Teaching Young Cricketers New Spine-Healthy TricksCricket might seem like a slow-moving, genteel sport to some. But this sport causes some serious back problems in "fast bowlers." As many as 65 percent of young fast bowlers develop disc degeneration in the low back by age 18. It appears that different bowling techniques ("front-on" and "side-on") can reduce injuries. Could coaching to improve technique make a difference?
This study, done in Australia, looked at the effects of an intensive training program on back and shoulder injuries among a group of school-aged fast bowlers. The boys were followed for three years. They went to a seminar every year. They also got six coaching sessions each year that specifically worked on the front-on and side-on techniques. The boys got physical exams each year to check on spine degeneration.
The results were impressive. After three years of coaching, the rate of bowlers using the better techniques had risen from about 20 percent to about 66 percent. The authors also note that their bowling speed remained the same as bowlers using the unsafe technique.
The physical results were also impressive. At age 13, the bowlers showed the expected disc degeneration rate of about 24 percent. Four years later, only 33 percent showed disc degeneration. This was much less than would normally be expected. The bowlers who switched techniques stopped the progression of disc degeneration. The only boys whose disc degeneration got worse were those who continued to use unsafe techniques.Â
The authors note that it took three years of intervention to see such good results. The coaching showed few results in its first year or two. They conclude that intensive training can be very effective in reducing injuries in young cricket players--but the training needs to be long-term, individualized, and intense.
Bruce Elliott, and Mark Khangure. Disk Degeneration and Fast Bowling in Cricket: An Intervention Study. In Medicine & Science in Sports & Exercise. November 2002. Vol. 34. No. 11. Pp. 1714-1718.
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