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Cricketers at injury risk as game becomes more intense

The pace and intensity of modern day cricket is putting more players at risk of hamstring injury, as suffered by Australian cricket captain Michael Clarke, and specific hamstring strength testing and pre-match exercising regimes need to be adopted to prevent an increase in injuries, according to researchers at Bond University.

Bond University Masters of Research student, Wade Chalker, along with Associate Professor Justin Keogh from Bond's Faculty of Health Sciences and Medicine, Dr Tony Shield from Queensland University of Technology (QUT) and Dr David Opar from Australian Catholic University , have conducted research on approximately 60 cricketers from the Queensland Bulls, Brisbane Grade teams and Schoolboy teams.

The study focused on examining how eccentric hamstring strength differs across these three levels of participation, and whether real time force output feedback when performing these exercises can increase hamstring strength and reduce asymmetries between the legs.

Associate Professor Justin Keogh said the research had shown that gone were the days when cricket was more of a gentlemen’s game, where if you were unfit and 40 you could still get by uninjured.

"Hamstring strain injuries (HSIs) account for between 8-11.1% of all injuries in cricket, which is similar to the incidence in AFL of 7-14%, suggesting that HSIs are just as common in cricket as they are in other high intensity running sports," said Professor Keogh.

"The game is played with such intensity now and there is so much more pressure on players to back up again and again, causing an increase in the risk and incidence of injury."

Professor Keogh said research was increasingly necessary, as the wider hamstring injury literature indicated a lack of eccentric hamstring strength as well as strength asymmetries between the two legs may be the two primary risk factors of hamstring injury, therefore cricket players affected by either of these conditions may be placing themselves at higher risk.

"By doing exercise such as the Nordic hamstring exercise - which is basically a leg curl you would do at the gym, but lowering the whole body to the ground - we believe hamstring injuries can be greatly reduced in cricket as has been achieved in other European sports such as soccer and handball," he said.

Approximately five years ago Dr Tony Shield and Dr David Opar developed an instrumented device to measure hamstring strength in football players, and Wade saw the potential that this new technology could bring to injury prevention in cricket.

"Dr Shield and Dr Opar had largely concentrated their efforts in the football area, particularly AFL, however Wade had connections with the Queensland Bulls and was interested in cricket injuries so I helped bring them all together," said Professor Keogh.

"Our research utilised the instrument developed by Dr Shield and Dr Opar to accurately measure eccentric hamstring strength in cricket players, with such data invaluable to the team’s physiotherapist and strength and conditioning coach.

"We are looking at developing a statistical threshold which identifies hamstring weakness and also identifies the increasing risk of injury as players move up through the ranks of cricket to the elite level."

"Watching what has happened to the Australian captain Michael Clarke brings it home to us just how important this issue is and how research and preventative measures can make such a difference," he said.


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