Cricket bowling can lead to overuse injuries to your back and shoulders, and the more you bowl the higher your risk is. Performing exercises to improve flexibility and strength can help minimize your injury risk. You need to focus on your rotator cuff area as well as your core. Always consult a trainer or physical therapist to gain proper form before performing exercises.
Exercises that improve shoulder joint flexibility are important for cricket bowlers, according to "Cutting Edge Cricket," by Frank Pyke and Ken Davis. Examples include the shoulder drop and the towel stretch. To perform the shoulder drop, clasp your hands behind your head, then pull your elbows back so your shoulder blades are pinched together. Do the towel stretch by holding a towel behind your back. One arm is positioned over your head and the other is near your lower back. Lift the towel with your upper arm so it pulls your lower arm upward.
Shoulder strengthening exercises are equally important for cricket bowlers. Good exercises for bowlers include throwing and catching a medicine ball against a wall, wall push-ups performed with two arms or one arm, and mimicking the throwing action while holding a resistance band that is secured in a door or fence at shoulder height, say Pyke and Davis. External rotation exercises are helpful as well. To do these, place your hand behind your back and bring it across to the opposite side of your body with your arm parallel to the floor, recommends the American Academy of Orthopaedic Surgeons. Also use isometric external rotation exercises. Stand sideways against a wall with your elbow nearest the wall bent to 90 degrees. Push your bent arm into the wall for five seconds.
Core stability exercises are important for cricket bowlers because they help prevent back injuries. The front plank works your abs and your back, advises the American Council on Exercise. To do the plankhold, get in the top of a push-up position or keep your elbows close to your sides with your palms down and forearms on the floor as you hold your body in a straight line. Side planks are useful as well. To do a side plank, move onto one side and bend your bottom elbow to 90 degrees, placing it under your shoulder, before raising your hips from the floor. You keep your body in a straight line parallel to the wall. The bicycle crunch is one of the best ab exercises out there, notes ACE. To do this, lie on the floor and bring your knees up to a 45-degree angle. Touch your opposite elbow to your knee as you make a bike pedal motion. Your core is more than your abs, however. The exercise known as the superman will work your lower back and pelvis area, which are also part of your core. To do this exercise, lie face down on the floor, then raise your arms and legs from the floor with you abs contracted. Avoid arching your back.
When you perform exercises to improve strength in your rotator cuff area or to shore up your core, start with five repetitions of each exercise. Build up to 10 to 15 repetitions as you get stronger. The exception to this rule are the plank exercises. Start out with five seconds and hold the planks longer, such as 30 seconds, as you get stronger, according to ACE.
Your bowling technique may be a factor in your injury risk, despite your efforts to shore up your core and shoulder strength. You are more likely to suffer a spinal overuse injury if you adopt a mixed bowling action than someone who uses a side or front-on bowling technique. Your bowling speed also is a factor along with how often you bowl, says C.F. Finch, lead author for a study published in Sports Medicine. If you suffer an overuse injury to your rotator cuff, you may be able to overcome it with exercise therapy and self care. When you are bowling, rest your arm frequently and apply cold packs if you have any inflammation or pain. Back pain that is severe or lasts longer than three days needs medical treatment, according to MedlinePlus.
- Pub Med Central: Is bowling workload a risk factor for injury to Australian junior cricket fast bowlers?; R Dennis et al.; 2005
- PubMed.gov: “Sports Medicine”; Measures to Prevent Cricket Injuries; C.F. Finch et al.; 1999
- American Academy of Orthopaedic Surgeons: Shoulder Surgery Exercise Guide
- American Council on Exercise: “New Study Puts the Crunch on Ineffective Ab Exercises”; Mark Anders; 2001