Cricket Stretches and Flexibility Exercises
Cricket stretching exercises to improve your performance and do away with cricket injuries for good.
by Brad Walker | First Published August 12, 2007 | Updated July 13, 2017
Cricket is played with a wooden bat and a cricket ball between two teams of eleven players each on an elliptical grass field with a center strip known as the ‘pitch.’ At either end of the pitch is the wicket or a set of three parallel wooden stumps vertically driven into the ground, with two bails on top.
The batsman defends the wicket from the ball bowled by a bowler. On making a successful hit, he runs between the wickets, exchanging ends with the other batsman (known as the “non-striker” who stands near the bowler’s wicket) to score runs.
Members from the fielding team stand in various positions around the field acting as fielders. The batsman can also hit boundaries for four or six runs. The team scoring more runs wins the game.
Cricket is played in accordance with 42 laws of cricket, developed by the Marylebone Cricket Club. In all, over 100 cricket-playing nations are recognized by the International Cricket Council, making the sport one of the most popular in the world.
The sport of cricket relies on upper and lower body structures, depending on the specific activity. Stress to muscles in the head, neck and cervical spine are common. Upper limb structures (particularly used in batting) include the phalanges and metacarpal bones, as well as shoulder anatomy. As cricket is also a running sport, a strong contribution from the hamstring and quadriceps muscles is typical, as well as associated joints and structures in the ankle, knee and patella.
Cricket includes three primary activities: bowling, fielding and batting. The Bowling phase in cricket requires stressful use of back muscles, in particular, hyperextension, lateral flexion and thoraco-lumbar rotation. Additionally, muscles of the shoulder, especially the rotator cuff – a group of four, deep-lying, band muscles) – are heavily relied on.
Outfield players must accurately throw the ball at high speed toward the wicket, relying on the same muscle groups used by baseball pitchers. Distraction forces (those directed along the upper arm towards the elbow joint) play a major role. Additionally, biceps brachii muscles and the phalanges of the hand and associated muscles are used to propel and guide the ball.
As running plays a major role in cricket, associated anatomy is critical, particularly use of the hamstring muscles and quadriceps.
Most Common Cricket Injuries
The three elements that make up the game of cricket, (batting, bowling and fielding), each carry associated risk of injury. Injuries may be either of an acute or chronic nature, the latter resulting from overuse. The repetitive nature of the game combined with long periods of play on the field produce a wide range of injuries, which may involve nearly any part of the body
Indirect injuries include muscle, ligament and tendon damage sustained during play. In the head and neck area, cricket players are vulnerable to muscle spasms and strains, particularly in the cervical spine. Such spasms and strains are likewise common in the trunk. Muscle strains, spasms and stress fractures can also occur in the lumbar spine, abdominal muscles, and ribs.
Upper limb injuries include fractures of the phalanges and metacarpal, joint injuries and shoulder injuries, (most commonly involving the rotator cuff). Lower limb injuries include muscle strains and tears (commonly in the quadriceps and hamstring), joint conditions as well as injuries to the knee, ankle and patella.
Acute injuries may include those caused by direct blows, which can occur when a player is struck by the ball, collides with another player, or runs into a hard impediment, such as the boundary fence. Wicket-keepers are vulnerable to trauma injuries, especially when receiving a fast delivery. Fielders are at risk both for direct trauma injuries from the ball and injury caused by sliding into the boundary fence.
The bowling phase in cricket produces large amounts of stress to the spine, leaving players vulnerable to degenerative ailments and bony abnormalities including spondylosis and spondylolisthesis. Stress fractures are common, particularly in the metatarsal bones, fibula and tibia.
Wicket-keepers in cricket are vulnerable to osteoarthritis of the knees as a result of repeated squatting, as well as in the joints of the hand, from repeatedly catching the ball. A variety of other injuries related to running, throwing or catching are also seen and include:
Impingement syndrome, degenerative rotator cuff injuries, tendonitis of the biceps, or tearing of the supraspinatus tendon. Frequent running predisposes cricket players to stress fractures, shin splints, patellar tendonitis and tearing of running related leg muscles.
Injury Prevention Strategies
Proper warm up prior to play and comprehensive conditioning and technique training are all essential in cricket, and may help to avoid some of the more common injuries, particularly those due to overuse, as well as strains and tears of muscle or tendon.
Additionally, the following steps should be taken to protect athletes from common cricket injuries:
- A front-on or side-on approach to the wicket lowers the degree of rotational stress in the lower back and may help avoid conditions like spondylolysis and facet joint arthrosis.
- Attention to field conditions is critical. Wet, uneven or obstructed playing surfaces pose considerable risk of injury.
- As summer athletes, cricket player are at risk for heat related injuries including dehydration, heat exhaustion, heat stroke and skin cancer. Players should maintain proper hydration and use sunscreen to protect the skin from damaging ultraviolet rays.
- In-fielders and batsmen should always wear properly-fitting helmets (including visor). Such protection is critical to prevent injuries to the eyes or face.
- Proper footwear helps protect the feet from injury, should they be struck by the ball.
The Top 3 Cricket Stretches
Stretching is one of the most under-utilized techniques for improving athletic performance, preventing sports injury and properly rehabilitating sprain and strain injury. Don’t make the mistake of thinking that something as simple as stretching won’t be effective. Below are 3 very beneficial stretches for cricket; obviously there are a lot more, but these are a great place to start. Please make special note of the instructions below each stretch.
Standing High-leg Bent Knee Hamstring Stretch: Stand with one foot raised onto a table. Keep your leg bent and lean your chest into your bent knee.
Lying Knee Roll-over Stretch: While lying on your back, bend your knees and let them fall to one side. Keep your arms out to the side and let your back and hips rotate with your knees.
Elbow-out Rotator Stretch: Stand with your hand behind the middle of your back and your elbow pointing out. Reach over with your other hand and gently pull your elbow forward.
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About the Author: Brad is often referred to as the "Stretch Coach" and has even been called the Stretching Guru. Magazines such as Runners World, Bicycling, Triathlete, Swimming & Fitness, and Triathlon Sports have all featured his work. Amazon has listed his books on five Best-Seller lists. Google cites over 100,000 references to him and his work on the internet. And satisfied customers from 122 countries have sent 100's of testimonials. If you want to know about stretching, flexibility or sports injury management, Brad Walker is the go-to-guy.