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A 3-year investigation into the incidence and nature of cricket injuries in elite South African schoolboy cricketers.


Injury surveillance is fundamental for preventing and reducing the risk of injury. As a result injuries in adult cricketers have been well researched over the years with long-term injury surveillance being carried out in Australia, (1) England (2) and South Africa. (3) The findings of these studies report that bowlers were at the greatest risk of injury, sustaining between 40% and 45% of the injuries, followed by fielders, including wicket-keepers (25 - 33%) and then batsmen (17 - 21%). These injuries were predominantly to the lower limbs (45 - 49%), back and trunk (18 - 23%) and upper limbs (23 - 29%). The injuries were predominantly sustained during matches (52 - 58%) and occurred during the early part of the season (35%). Between 65% and 92% of the injuries sustained were new injuries, with between 8% and 22% being recurrent injuries from the previous season and 12% recurring in the same season. Of the injuries, 65% were of an acute nature, with 23% chronic and 12% of an acute-on-chronic nature. The primary mechanism of injury was the delivery and follow-through in bowling (25%), running, diving, catching and throwing (23%) and overuse (17%). Soft-tissue injuries were the most common, with the most likely sites to be injured being the thigh and calf (25%), fingers (14%) and lumbar spine (11%). Similarly, in a study on West Indies cricketers 68% of injuries occurred during matches, with bowlers (46%) and batsmen (40%) more likely to sustain muscle (26%), ligament (12%), stress fractures (12%) and fractures (10%). (4)

While injuries in adult cricketers have been well documented in the literature, there remains a paucity of literature on injuries, injury patterns and risk factors in young cricketers. A study by Stretch (5) reported that the high seasonal incidence of injuries to schoolboy cricketers was similar to that of a previous study on club and provincial cricketers. (6) The overall seasonal incidence of injury was found to be 49%, with the most common site of injury the back and trunk (33%), upper limbs (25%) and the lower limbs (23%). Bowlers (47%) were at greater risk of injury than the batsmen (30%) and fielders (23%). The injuries occurred equally during matches (46%) and practices (47%), with 30% being recurrent injuries from the previous season and 37% of the new injuries recurring during the same season.

In an intervention study aimed at reducing the risk of injury to fast-bowlers, Dennis et al. (7) monitored 12- and 17-year-old cricketers playing club and district cricket over a season to evaluate the recommended bowling workloads in young cricketers. (7) The findings revealed a relationship between a high bowling workload and injury. Of the 44 bowlers, 11 reported over-bowling-related injuries, with 7 sustaining back-related injuries. The injured bowlers bowled more frequently and had shorter rest periods between bowling sessions than the uninjured. The bowlers with an average of more than 3.5 rest days between bowling were at significantly less risk of injury than those with an average of less than 3.5 rest days. The results showed an increase in risk of injury for bowlers who bowled more than 50 deliveries per day and who bowled on average more than 2.5 days per week.

Bowling was the primary cause of injuries in a group of 196 elite schoolboy cricketers taking part in the 2004 national U19 Cricket Week. The primary mechanism of injury occurred during the delivery stride and follow-through when bowling at pace. Most of the injuries were first-time injuries (87%) with 41% severe enough to prevent the players from practising or playing for more than 21 days. (8)

A total of 46 young fast-bowlers between the ages of 11 and 18 years were assessed with a view to determine the injury profile and associated risk factors during a season. (9) Fifteen of the bowlers remained injury-free during the season, with the most common injury to the knee (41%) and the lower back (37%). The injuries occurred primarily during mid-season and were mainly strains (39%). The results also indicated the multifactorial role that inadequate fitness, high bowling workloads and bowling techniques play in predisposing a young fast- bowler to risk of injury.

It is not appropriate to use the data from adult injury surveillance studies to design co aching and training programmes to reduce injuries in young cricketers. Thus, the aim of this study was to determine the seasonal incidence of injuries and possible risk factors sustained by elite schoolboy cricketers and to identify possible differences between players of different age groups.


The sample consisted of provincial cricketers competing in three national age-group cricket tournaments (U15, U17 and U18). Ethics approval for this study was obtained from the Nelson Mandela Metropolitan University's ethics committee. A questionnaire was handed out to all the players by the team coach and they were required to complete the questionnaire, irrespective of whether an injury had been sustained or not. The questionnaire was designed to obtain the following information for each injury: (i) anatomical site; (ii) month; (iii) cause; (iv) whether it was a recurrence of a previous injury; (v) whether the injury had reoccurred again during the season; and (vi) biographical data. As this study required the player to recall the injuries from the previous season it was dependent of his understanding and interpretation of his medical practitioner's diagnosis. No other medical records or records of other sports played were obtained.

An injury was defined as an injury that prevented a player from being fully available for selection for a match or which prevented the player from completing the match, with all injuries classified according to the OSICS injury classification system. (10) For purposes of this survey the incidence of injury was expressed as a percentage of the total number of injuries recorded.

Injuries were grouped according to the anatomical region injured as follows: (i) head, neck and face; (ii) upper limbs; (iii) back and trunk; and (iv) lower limbs. Injuries were classified according to whether they were sustained during batting, bowling, fielding (including catching and wicket-keeping), fitness training and 'other'. The time of the year when the injury occurred was recorded, with the off-season being the time of the year when no specific cricket practice or matches took place (April - July). The pre-season (August and September) was the part of the year when specific cricket training and practice was undertaken in preparation for the season and before the commencement of matches. The season (October - March) was defined as the period when matches were played.

In order to allow comparisons to be made between the phases of play during which the injuries were sustained, the number of injuries was expressed as a percentage of the total number of injuries sustained. Similarly, to allow comparisons to be made between the injuries sustained by the players in the various age groups, the number of injuries was expressed as a percentage of the number of injuries sustained in that particular age group.

The Sample Statistical Analysis System (SAS) was used to compute univariate statistics and frequency distributions.


Of the 1 232 respondents 366 players sustained 425 injuries, with 315 players sustaining one injury, 43 players sustaining two and 8 players sustaining three injuries, with similar patterns found for the three age groups (Table 1). Of the 425 injuries sustained, the U15 sustained 166 (39%) injuries, the U17 sustained 148 (35%) injuries and the U18 groups sustained 111 (26%) injuries.

The injuries occurred primarily during the season (61%), with 25% occurring during the pre-season and 14% during the off-season (Table 2). Of the 425 injuries 24% and 46% were recurrent injuries from the previous and current seasons, respectively, while 30% of the injuries were first-time injuries. The injuries occurred primarily during 1-day matches (31%), practice (27%) and gradually (21%). The U18 groups sustained fewer injuries as a result of practices than the other two groups. The injuries were acute (50%), chronic (42%) and acute-on-chronic (8%), with the injuries sustained by the U17 group more of an acute (54%) than chronic (38%) nature.

The length of time that the players were unable to train or play matches due to injuries showed similar results for the three groups (Table 2).

Of the injuries, 31% were less severe with the players not being able to practise or play for 1 - 3 days, while the more serious injuries (28%) resulted in the players not being able to practise or play for more than 21 days. A similar pattern was shown for the three age groups except that the injuries resulted in more of the U18 group not able to practise for 8 - 14 days and fewer were not able to practise or play for between 4 and 7 days.

The injuries occurred primarily when bowling (45%) and fielding, including catching and running to field the ball (33%) (Table 3). The U15 group showed a similar injury pattern to the total group, while the U17 players sustained more injuries while batting (13%). The U18 group sustained fewer injuries while batting, but recorded the highest percentage (37%) of injuries while fielding.

The injuries were predominantly to the lower limbs (39%) and the back and trunk (33%) (Table 4). The lower limb injuries were predominantly muscle (n=70) and ligament (n=43) injuries, while the back and trunk were predominantly muscle (n=78) and stress fracture (n=33) injuries. The 425 injuries were mainly muscle strains (31%), acute sprains (17%) and stress (9%) and acute (6%) fractures, with a similar pattern occurring for the three age groups (Table 4).


The primary findings of this study are that there were some areas where the young cricketers showed similar injury patterns to the adult cricketers, particularly with regard to the bowlers being most susceptible to injury, while there were differences in other areas.

Similar to the findings of adult cricketers and the previous study on schoolboy cricketers, (5,7-9) the fast-bowlers were at the greatest risk of injury. Back injuries to fast-bowlers are as a result of multiple factors, with abnormalities of the spine occurring at an early age, possibly aggravated by the trunk rotation in a mixed bowling technique (11) and predispose the bowler to stress fractures which will be compounded through excessive bowling during the growth period when the spine is relatively immature. Similarly, the most common injuries were muscle strains and injuries to the lower limbs and more injuries occurring when playing matches than when practising.

When compared with the adult cricket injuries the young cricketers were at greater risk of injury to the back and trunk, with more of the injuries of a chronic nature. The greater risk of sustaining chronic overuse type of injuries to the back and trunk region in the young cricketer is a concern to all involved in cricket. While over the past number of years much effort has focused on educating coaches, administrators, parents and the young cricketer on the dangers associated with over-bowling, bowling with the mixed-actions and poor physical preparation, it would appear that there is some breakdown in the system if the young players sustain more stress fractures in the lower back than the adult cricketers. This needs to again be the focus of research to further identify factors that may predispose these young cricketers to injury. Given these results and the importance of not only the number of deliveries bowled per session, but the frequency of bowling,9 coaches need to ensure that the rest guidelines are correctly enforced and that the young players have adequate rest days.

Differences in the nature and incidence of injuries were found for the various age groups, with the U15 and U17 groups sustaining more injuries during practices and the injuries keeping them out of cricket for 4 - 7 days. The U17 players showed an increase in batting injuries. The U18 players sustained fewer injuries in practices and when batting, but more injuries when bowling. Also, the U18 cricketers sustained more injuries which resulted in them being out of the game for longer periods (8 - 14, 15 - 21 and 21+ days).

Further, the comparison of the various age groups within the junior cricketers shows differences in some other areas. While the relatively older cricketers among the youth participants were at lower risk for injuries of an acute nature while batting, they showed greater risk of injury while fielding. Injuries in fielding have largely been as a result of hand and finger trauma from attempts to catch the ball, direct impacts to the body resulting from collision with the ground or other players. (3,12,13) The development of one-day cricket and the increasing competitiveness of cricket at school level have resulted in fielding becoming as important a facet of the game as batting and bowling. This has resulted in the evolution of the sliding stop, where the player runs at pace after the ball and then slides on the hip and knee. As the ball is picked up in the right hand, the right foot engages the ground and the forward momentum of the slide brings the fielder upright and into a position to throw. The tactical benefits of this high-risk technique have not been adequately researched and should either be discouraged at school level or adequately coached to avoid injury. (13)


Slight differences in the nature and incidence of injuries were found for the various age groups with some similarities to the injury patterns described in studies on adult cricketers. Young fast-bowlers and fielders are at the greatest risk of injury with multi-factorial causes predisposing them to injury. The similar injury patterns to the young fast-bowlers to that of the adult fast-bowlers may be as a result of them following adult-type programmes for training, practices and matches. Players, coaches, medical professionals, parents and administrators involved with the development of young cricketers need to be aware that direct extrapolation of coaching and training programmes designed for adult players may not be appropriate for young cricketers.

Better management of coaching and training programmes, injuries and adequate recovery time after injury would ensure that the young bowlers are better prepared for the demands of fast-bowling and would further reduce the risk of injury and re-injury in these young cricketers.


(1.) Orchard J, James T, Alcott E. Injuries in Australian cricket at first class level 1995/1996 to 2000/2001. Br J Sports Med 2002;36:270-275.

(2.) Leary T, White J. Acute injury incidence in professional county club cricketer (1985-1995). Br J Sports Med 2000;34:145-147.

(3.) Stretch RA, Venter DJL. Cricket injuries - a longitudinal study of the nature of injuries to South African cricketers. S Afr J Sports Med 2005;17(2):4-9.

(4.) Mansingh A, Harper L, Headley S, King-Mowatt J, Mansingh G. Injuries in West Indian Cricket 2003-2004. Br J Sports Med 2006;40:119-123.

(5.) Stretch RA. The incidence and nature of injuries in schoolboy cricketers. S Afr Med J 1995;85(11):1182-1184.

(6.) Stretch RA. The incidence and nature of injuries in club and provincial cricketers. S Afr Med J 1993;83(5):339-341.

(7.) Dennis RJ, Finch CF, Farhart PJ. Is bowling workload a risk factor for injury to Australian junior cricket fast bowlers? Br J Sports Med 2005;39:843-846.

(8.) Millsom NM, Barnard JG, Stretch RA. Seasonal incidence and nature of cricket injuries among elite South African schoolboy cricketers. S Afr J Sports Med 2007; 19(3):80-84.

(9.) Davies R, Du Randt R, Venter DJL, Stretch RA. Cricket: nature and incidence of fast-bowling injuries in elite, junior level and associated risk factors. S Afr J Sports Med 2008;20(4):115-118.

(10.) Orchard J, Newman D, Stretch R, Frost W, Mansingh A, Leipus A. Methods for injury surveillance in international cricket. J Sc Med Sport 2005;8(1):1-14.

(11.) Elliott BC, Davis JW, Khangure MS, Hardcastle P. Disc degeneration and the young fast bowler. Clin Biomech 1993;8(5):227-234.

(12.) Corrigan AB. Cricket injuries. Austr Fam Phys 1984;13(8):558-562.

(13.) Von Hagen K, Roach R, Summers B. The sliding stop: a technique of fielding in cricket with a potential for serious knee injury. Br J Sports Med 2000;34:379-381.

Richard A Stretch (D Phil) Chris Trella (BA Hons)

Nelson Mandela Metropolitan University, Port Elizabeth, South Africa

Correspondence to: Richard Stretch (
Table 1. Injuries for the U15, U17 and U18 age groups

                    U15        U17        U18        Total

                     #    %     #    %     #    %      #      %


No injuries         281   66   279   69   306   76    866    70
Injured             146   34   125   31   95    24    366    30

Injuries sustained  166   39   148   35   111   26    425    100

One injury          130   31   104   24   81    19    315    74
Two injuries        24    6    38    9    24    6     86     20
Three injuries      12    3     6    1     6    1     24      6

Season and number
of injuries

2008                32    8    18    3    32    8     82     19

One injury          26         16         26          68
Two injuries         6          2          6          14
Three injuries       -          -          -           -

2009                49    12   57    13   24    6     130    31

One injury          42         47         18          107
Two injuries         4         10          6          20
Three injuries       3          -                      3

2010                85    20   73    17   55    13    213    50

One injury          62         41         37          140
Two injuries        14         26         12          52
Three injuries       9          6          6          21

*As a result of rounding the percentage do not always add up to 100%.

Table 2. Injury occurrence

                                  U15   U17   U18   Total

                                   %     %     %      %

Time of year when injured

Off-season (April - July)         14    13    15     14
Pre-season (August - September)   28    24    21     25
Season (October - March)          58    63    64     61


First-time                        24    32    36     30
Recurrent injuries
  Previous season                 25    23    24     24
  Current season                  51    45    40     46

Injury occurrence

Warm-up                            7    11     2      7
Practice                          34    25    20     27
20/20 match                        3     3     3      3
1-day match                       27    35    29     31
Gradually                         18    20    25     21
Other                             11     6    21     11


Acute                             49    54    47     50
Chronic                           43    38    46     42
Acute-on-chronic                   8     8     7      8

Time out of cricket

1 - 3 days                        33    30    27     31
4 -7 days                         21    18    14     18
8 - 14 days                       11    17    20     15
15 - 21 days                       7     9    10      8
21+ days                          28    26    29     28

Table 3. Injury per activity and mechanism

                    U15        U17        U18        Total

                     #    %     #    %     #    %      #     %

Batting                   8          13         6            10

Overuse              3          7          1          11
Running between      2          4          1           7
Spiked while run-    2          4          -           6

Bowling                   47         44         45           45

Run-up and          61         52         40          153
Over-bowling        20          9          7          36

Catching, fielding        30         33         37           33
and throwing

Running to slide     7         12          6          25
and field
Running to catch/   12          7         11          30
Impact by ball       1          5          3           9
Catching ball        9         10          2          21
Throwing             9          8          8          25

Fitness                   5          2          6            4

Other sports and    22         14         15          51
Training - running    7          3          2          12
& gym

Other                     10         8          6            8

Table 4. Regional distribution and diagnosis of injuries

                      U15        U17        U18        Total

                       #    %    #     %    #     %      #     %

Regional distribution

Body region: head           4          4          5            4

  Eye                  -         2          -            2
  Unconscious          1         2          -            3
  Fracture             2         1          3            6

Body region: upper          25        26         21            24

  Dislocation          5         5          2           12
  Joint                6         1          5           12
  Fracture             8         2          2           12
  Muscle              13         17         6           36

Body region: back           31        34         35            33
  and trunk

  Stress fracture     14         9          10          33
  Muscle              30         28         20          78

Body region: lower          40        36         39            39

  Tendon              11         5          3           19
  Ligament            15         14         14          43
  Muscle              27         23         20          70
  Joint               11         4          -           15     

  Muscle strain       44         55         33          132    31
  Sprain              32         26         16          74     17
  Fracture            11         6          9           26     6
  Stress fracture     12         14         12          38     9
  Dislocation          5         7          1           13     3
  Ruptures and         7         10         7           24     6
  Periostitis          2         4          1            7     2
  Lacerations and      3         2          6           11     3
  Trigger points       5         1          -            6     1
  Other trauma        18         6          7           31     7
  Other               27         17         19          63     15
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Author:Stretch, Richard A.; Trella, Chris
Publication:South African Journal of Sports Medicine
Article Type:Report
Geographic Code:6SOUT
Date:Mar 1, 2012
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