The Ashes 2021 and cricket injuries

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It’s summer down under and Cricket is one of the most popular sports played during an Oz Summer. Even better, it’s the Ashes coming your way where the English take on the Aussies in their backyard. Over the years it has been an Everest to climb to beat the Aussies in a test series in their home. The English are waiting to see Ben stokes back in action, whereas the Aussies will look to come back after the historic defeat they were handed by India in their last test series at home. The Gabba, the Oz fortress for over 3 decades was taken down. The Aussies are gritty, they will look to make a strong comeback in the tests after their recent triumph at the T20 world cup. On the other hand, the England team is strong as ever, with their core being Captain Joe Root, Ben stokes, the fast bowling duo of Jimmy Anderson and Stuart Broad with a strong middle order and pace bowling options.

Cricket is a non-contact sport, the players present with a variety of overuse and impact injuries from activities including running, throwing, batting, bowling, catching, jumping, diving and impact injuries with the 5.5-ounce hard ball which is bowled at the batsman at speeds of up to 160 km/h. A player can have a significant injury or match time loss during an important match because of his inability to bat, bowl, field or keep the wickets.

Some of the common non-contact injuries in cricket include anterior cruciate ligament (ACL) tears because of knee twisting activities while fielding, lateral and high ankle sprains in fast bowlers’ run up or a rectus tear during sudden evasive techniques while batting. Lateral epicondylitis (tennis elbow) is very common in batsmen and is often caused because of improper batting biomechanics or inappropriate equipment such as a heavy bat. The throwing mechanism used by fielders and fast bowlers’ places repetitive valgus strain on the elbow. Hamstring injuries have become very common with the rise of T20 cricket and due high number of overs bowled in a test like the Ashes. In addition, other modifiable factors such as inadequate warm-up and cool-down, fatigue during play, inadequate flexibility, low back pain/injury, and strength imbalance between hamstrings and quadriceps also add to the possibility of a hamstring strain. Posterior ankle impingement is a common injury in bowlers, where they get pain during bowling in the back foot due to forced dorsiflexion during front-foot landing and not during running. Low cut modern shoes, which give a greater range of movement for the ankle, varying hardness of the ground, and workload in a test match with respect to bowling many overs contribute to repetitive trauma and inflammation at the os trigonum causing posterior impingement at the ankle.

Some of the impact injuries include mallet finger in catching drills/match, fractured rib, and concussions due to ball impact while batting or collision while fielding. Some injuries have a gradual onset which include Low back pain in fast bowlers because of the high velocity bend in their delivery stride secondary to a pars stress fracture in the lumbar spine. Insidious onset injuries include anterior knee pain secondary to patella-femoral chondral degeneration in bowlers, shoulder pain during overhead throwing secondary to SLAP lesions and medical illnesses.

Injury prevention in Cricket

Basics:

  • Attend training regularly so your body is ready for match day.
  • Warm up and stretch before playing.
  • Cool down and stretch after playing.
  • Drink water and keep yourself well hydrated.

Choice of optimal gear:

  • Wear Cricket shoes with spikes when on the field, to prevent slipping or skidding on the pitch.
  • Always wear protective gear, including while training.
  • Wear body padding, including gloves, leg pads, abdominal box guard and forearm guards while batting.
  • Wear a cricket helmet with a faceguard when wicket keeping, batting, or fielding in close, injuries to the head can prove fatal (risk of craniofacial fractures).
  • If any player has a history of any injuries, he/she should speak to the physiotherapist about appropriate taping or protective gear.

Safe environment:

  • Hazards, such as stones and water, should be removed from the playing surface.
  • Make sure the pitch is clean and even.
  • The nets in practice sessions should be adequate to stop cricket balls.

Know yourself and Cricket:

  • It is suggested to use the right techniques for bowling, batting, and catching as apart of injury prevention
  • It is essential for a proper technique to be adopted while sliding to stop a ball while fielding and diving to complete a run while batting.
  • For a medium fast/fast bowler, it is necessary to should restrict the number of balls/overs bowled during training/match, considering the physical fitness of the player.
  • Know how to use the equipment properly and safely.
  • Follow the rules and play fair- Is that applicable to the Aussies though?

Other safety:

  • Wear appropriate sun block accessories and sunscreen.
  • Stay well hydrated before, during and after play.
  • Playing in extreme heat or wet conditions is not recommended. Where possible, games should be rescheduled.
  • Make sure everyone, including coaches, players and parents are aware of the symptoms and signs of heat-related illness.
  • Check that qualified physiotherapist/ first aid personnel, first aid kits, icepacks and a stretcher are always available.
  • Have a telephone access to contact emergency services available.

Response to injury:

  • Remove injured or bleeding players from the field immediately.
  • Seek prompt attention from qualified physio/ first aid personnel.
  • Make sure you are fully rehabilitated and cleared by a physio before returning to play.
  • Impacts to the head by a ball or collision must always be assessed for a suspected concussion.

Summary

  • The most common injuries suffered through cricket are strains, sprains, fractures, bruising and open wounds. The hands and fingers are often involved in a cricket injury.
  • Cricket is often played in hot weather conditions over many hours, so it is essential to protect players and spectators from dehydration and heat stroke.
  • Using the right techniques and equipment for the sport can help prevent injury.