The summer of cricket: hitting stress fractures for six!

It’s that time of year again… break out the whites, the zinc and the wide brimmed hat, its the Aussie Summer of Cricket.

While the Aussies are taking on South Africa and the local club is preparing for grade cricket, young Aussie bowlers are hitting their strides early on in the season. Fast bowlers in particular are much further at risk of injury compared to batsmen and their spin bowling counterparts due to the forces exposed to their spine during the delivery phase of their run up. To get an idea; stand up and lean back and to the side of your dominant arm, now stand on one leg and hop on the spot. Uncomfortable? Now try repeating 6 times an over (Plus wides and no balls); for 5,10,15+ overs; at the end of a 20 metre run up; in 30-40 degree Perth heat…Get the picture?

The spine is rapidly extended and side-bent to increase the release velocity of the ball as the bowler approaches the crease.

This repetitive extension and side bending of the spine as the ball is released from the bowlers hand puts extensive pressure on the bony structures of your spine that limit excessive bending backwards and twisting. These are called facet joints and they line the outer edge of your vertebrae. Extreme pressure on these joint can cause conditions like sciatica (irritated nerve roots exiting the spinal cord) or even more worrying Stress Fractures of the Lumbar spine.

Stress Fractures (Pars Defect) is damage as a result of repetitive stress of the facet joint (Pars Interarticularis) from the joint above and below. Pressure accumulates over time until the bony material no longer can resist the force of the repetitive movement and fractures (Spondylolysis). Much the same as repetitively bending the wire of a coat hanger, at first it moves slowly and firmly, until it becomes increasingly flimsy and eventually snaps. In more severe cases the vertebrae can slip forward due to the fracture of the bony facet, compromising the stability of the spine (Spondylolisthesis).

Rehabilitation for Stress Fractures is a slow and tedious process. It is advised that players be removed from repetitively loading for 4-8 weeks depending on the severity of symptoms before they can return to spine loaded exercise. The key is catching the signs and symptoms of stress fractures before the fracture occurs. If you are experiencing pain in the lower back during and after repetitive bowling actions or if your pain is made worse by standing, leaning or arching your back it would be wise to review your bowling technique and speak to your local Physiotherapist.

If you’d like to speak to a Physiotherapist the staff at Lifecare Kingsway would be happy to assist in your condition.