Injury Problems


Today we have a guest article about the injuries suffered by fast bowlers. Apparently there are 5 main cricket injuries commonly found in modern cricket. Cricket expert and lifelong fan Saad Raja from has put together a short list of these for your information. I thought it would make a nice change from moaning about T20 and the ECB! 

There are treatments and indeed technologies that can help the body to heal faster from common stresses to the body. The best cricket injury research has come mainly out from Australia under the direction of Dr John Orchard. Cricket injuries at the elite level in Australia have been monitored and the statistical figures show them to occur at the average rate of about 18 injuries in total for a squad of 25 players, who tend to play about twenty matches per season.

Around 9% of all cricketers have an injury at any given time, so it is a common event in the sport. However, with fast bowlers just over 15% are injured at any given time. Bowling fast is one of the more strenuous actions upon the body so it carries higher rates of muscle damage as well as ligament strains of many kinds.

1. A hamstring strain is a tear in the muscle tissue. Hamstring strains tend to affect all cricketers regardless of position and account for around 15% of all cricket injuries. Hamstring strains occur during explosive sprinting activities such as bowling, taking a quick single or fielding a ball. Because of the sudden stress on the muscles, the hamstrings can be stretched beyond their limits and the muscle tissue can be torn. Any muscle tear is referred to as a strain and depending on its severity, it is classified as a first, second or third degree strain.

2. Low back pain is the general term for any pain in the back. The repetitive action of bowling is the biggest cause of low back pain in cricket, but bending to field the ball and standing in the field for prolonged periods also put stress on the back which can cause back pain. Any structure of the lower back can be affected – the discs, ligaments, muscles or facet joints – but in fast bowlers, particularly younger ones, the most commonly affected part of the lower back is the ‘Pars Interarticularis’ region of the lumbar vertebra, where a stress fracture can develop. This is characterised by a back ache following cricket, particularly when bending backwards.

3. A side strain is fairly common in cricket, where it typically occurs in bowlers. A side strain refers to a tear of the internal oblique, the external oblique, or the Transversalis fascia at the point where they attach to the four bottom ribs. In cricket the bowlers suffer the side strain on the non bowling arm side as a result of a forcible contraction of the muscle on that side while they are fully stretched as the bowling arm is cocked for bowling.

4. Shoulder pain is common in cricket because of the repeated actions of throwing and bowling. The rotator cuff muscles (supraspinatus, infraspinatus, subscapularis and teres minor) are small muscles situated around the shoulder joint, which can become damaged due to overuse during cricket.  Rotator cuff injuries often begin as inflammation (tendonitis) caused by repeated irritation. If the cause of the inflammation is not addressed, partial tears may develop in the cuff that could eventually become a tear all the way through one or more of the rotator cuff muscles.

5. A sprained ankle is pretty common in cricket. Glenn McGrath famously sprained his ankle by treading on a cricket ball during a game touch rugby. This injury probably had a big say in England’s 2005 Ashes series win. A sprained ankle is damage to the ligaments and soft tissues around the ankle, usually as a result of the ankle being twisted inwards. The ankle ligament and soft tissue damage produces bleeding within the tissues and an extremely painful, swollen ankle.

There are many very different physical demands involved upon the body in the different types of cricket, which has demonstrated the separate injury profile is slightly different between five day Test Matches, 3 day matches and one day matches. With the launch of Twenty20 cricket this has placed a new higher physical requirement on the cricketers, although it is too early for the effects of these demands to be analysed fully in sports injury research at the moment until the statistics are in.

One of the other common injuries is lower back pain which is more prevalent among the younger fast bowlers. The highly repetitive action of fast bowling for long spells places excessive stress on the muscles, ligaments and tissues of the lower back. There are also issues with stress fractures of the vertebra where (spondylolysis) can easily develop.

Some of the latest research has clearly indicated that most muscle injuries such as hamstring strains and side strains are among the most common of cricket injuries. These injuries are generally due to the “functional demands” of the sport where occasional sprinting and ball throwing may be repeated many times across a seven hour day.

Saad Raja


  • I’m curious why the kind of lower back troubles that received wisdom says are to be expected in men in their early twenties who try to bowl fast aren’t effecting Rabada?

    It could be said Rabada doesn’t get very side-on in his action but I can remember, for example, Kapil Dev had a perfect side-on action, bowled a lot of overs as a young man and never seemed to get injured.

  • A very interesting piece which only omits to mention that the tendency to injury is very varied, with some – like Trueman – rarely injured. I have seen it myself having been a sprinter/jumper at university. Despite this being the worst possible speciality for hamstring injuries I have never had one in my life (but do the calf every couple of years). One injury that it overlooks is that bane of keepers and close fielders – the shoulder separation. Having had it only once (and then only a grade 2) when diving forward for a catch with arm outstretched, I can vouch that it is undoubtedly the most painful injury possible – certainly worse than muscle tears, knee ligaments, cracked ribs and broken fingers – all of which I have had. It is the only time I have thrown up on a cricket field.

By Saad Raja

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