Link between injuries, matches played must be explored - Griffith
Stabroek News
June 8, 2004

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Cricket Board's (WICB) Teddy Griffith has questioned whether there is a link between the prevalence of injuries to leading cricketers and the volume of international cricket being played.

After citing medical studies on cricketers from three of the Test-playing countries, Griffith asked: "Could it be that there is too much of a good thing? Could it be that the stresses and strains of nonstop international competition are having an effect on the injury levels?"

The statistics, he said, ought to be viewed in the context of a situation where, the West Indies, if they go through to the finals of both the tri-country ODI series in England commencing in June, and the ICC Champions Trophy in September, would have played a possible 113 days of cricket at the international level; 80 in Test Matches and 33 in One-Days, in the ten month period since November 2003, not including tour matches or warm-up games.

By comparison, he pointed out, ten years ago, for the whole of 1993 and 1994, the then team would have had 120 possible playing days, 75 in Test matches and 45 in ODIs, over a 24-month period.

The WICB President was the guest speaker at the Annual Awards Banquet of the Medical Association of Jamaica held at the Jamaica Pegasus Hotel in Kingston on Saturday night. Speaking on the theme 'Challenges of Modern Day Cricket', he said the prevalence of injuries was of particular concern to the cricketing world not the least from the perspective of the fans who were unable to see their favourite players in action.

"Even more important is the possibility of permanent damage to the health and curtailment of the careers of these young athletes," he added.

After revealing the data, the WICB President issued a challenge to the medical profession. He said although there might be factors other than the heavy schedule there was a need for more research.

"This is where I throw out a challenge to your esteemed body and similar organisations throughout the region to apply your skills to help in this regard. Your work may be able to help determine the cause and ultimately to limit the incidence of cricket-related injuries," he said. The Board would definitely encourage an intervention such as this, which has the potential to improve the health and performance of the players, he said.

The WICB, he said, was playing its part and had invested in expensive sports vision testing equipment, a first in the Caribbean, which the President took the opportunity to offer to any other sporting body that wished to use it.

The equipment assisted the work of the WICB's medical panel led by Dr Akshai Mansingh of the University Hospital of the West Indies in Jamaica, which dealt with injuries, performance activities such as visual acuity and sports vision enhancement, nutritional and psychological testing and guidance.

Griffith pointed out that we lived in an era of cricket which placed great stress on physical fitness with emphasis on the parts of the body most used in the particular area of the game, specialised nutrition and readily available physiotherapy, all of which was geared to ensure an optimal level of performance.

However, he said, there was a worrying trend as demonstrated by data from different countries.

A five year study of First Class and Test Cricket in Australia ending in 2001 showed that the average incidence of match injury varied from a low of 19.0 injuries per 10,000 player hours in first class domestic matches to a high of 38.5 injuries per 10,000 player hours in one-day internationals, the WICB President said.

Pace bowlers headed the injury prevalence scale, being more than three times liable to miss games than spin bowlers and batsmen and seven times more than wicket-keepers, according to the study. Bowlers who had bowled more than 20 match overs in the week leading up to a match had an increased risk of sustaining a bowling injury. A further risk for bowling injury was bowling second in a match, he said.

Griffith said data published this year had shown an increased likelihood of injuries to fast bowlers who bowl less than 20 overs or more than 35 overs per week and that was further increased with spells of more than 12 overs.

Another study of elite cricketers conducted in South Africa during a three-season period revealed that of 812 injuries in 436 cricketers, 41 per cent occurred in bowlers, with 29 per cent in fielders and 17 per cent in batsmen, he disclosed. Griffith said the data showed that almost 65.50 per cent of fast bowlers below 20 years of age had evidence of disc problems and 22 per cent went on to develop degenerative changes within 2.7 years.

In the West Indies, he said, our figures show that over the past year the incidence of injuries per 10,000 player hours was 42.74 for Test Matches, 38.78 for One-Day Internationals and 25.88 for First Class games, higher than that of Australia and South Africa.

Interestingly, the President said, a further breakdown of the figures for the Tests and the ODIs for the West Indies showed that the incidence in away matches was 61.9 for Tests and 73.3 for the ODIs. He expressed the Board's hope that with a full-time physiotherapist travelling with the team, there would be a decrease in the incidence of injuries.

The Board, Griffith said recognised that the level of fitness and strength of our players entering the West Indies team was far below their compatriots from other countries.

"To that end we would like to see each territorial team having the services of at least one qualified trainer and physiotherapist. But we feel that bodies like yours could help by emphasising the importance of fitness and strength, both physical and mental, to school boys and club cricketers, from where we derive our pool," he suggested.