April sees a welcome start to the 2017 English cricket season. As with all sports, amidst the achievement and fun, there remains the risk of injuries on the pitch. Fast bowlers seem to be most prone, due in part to the repetitive, powerful nature of their play. Some simple pre-match precautions and first aid procedures can, however, minimise the risk and treat any injuries that do occur. Here are a few common cricketing injuries to avoid.
A tear in the muscle tissue or tendon at the back of the thigh. It can affect all cricketers, but especially bowlers, as it happens during explosive sprinting activities. Sudden stress on the legs makes muscles overextend, tearing the tissue. Too long a stint as bowler can exacerbate the risk, as can too short a warm-up prior to the match. Sufferers of a hamstring injury should follow the RICE routine - Rest, Ice, Compression and Elevation and seek professional medical advice.
This is caused by damage to ligaments and soft tissue in the ankle that causes bleeding in the tissue, swelling and acute pain. It usually happens when the ankle moves in an unintended way, such as twisting inwards. Taping or bracing ankles can help protect them, as can careful warming up and training prior to a game. Again, applying the RICE protocol (see above) will help aid initial recovery. Following that, regular sessions with a physiotherapist should eventually return the joint to its former capabilities.
Lower back pain
Long periods of standing can aggravate the back, so fielders in particular should be aware of the possibility of lower back pain. Any part of the back can be injured, from discs and joints to muscles and ligaments. Regular training helps, in order to establish the safest stance for bowling and fielding, and shock absorbing in-soles in the shoes can make some difference too. Core stability exercises also help strengthen the area. Use a heat pack to soothe any painful areas and reduce muscle spasm in the back. Watch out for stress fractures, as these can require up to six weeks' rest to heal and will get worse if left unnoticed.
Bowling and batting can affect the small muscles around the shoulder if they are performed too much and without taking enough rest in between training and matches. Watch out for inflammation in the rotator cuff area of the shoulder, as this can be a warning sign of tendonitis. Again, physiotherapy can strengthen the area, as can flexibility and strength exercises. Any new training techniques should be introduced and increased gradually to allow the area to get used to the movements required. Use anti-inflammatory gel to treat the area in the shorter term if it becomes very painful, or you wear a shoulder support.
Prevention is better than cure
A few simple steps will help cricket players avoid injury on the pitch and lengthy recovery periods hampering their style. Always warm up and cool down correctly with plenty of stretching and body conditioning exercises. Warm-ups help the blood flow to the muscles and increase oxygen levels. Cooling down helps your heart rate return to normal and eliminates waste products from the body, such as lactic acid. Other tips include booking regular sports massages and following a healthy diet. Buy the best equipment and kit you can afford; this can make a huge difference to your performance. Finally, invest in proper sports first aid training to help yourself and your co-players stay fit and injury-free to enjoy the entire season.