Bowling Injuries

Written by Brett Harrop


Injuries to bowlers in cricket are common, with fast bowling being the most injury prone discipline in the sport. Bowling, particularly fast bowling, places a large strain on the lower back. It has been reported that a force of 8-10 times body weight is transmitted through the body at front foot landing of the delivery stride. This, combined with extremes of lumbar range of movement, including extension, rotation and lateral flexion, puts the lumbar spine at risk of injury. Due to the repetitive nature of bowling and the long duration of some formats of the game, bowling injuries tend to be overuse and often present gradually over time. In younger fast bowlers (under the age of 25), lumbar stress fractures are the most prevalent injury. These injuries tend to occur on the non-bowling arm side of the lower back and are typically due to technique errors (such as a ‘mixed bowling action’ or excessive ‘counter rotation’) and/or excessive bowling workloads. In the older fast bowler, however, degenerative lumbar injuries tend to occur more commonly, usually affecting the lumbar discs.

In addition to the lumbar spine, lower limb injuries to the knees and ankles are also common due to the heavy impact and twisting forces associated with the bowling action. Other common injuries to affect fast bowlers are side strains (of the non-bowling arm side of the body), posterior ankle impingement (of the front foot) and patellar tendinopathy (of the front knee). Muscle injuries to the hamstrings and groin are also frequently seen.

Bowling Injuries

Most Common Bowling Injuries in Cricket

Lower Back

Lumbar Stress Fractures

A stress fracture in a specific section of bone in the lower back (known as the pars interarticularis) typically as a result of repeated or forceful hyperextension activities (figure 1) especially when combined with rotation (i.e. the fast bowling action). Particularly common in the younger athlete, especially those involved in cricket (i.e. fast bowlers) and gymnastics, and, during periods of rapid growth. Typically causes one sided lower back pain that increases with hyperextension activities (such as bowling) and decreases with rest. Symptoms may also increase on firmly touching the affected region.

Spinal Extension
Figure 1 – Spinal Extension

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Hamstring Strain

Tearing of the hamstring muscle (located at the back of the thigh), typically following a sudden acceleration or deceleration movement whilst running at high speed (such as during the fast bowling run-up or delivery stride). A sudden, localised pain is usually experienced at the back of the thigh and there is typically pain on firmly touching the affected region of muscle and often pain on attempting to run or bend forwards (figure 3).

Bending Forwards
Figure 3 – Bending forwards

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Patellar Tendinopathy

A condition characterized by tissue damage and degeneration to the patella tendon (figure 6) resulting in pain at the front of the knee just below the knee cap. Typically an overuse injury, resulting from repetitive fast bowling (affecting the front knee of the bowling action), running, jumping, squatting or lunging activities. Pain is usually experienced on firmly touching the patella tendon and swelling or puffiness may be present. Pain usually increases when performing a single leg squat, hopping or walking down hills or stairs.

Patella Tendon Anatomy
Figure 6 – Patellar Tendon Anatomy

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Posterior Ankle Impingement

Pain in the Achilles region of the front foot of the bowling action due to compression or pinching of structures at the back of the ankle joint during the delivery stride. Pain is usually worse with activities involving maximal ankle plantarflexion (downward pointing of the ankle – figure [wlm_nonmember]4[/wlm_nonmember][wlm_ismember]8[/wlm_ismember]) often in combination with weight bearing forces (such as the delivery stride of bowling, kicking a football and performing a calf raise). A common injury to fast bowlers, gymnasts, ballet dancers and footballers.

Ankle Plantarflexion
Figure 8 – Ankle Plantarflexion

Cricket Injuries Other Cricket Injuries

Physiotherapy products for Bowling Injuries Physiotherapy Products for Bowling Injuries

The following physiotherapy products are commonly prescribed to patients by physiotherapists to assist in the rehabilitation and prevention of bowling injuries:

To purchase physiotherapy products to assist with bowling injuries click on one of the above links or visit the PhysioAdvisor Shop.

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Physiotherapy Exercises Exercises for Bowling Injuries

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