Jock Campbell is a leading expert in athlete high performance, strength and conditioning. Jock will be providing exclusive insights throughout the 2012/13 Summer of Cricket.
Everyone seems to be an expert or have an opinion on why injuries are occurring so regularly with fast bowlers these days. Jacques Kallis and James Pattinson breaking down in the Second Test have heightened this. Fast bowlers go down with problems as varied as stress fractures in the lower back, ankle problems, soft tissue hamstring injuries and even side strains. Most of the advice seems to be very reactive, hysterical and extreme. A fast bowler suffering an injury is not a new thing, particularly young fast bowlers. So why now does it seem like it’s happening more regularly? It’s the high-octane part of cricket where every fibre and joint of the body is tested to the extreme and high pace and effort is expected year round. So I thought I’d go through what the current stressors are for a fast bowler, what are the requirements for great performance and injury prevention, as well as the risk factors.
Workload - It’s basically how much a bowler bowls in practice and matches, and is looked at in terms of balls bowled per day, week, month and year. There’s been enough research done in this area to have some good recommendations, but not enough on the right type of bowlers to have all the answers. What we do know is that if a cricketer has a large increase in the volume of bowling in a short period of time, the chances of an injury increase, which is common for any physical activity. With back-to-back Tests in Adelaide and Perth, Peter Siddle will be in the danger zone as he backs up at the WACA on Friday after his herculean performance in the Second Test where he bowled over 60 overs. The research clearly shows back-to-back Tests increase the risk of injury, take note of this during the Boxing Day and New Year’s Test in Australia and see how many times the bowling attacks from both teams are intact at the end. The cricket authorities know this, but due to packed schedules, TV rights, IPL windows and future tours programs we are told this is a must. They can’t have it both ways; cricket authorities worldwide know the risks and must accept the outcomes of a few injuries.
Anomalies – The recommendations from the bowling workload studies are that bowlers should bowl no more than 180 balls per week, no less than 2 times per week and no more than 3.5 times per week in order to reduce the risk of injury. Unfortunately in a Test match you might bowl more than this in one innings, just as Peter Siddle has done. Fast bowlers need to bowl top pace in every spell in a Test match if they want to be the best. It’s a tough balance between peak performance and injury prevention.
At the end of the day a bowler needs to have conditioned himself enough to handle the volumes he will bowl during Test matches, this cannot be developed over night and must be increased gradually over time.
Age – Most young express fast bowlers will have injury problems early. Their bones aren’t fully hardened, muscles not specifically strong or well-conditioned enough. They may be able to bowl fast, but they’re unable to handle year round professional cricket. A classic example is Pat Cummins, who only played around 8 first class matches before being selected for Australia. No doubt he is talented enough, but recent history has shown us he is not physically ready to handle the rigours of continuous international cricket. These kids need to be able to build up their bowling condition in combination with their physical development gradually over time. They also must realise cricket is a year round proposition, there is no having two or 3 months off from bowling per year, they must stay in great shape year round!
Injury rates – for a long time now cricket has been a year round proposition. The longest period I remember having back at home in one stint in the 5 years I was with the Aussie team was 5-6 weeks, and that only happened once. This packed schedule isn’t going to change. Injury rates to Australian Cricketer’s were the lowest in recorded history through the 2003/2004 and 2004/2005 seasons. Brett Lee, Dizzy Gillespie, Glenn McGrath, Andy Bichel and Michael Kasprowicz worked extremely hard on their condition, recovery, strength, bowling volumes and speed training during this period. They all bowled through pain at times and despite doing everything right sometimes still got injured. That’s the life of a fast bowler. It’s how hard and well you work coming out of those periods that leads to a stronger and more hardened cricketer.
We had some magnificent physios that worked around the clock with these players to ensure they’d get back on the park, Errol Alcott and Patty Farhart to name a couple. But the last word on sacrifice goes to Brett Le. He had never got through a full professional season without missing time through injury when I showed him a study on 20 different professional sports that proved as a professional sportsman you are 100% less likely to suffer an injury if you stop drinking alcohol. He gave up drinking for a whole year and got through his first full year without injury.
Pushing the Boundaries is Brett Lee’s new DVD on his career. It contains a large section that we did together on conditioning for fast bowlers. Many of the training techniques that we used successfully through his career are on the DVD. It gives an insight into what a fast bowler needs to do to reach their physical bowling peak and prevent injuries.
For the full article on more risk factors and the type of training fast bowlers need to do click here