upper (and lower) body. Remember also to devote enough time for developmental stretches at the end of the session, whilst the muscles are sill warm, to increase your range of movement about your joints.

About the author
Liz Ward is a Strength and Conditioning Practitioner operating in and around Essex, Cambridgeshire, Hertfordshire and Suffolk with a mission to change the way cricketers train for the sport; introducing biomechanics, fitness, psychology and nutrition.

If you would like a consultation you can email Liz at Liz is also a consultant coach on the Simplycricket Fitness and Nutrition forum.

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nice article. I think it will help the cricketer to live away from cricket injury. thanks for this article.

You are right kamrul, if it saves one shoulder then Liz has done a great job.

[...] who normally charge a fortune for their time. Currently Ian Pont looks after the fast bowlers, Liz Ward does the fitness and nutrition and I’m a Level 2 coach. That’s without the great advice from [...]

nice artical and this is help to the coaches and cricketer to protact from shoulder injury this is the very coman problem to the cricketer.
i like your site and this is very informatic for the players and coaches.

Thank you mauhtashim.

Great Article. I've been doing some rotator cuff stuff at the gym and I have found when I now throw a ball I'm not getting pain like I use to. I think I'll incorporate more rotator cuff exercises into my workout.

Cheers Guys

I'm glad it's working for you Danny

Great article again! An area which is often overlooked and one which causes a lot of injuries.


It sure is Stan. Hopefully Liz has prevented a few painful weeks.

Very nice article. This is going to help some more cricketers at all level to keep themselves away from shoulders injuries. some more illustrations with pictures will make the article attractive.

What illustrations are you looking for?

I'm delighted. I have spent another season with a 'thrown arm' and at last I can build a winter programme for prevention next season. Many, many thanks.

Let us know how it goes Andy.

I'm a fast bowler. I have been having shoulder pain for the past few days, which stops me from bowing. what should I do?

See a physiotherapist Dhruv, I'm not qualified to tell you I'm afraid.

Hello David. You asked me to let you know how I'm getting on. I waited until there was no pain at all in the joint (and then some) and since I've been doing dumbbell exercises with some very light weights my son gave me. The joint definitely feels both stronger and more flexible - doesn't seem to creak about as much. I'll keep it up. As an aside, I've taken up Badminton for the winter. I'm no expert in biomechanics, but it also feels as though the different stroke to tennis is less stressful on the shoulder joint - I've had no pain at all, and only twinged my shoulder once when I mistimed a smash and I don't smash much anyway. I'm thinking I've found a good way to keep fit and play without causing further damage and frankly it's a lot more interesting than the dumbbells. Do you have a view?

Badminton is good because it makes your shoulder move in new ways. When you use the dumbbells make sure you are doing some pulling style exercises like rows and add in some YLTW's as a warm up. Great progress though, well done.

Hello David.
I've made a lot more progress and I'm feeling over the moon! I've taken another step that is probably crucial for anyone with this problem. i.e. Sort out your throwing technique! I spent some time with an ECB coach and the first thing he picked up was my poor throwing technique. He predicted I would have pain from my technique! I was throwing at an oblique angle with the elbow below the shoulder joint, but practising a good action, coupled with the exercises I was doing means I'm now zinging the ball in the throw with no pain at all! Even my hardest throws are pain-free, especially as I'm so aware of the need to maintain a high elbow. Now, the proof of the pudding will be to see if my technique can hold up under game pressure. I suspect this element of technique is the most crucial for anyone with a similar problem.

Hi, what exercises can I do at home wiht a 10 year old to strenghthen the muscles?
Many thanks


Are you able to detail out what throwing technique was suggested ?

I realise that my throwing elbow used to be below the shoulder line,

did you mean - throwing down in towards the wicket ? or consiously throwing up flat...

i am a bit confused and am not entirely sure about this...

I Want to improve my throwing technique?

Good luck SRB

I Have an ankle injury in my leg? This injury has has dislocated my ankle bone two times.Do you know how to make an ankle strong?

The way it was explained to me, an elbow below shoulder height in the throw causes damage to the rotator cuff because of the way the forces work, but as the article says, this can be strengthened. The point I was making was that a poor throwing technique must surely repeat the damage again.

so the correct throwing technique would be to make sure that the elbow is 'raised' to above the shoulder...

hmmmm ...
how effective is that ?
have you tried it ?

i might hit the ground n chek out hw it feels, with accuracy and all...

any comments or suggestions David ?

Yes, biomechanically it's much safer to raise the elbow to level with, or above the shoulder line then throw over your shoulder rather than around it. This can seem uncomfortable if you have learned another way and it's a little slower to get the ball away than 'firing from the hip'.

OK David, last post. Am throwing in from the boundary and hit the stumps from midwicket for my first runout in years! Andrew Symonds eat your heart out!
Can't pretend I don't have to be very careful with my throwing action to avoid unwelcome twinges but I'm truly grateful.
Many thanks for all your help and advice once again.
Kind regards.

Great article Liz, I had a shoulder surgery two weeks ago for a ruptured bicep tendon. I wish I had read this article before I started playing cricket. My injury was due to poor technique and a weak rotater cuff muscle. My advice for avoiding shoulder injury would be to have a flexible and strong shoulder with most importantly proper throwing technique.

nice as all the cricket players now days need these instructions

Anbody know how to repair and injured shoulder? Any suggestions would be appreciated.