I consider myself a researcher and a seeker, and therefore, my job starts from regular proven practices. I understand the reasons for these practices and of course, I am not challenging any of it. I train at the gym myself and I believe in the concept of strength & conditioning and consider myself physically fit trainer – both in aerobic and anaerobic exercising.
Therefore, this endeavour is my pursuit to minimise the scope of injuries to cricketers and therefore try to understand science and not look at your strength & conditioning trainer for answers. Of course, you are free to consult whoever you think is the best in the world…after all, the purpose is the good health of cricketers.
Having worked with footballers, hockey players, and others; I am intrigued by the amount of injuries that cricketers get these days. This is considering a) cricket as a sport, and b) amount of time/work a batsman/bowler or fielder spends on the field at a given point of time in a match. But considering the amount of cricket a player plays these days, the above reasoning goes for a toss!
It indeed is a game of skill but it has its own nuances when it comes to physicality because of the postural technicalities in batting, bowling and fielding. Here is a question for everyone: if you study every movement in the game of cricket would you rather be:
- Hulk – muscularly powerful
I would choose (a) any day, and no, I wouldn’t say (a) with the power of (b) because too much muscle mass will create problems in Spiderman-like qualities! So perhaps full Spiderman and half a hulk 😊
I have studied and worked a lot on lower back issues, finding different reasons that cause lower back pain, looking at best possible solutions considering one’s limitations, how it can be tackled in different ways and of course, I have worked with several clients for lower back rehab. Coming from this background and having worked with cricketers closely, I thought of digging deeper into injuries coming to cricketers, especially hamstrings and lower back.
The tightness in hamstrings is often one of the common signs of lower back pain. We all understand that relationship but it’s not often the case in sportsmen who have strong glute max and lower back. Let’s re-evaluate this relationship with regard to cricketers…
Sometime back I studied foot mechanics and how it effects running/walking or how it can be the cause of lower back pain. As a part of research, I experimented with different running footwear and finally, replaced my running shoes with the cheapest possible flat shoes. Here is my running video to show you how this research has helped me in working on my running action.
However, one thing which stood out from this research for me was – the overuse of hamstrings in case of heel strike (any shoe with cushion) and how it changed drastically when I shifted to flat shoes.
I am giving this background so that you know that I have not only studied anatomy and movement science; but I have researched the subject of running and lower back strength. Therefore, nothing is just theory here and I have a strong reason to believe in what I am stating below.
Fact: Cricket players have to wear shoes with spikes, and therefore, they have a propensity toward landing on the heel (heel strike); and this can definitely cause overactive hamstrings.
In my pursuit to find the probable impact of this on players body; I dug deeper and my findings are listed below:
Let’s look into science –
The main role of the Biceps Femoris, besides stabilization of the Sacroliac Joint and lateral aspect of lower extremity, is also –
- eccentric control
- and proprioception
during the swing and heel strike phases of the gait. (Cricketers are known to do both)
Outcome for cricketers – overactive Biceps Femoris
Biceps Femoris (most powerful muscle of DLS) also has a propensity toward over activity and becoming synergistically dominant for an inhibited POS (posterior oblique system) in
- triple extension movements
- and stance-to-push phase
Both movements are pretty common in cricket while batting, bowling and fielding.
Outcome for cricketers – another case of overactive Biceps Femoris
From the above two explanations, can we say/conclude that cricketers have a tendency for overactive biceps femoris?
If so, is it fair to conclude that cricketers may end up overusing the overactive bicep femoris and hamstring part of magnus?
My hypothesis: And what caught my attention further is inhibited POS means inhibited Glute Max, and since glute max is a big muscle and doesn’t get activated while walking or standing (as it requires heavy load); it might mean that we may end up using Bicep Femoris/hamstrings and possibly adductor magnus more in most hip extension movements (the long head of the biceps femoris works synergistically with the glute max, the other two hamstrings and adductor magnus during extension)?
Q. Does this also mean that glute max may not be able to fire to its potential in running, jumping or squatting (cricket) due to overactive biceps femoris group?
Q. Moreover, does this mean that an inhibited glute max may give synergistic dominance to piriformis and deep rotators for external rotation of hip?
What do you think? Is this possible? You can’t deny it if you use science as a medium to interpret?
My second hypothesis – my second take on the subject is that this might cause lower back pain! And it will be interesting to know how many players get both hamstring and lower back pain/injuries!? And whether any cricketer who gets a hamstring injury is a likely customer for lower back pain?
Here is why I think so:
- Over active Biceps Femoris
- Under active glute max
Glute Max attachments: From the posterolateral sacrum, thoracolumbar fascia, aponeurosis of erector spinae, posterior ilium and iliac crest and others…
Also, the fibers originating from the thoracolumbar fascia and erector spinae aponeurosis can produce extension of the lower lumbar spine imply a synergistic relationship with the multifidus and erector spinae. This and all the above attachments may allow glute max to:
- to assist in closed chain lumbar extension
- posterior rotary force on ilium
- lumbar extension
- stabilization of lumbar spine
(all important movements in cricket)
Q Does this mean that an inhibited glute max may not be able to provide assistance, as a synergists, in the above actions which further implicates overwork for erector spinae (lower back) muscles?
Q. And if it is so then can we say that an inhibited glute max and over active Biceps femoris may lead to overactive erecter spinae muscles that may cause back pain in cricketers?
Of course, there are other contributors for lower back pain; but I am keen to evaluate this relationship via this article.
Q. This obviously disturbs the subsystem (DLS and POS) working and therefore, regardless of how big your butt is; it might not fire appropriately as it should be in an action if synergists are not functioning as per their potential?
Q. One last question – regardless of heel strike, are cricketers overusing all the above mentioned muscles considering the amount they play these days? If yes…then, surely this becomes a case of ‘overactive & underactive’ muscle groups?
Step 1: As per me, we can not strengthen any overactive/underactive muscle straight away. Therefore, the first need is to ‘release and lengthen’ biceps femoris and isolated activation of glute max.
And therefore, according to me, dead lifts or squats with heavy load are NOT solutions to these problems (not for everybody at least!) unless we are through with Step 1. I would love to be wrong here but unfortunately, I don’t see players following step 1 most often! I had to question this because it is intriguing when I see cricketers hitting the gym straight away after a match or in between matches/tight schedule. When are we releasing, lengthening or activating these muscles is my question to cricket fraternity?
Also, releasing, lengthening or activating of these muscles may sound easy but it is tricky when you are playing/practicing the sport on a daily basis regularly almost all through the year.
Q. My next question to all the experts is can this be done simultaneously!? Is it possible during matches/tour?
My answer: NO…we can’t! Hamstrings are a big muscle group and not to mention glute max being the biggest muscle of our body; therefore, releasing and lengthening(hamstrings) itself is a big task if we are over activating the muscles regularly. That we need proper isolated work on each of these muscles is my take on the subject. What’s yours?
Moreover, the glute max has an intricating relationship (via thoracolumbar fascia) with the lower back, which means that not only would we need isolated activation of the glute max but also, isolated work on the lower back almost simultaneously.
This is why even squats with wide stance (not going deep) may not fall in Step 1 for glute max because even if we minimise the work of the bicep femoris and magnus, it would always involve/effect the lower back! However, it may not be the case if we don’t overload in our pursuit to strengthen and instead just think of activation. What do you say?
Q. My next question to experts is: wouldn’t Step 1 provide strength in a cricketer? Do we really need strength training like dead lifts/squats during a season? If yes, then how do we find time for it considering the above to be true?
I would like to reiterate that I am not against strength training and instead, am questioning the time and type of strength training and whether cricketers have any time for weight training but for ‘off season’!?
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