Did you know that Cricket Australia have recently changed their YOUTH BOWLING GUIDELINES?
Club Sponsor, Spring Physio Gym Director, Robin Halse met up with Alex Kountouris, the long time physio for the Australian Cricket Team, and Sports Medicine Manager for Cricket Australia, to talk about these changes.
RH. Alex you've done a lot of really important research into injuries sustained by cricketers, especially pace bowlers. Can you tell us about some of your more important findings?
AK. Our research shows that sustained high workloads and sudden increases in workload are key contributors to bony injuries in young fast bowlers. When combined with bowling technique errors, the risk increases. If we add in that their bones haven’t fully matured and there are growth spurts, it is easy to understand why young fast bowers are likely to develop bone stress injuries like stress fractures of the lower back. Our research shows that younger, faster bowlers are up to 6-10 x greater risk of getting a stress fracture when playing in multi-day games.
RH. Why is growth such a high risk?
AK. Well, in young developing bodies, the skeletal bone does not reach its full maturity (bone strength such as density or mineralisation) and remains susceptible to stress fractures until bone stops growing ... especially for the kind of forces that bowling puts on it. In fact, although the lower limb bones are close to fully mature by about the age of 18, the vertebra or spinal bones don't reach full maturity until about the age of 25. This means the spine bones remain more susceptible to injury until around this age.
RH. How does the research you've done with the professional cricketers have relevance for our kids?
AK.We are now doing a lot of research in both elite professional players and adolescent players. The results from our research have been used to change the Youth Bowling Guidelines.
We are looking at ways we can get the research messages to all young players and are developing an App for junior players to use, that helps them track how their workload is going and provides information about how to manage their young bodies. This App is very similar to the one our elite players use and help us track their workloads.
RH. That's really interesting Alex. So what recommendations is Cricket Australia starting to make for junior pace bowlers?
AK. Essentially our new guidelines encourage young players to bowl a regular amount of balls each week, but not too many or too little. Some of the key recommendations include not bowling more than 4 days per week and minimise the amount of times they bowl 2-days in a row. This is important to allow bones to adapt to the stress of bowling and become stronger. There is also a concept of having an ‘easier lighter’ bowling week every 4-5 weeks and a whole week off bowling every approximately 10 weeks.
RH. A lot of kids who play cricket for Malvern also play cricket for their school. How would you suggest they manage their workload?
AK. The most important thing is to actually monitor (or count) how much and how often they bowl. They need to keep the number of balls they bowl in a seven day period really constant. So they need to consider how often they are bowling each week and follow the recommendations depending on their age group. If players are involved with multiple teams they need to prioritise the match balls bowled and then see how much they have bowled for the week and skip the odd training session, if they have bowled too much that week. It's not always the case of more training is better!
RH So, the workload being constant is really important....what happens if a game is cancelled due to rain, or there's a long weekend etc?
AK Then they still need to bowl the RIGHT amount , so they might need to bowl some extra deliveries at training instead.
RH. Why is it important to have a gap between training sessions?
AK. Especially in adolescents, the spinal bone is highly susceptible to stress and needs time to repair itself after bowling. It’s been shown that a two to three day gap gives the bone cells good recovery time.
RH. Ok, so you would suggest that if someone needs to bowl 20 overs in a week there should be a two day gap between sessions. If a match is cancelled you should go down to the nets and make up your overs there or do a few more in each training session to reach the target of 120 balls?
AK. Yes, they should have 1-2 day gaps between bowling sessions and bowl some extra deliveries at the training sessions.
Cricket Australia have published these changes on their website http://community.cricket.com.au/clubs/youth-pace-bowling-guidelines#