With summer fast approaching, it’s time to start thinking about cricket. Each summer we see a number of young aspiring cricketers with low back pain, so it is timely to focus on highlighting the most common cause of this pain and how to avoid it.
Cricket injuries at elite level occur at a rate of around 18 injuries (in total) for a squad of 25 players, who play 20 matches in a season. On average 10 percent of cricketers have an injury at any given time, although in fast bowlers over 15 percent are injured at any given time.
Low back pain is very common in younger fast bowlers. The repetitive action of bowling places excessive stress on the structures of the low back. If not managed well, this can lead to stress fracture and time off the sport. The medical term for this type of stress fracture is spondylolysis or spondyloloisthesis.
Spondylosysis is a type of stress fracture in the back. It is most common in adolescents and active young adults who have poor core stability. It is also known as a pars stress fracture and most commonly occurs between the L5 (bottom of the spine and pelvis). The below picture shows the levels of injury.
Common symptoms of Spondylolysis are:
• Sudden onset of one sided back pain
• Aggravated by arching, twisting, standing or high impact.
• Pain may radiate to buttock or thigh
• Pain is eased by rest
• Exaggerated lumbar arch, tight hamstrings, hip flexor or glutes.
If you or your young cricketer complain of any of the above, you need to see a physiotherapist to carry out a complete assessment and get x-rays.
I see it most in young cricketers who have gone through a growth spurt, have tight hamstrings and hip flexors and an increased sway back or lumbar lordosis. Below is an example of too much lumbar lordosis, that middle picture is a stress fracture waiting to happen.
Training to bowl in neutral spine and getting really good at core stability is critical to preventing the stress fracture. Our fast bowlers who are competent on the Oov and strong in the core simply don’t develop low back pain. Being strong in the core is the best thing you can do to prevent injury as well as increase power and performance.
Below are three simple exercises you can do to start getting a stronger core and training the body to stay in a neutral position.
You will notice that I have not included the plank as a core exercise. The plank should be completely avoided if you are a cricketer, as it promotes anterior sheer on the lumbar spine, does not train neutral spine and creates tight hip flexors, which all increase the chances of developing a stress fracture.
Leg extensions on the Oov. Repeat 10x each side while lying on the Oov. Your body is being trained to stay in neutral while you are moving the legs.
Oov Roll ups x10, maintains neutral spine without loading the disc or hip flexors and smashes the core.
Psoas stretch in kneeling. Tuck gluts under to flatten out the back and really stretch out those tight hip flexors.
If you get any pain with any of the above exercises, please feel free to contact me. Everything should be pain free with these programs. Have a great summer and smash it for 6!