The copious amount of negative press surrounding the excessive injury rates of fast bowlers has lead to widespread debate within the Australian cricketing community. The criticism that bowlers of today ‘don’t bowl enough and this is the reason for injury,’ is an unsupported argument due to the lack of comprehensive statistical evidence available, such as injury rates and training loads, necessary to compare past bowlers to present. One way in which cricketers of both the past and present can be compared is through the analysis of competition bowling rates.
Through the analysis of competition bowling statistics it can be concluded that historically both past and present players have bowled with similar frequency. The average number of balls bowled in competition which is examined over a player’s career, was indicated to be approximately 2000-3000 balls per year. Previously the number of balls bowled by first class cricketers usually built over the first 6-7 years before maintaining some consistency and tailing off. It can be seen that on average it is around the sixth year of a bowler’s career that they are able to exceed the 3000 balls per season mark.
New information from the Cricket Australia Injury report however states that the age of NSW fast paced bowlers has dropped dramatically over the last few years as they are being fast tracked into senior cricket without the above mentioned six year ‘apprenticeship’; consequently injury rates have risen.
Over use injuries are believed to be made up of several factors such as intrinsic body make up bowling technique and bowling loads. It has been identified that loads placed on an athlete are the most important factor in the generation of over use injuries. There is currently a mismatch between the high end of bowling loads and the requirements of the longer game. Increasing expectations for younger bowlers has resulted in them being thrust into first class cricket before they are prepared, leading to an injury rehabilitation roundabout and ultimately slow down their progression towards the resilience required to be a successful bowler.