Are you or your child suffering with lower back pain this cricket season? Our Colac Physiotherapist, Grant Brauer, looks at this common fast bowling injury.
The sun is out and the footy season is well and truly behind us and for me that can only mean one thing – cricket season!
So far the weather has been (mostly) kind to our cricketers and this means that there have already been lots of overs bowled this season. Unfortunately for some unlucky bowlers this means the onset of lower back pain, potentially in the form of lumbar stress fractures.
What are stress fractures?
Stress fractures are bone injuries that occur when one or more bones have been exposed to more stress over a period of time than they can cope with. The stress placed on the bone is greater than the bones ability to make itself stronger if left to continue long enough the bone starts to develop weakness and then a fracture.
Young fast bowlers in cricket are especially prone to this type of injury, although it can certainly also happen in adults. The bowling action is inherently stressful. In elite fast bowlers up to 8 times the body weight load travels through the body at the moment the bowler releases the ball.
If the bowler doesn’t have the ability to keep their trunk in an upright and safe position during the release of the ball the load will get placed upon the bones of the lower back (vertebrae) and a stress reaction may occur.
Other young athletes in sports that require them to extend and/or rotate their lower back can also be prone to this injury. Gymnasts and dancers are a good example.
Lumbar spine pars defect
When the segments of the lower lumbar spine are repetitively placed into extension (arching backwards) and rotation (twisting) a certain part of the vertebrae (the pars interarticularis) is placed under stress. When it develops a fracture we call it a pars defect.
Adolescents are most at risk in developing bone stress reactions and this is no different in young cricketers. Our bones don’t reach full strength and density until we become adults. Until bones do reach full maturity they can be more susceptible to the development of stress fractures.
Many young people can grow very tall, very quickly and this is what we call a growth spurt. Having newly grown long arms and long legs can often make a young fast bowler even faster, but it also means more leverage and stress placed on the spine when releasing the ball. Growth spurts can be a higher risk time for the development of stress fractures.
The number of overs delivered and the number of days per week a young fast bowler plays may simply exceed their bodies capacity to cope with. This can be an important consideration if the young fast bowler is playing junior and senior cricket, is vying for squad representation or is selected for carnivals such as Country Week. Cricket Australia has for many years provided advice to clubs and coaches regarding the safe bowling loads for young fast bowlers.
To learn more please follow the link. https://play.cricket.com.au/community/clubs/managing-your-club/youth-pace-bowling-guidelines
A poor technique may predispose the young fast bowler to lumbar stress injuries. Technique modification and coaching may be required as part of a return to bowling post injury.
If the young fast bowler isn’t strong enough through the legs, hips and trunks they may simply lose balance at the crease and put their lower back into a compromised position.
General health considerations such as diet and sleep habits can also influence the healthy development of bones and the musculoskeletal system.
What can I expect from a Physiotherapy appointment for my young fast bowler?
Firstly you can expect a thorough assessment to help identify the cause or causes of your lower back pain. This will involve;
- an interview where I ask questions to determine what factors may have lead to the onset of your back pain
- a movement assessment where I work to determine which movements your lower back will and will not tolerate. I will also use the movement assessment to identify if there are aspects of muscular strength and coordination that may be contributing to your pain.
- a functional assessment which is where I try to determine what tasks you are able to complete with no or little risk as well as the ones that you should avoid.
- a palpatory assessment which is where I use my hands to try and find the origin of your pain.
How are stress fractures treated?
Recovery from lumbar stress injury takes time and needs to be monitored carefully if it is to be successful. A scan of the lumbar spine, either an x-ray or MRI, is often required in order to confirm the diagnosis. Education and advice is an essential part of any treatment plan and is especially important for both the young bowler, parent/gaurdians and coaches.
Exercise rehabilitation is a key component of any recovery, but needs to be paced appropriately according to the stage of recovery. This is where the Physiotherapist should take a leading role.
As mentioned above, technique analysis and modification may be required as part of the recovery process. Our experienced Physiotherapist Grant has been involved in cricket for many years and is also a qualified cricket coach. He is well placed to provide this kind of analysis and feedback.
Timely assessment of your young fast bowler at the onset of lower back pain is vital. Make an appointment with our experienced, local Physiotherapist, Grant Brauer by contacting us at Prosper Health Group Colac on (03) 5290 5238.