04 Oct Preventing Injuries in Youth Cricket
Participating in cricket at a young age is a familiar path for many kids growing up in Australia. Yet as our kids move into their teenage years, there is a stark drop off in the progression into sub-elite or elite teams. One of the main reasons for this dropout rate is injury. So, what are the most common injuries we see in young cricketers, what increases the risk of injuries and what can we do to prevent them?
Common injuries in youth cricket
The most common cricket injuries we generally see are hamstring strains, followed by rotator cuff injuries, medial meniscus tears, ankle sprains and more severely lumbar stress fractures. While the incidence of injury in youth cricket is relatively similar, the prevalence of injuries has increased due to recent changes in game format. These changes include increased volume of cricket played and reduced rest between games. We see most cricket-specific injuries in bowlers (45%), followed by fielders (30%) and wicket keepers (25%).
WHAT INCREASES THE RISK OF INJURY IN CRICKET?
There are numerous factors which may lead to the increase of cricket injury in Australia. Adolescents are more prone to injury for several reasons. These include asymmetries in muscular strength and flexibility, uncoordinated movement patterns due to a lack of muscle control and sudden workload changes. In order to reduce the risk of injury from any of these factors, the initial step requires adequate programming to modify the cricketer’s conditioning level.
Although there are different techniques of delivering a ball, the injury rates remain similar between each style. Despite this, there are features that may contribute to lower back injury rates in cricket bowlers. These include asymmetric and reduced force output in the delivering arm’s shoulder and reduced or inhibited power generation of the quadriceps on the non-dominant leg. A player’s reduced ankle dorsiflexion and hamstring flexibility and suboptimal single leg balance can also increase the risk of lower limb injury occurrences.
Getting the right amount of rest and recovery is vital too. Research shows that in sub-elite cricketers, less than two, or more than five days between bowling sessions increases injury risk by 4.5 times.
HOW TO PREVENT INJURY IN ADOLESCENTS
Preventing injury before it occurs is the key. To reach the heights of potential, our youth cricketers require adequate conditioning. It is the responsibility of all players, coaches, and support staff to integrate thorough physical assessments. It’s imperative to the succession of our cricketers onto the elite level, to assess the players physical characteristics and identify bodily asymmetries, thereby identifying possible injury risk before it occurs.
When we know these characteristics, it’s then time to adopt an individualised training program to meet those needs. Even further, these individualised training programs should look subtly different to the in-season training program.
Pre-season training should focus on strength, functional ability and balance training. This should progress to functional strengthening during the season. A structured warm up in pre-season should include proprioception, strength and technical skills, whilst ensuring alignment and control is maintained to reduce ankle and knee injuries.
WHERE TO GET HELP
An Accredited Exercise Physiologist (AEP) can help to prevent injury leading into the Cricket season. They can assess a player’s physical characteristics and identify bodily asymmetries, thereby identifying possible injury risk before it occurs. This means that you would be able to know exactly the musculoskeletal strengths and weaknesses of your athletes.
The most appropriate tests for young Cricketers are:
- Nordic Test – Measuring hamstring strength
- Hip Adduction and Abduction Test – Measuring groin strength
- Shoulder Internal/External Rotation Test – Measuring shoulder strength
- Single Leg Squat Test – Measuring the ability to control single leg movement
- Countermovement Jump Test – Measuring jump height and explosive power
An exercise physiologist will use these tests to prescribe safe and effective exercises to boost performance and reduce injury risk.
To find an Accredited Exercise Physiologist near you, click here.
Written by Toby Edmanson. Toby is an Accredited Exercise Physiologist at the Queensland Sports Medicine Centre (QSMC) in Brisbane. QSMC are currently offering a Cricket Conditioning series to assist athletes with physical preparation for the 2022/23 season.