Injury prevention is better than cure Across The Board
Stabroek News
June 2, 2002

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One of the contributing, but overlooked factors to the West Indies team's 2-1 triumph over India in their 2002 Cable & Wireless Test Series was the fitness of the players that enabled the selection panel to have the best men available at all times.

For the entire five-Test series, the West Indies team suffered just one serious injury setback when leg-spin bowler Mahendra Nagamootoo was ruled out of the second Test at Port of Spain because of a hamstring strain. Unfortunately, he was also subsequently involved in an automobile accident that ruled him out completely.

The fitness of our team has come sharply under the microscope in recent times. It has suffered heavy casualty lists over the last two years and this has robbed the side of some of its best players and severely weakened its chances of becoming a more competitive and cohesive unit.

At the start of the year, senior officials of the West Indies Cricket Board, the management of the team, and a number of leading medical professionals from around the region assembled in Jamaica for a two-day workshop to develop protocols of management for dealing with medical, physical and fitness issues.

The workshop identified that squad sizes should be selected to cater for the incidence of injury that is common and acceptable in the sport of cricket. It was also agreed that injury prevention and management was key to retaining a squad of fit, healthy players.

It was suggested that annual and pre-tour medical and fitness assessments of West Indies players should be undertaken and that teams of physicians with sports medicine training or background must be assembled in all or as many territories as possible.

The medical team will comprise a general practitioner with sports medicine training or background as medical co-ordinator, an orthopaedist, a trainer, a physical therapist, a dietitian, and a sports psychologist.

All players must be cleared by the medical panel prior to participation in any tour or series. This will mean that there will be stricter time lines for the selection of our teams.

It was also pointed out that all assessments must be documented and put into a central database to help lend itself to greater monitoring of the players' fitness and health and should help in the early detection of injuries.

On the individual level, players will be briefed regularly about injury prevention, especially the early detection of injuries. We will continue to inform them about the minimum standard of fitness to be attained to play for West Indies, and we shall also put in place health insurance to provide coverage in times of illness and injury.

We will identify periods of "down time" for our players and, this year, players will be offered a "vacation" between the end of the 2002 Cable & Wireless Series against New Zealand and the start of the regional limited-overs competition.

It does not mean that they cannot play competitively, say for their domestic clubs, but it will be a period when they will be out of international cricket and we hope they will it use to rest and let their bodies recover from the hard grind.

We expect them to continue working on their fitness and conditioning. This is why we also plan to provide them with a programme for maintaining their fitness and health during the "down time".

But out concern is not only at the international level. We want to continue tracking injuries from the time they occur, so we are also developing a system that will help us to document each and every illness and injury sustained by players in the regional competitions.

We will continue to conduct informative workshops on fitness and conditioning, as well as injury prevention with coaches and trainers to equip them with the knowledge and understanding about what they can do to help their own players with their personal fitness and health management.

The WICB recognises that fitness, conditioning and injury prevention are key to elite athletes giving their best in international sport. Cricket is no different. We will do all that is possible to ensure that our teams are well prepared to face the physical challenges presented by the International Cricket Council's 10-year tour programme.

For at least the next five years, West Indies will be called upon to play a minimum of 15 Tests and 20 limited-overs internationals annually. This means an increased workload for our cricketers and an urgent need for them to be fitter and better prepared.