Shoulder injuries are common in cricket due to the repeated action of bowling the ball and throwing and catching the ball while fielding. The most common shoulder injuries are those which affect the rotator cuff because the arm is repeatedly extended up over the head. Read on for basic treatment and prevention advice.
Causes of Shoulder Injury in Cricket
The rotator cuff is a group of muscles and their tendons that attach to the bones of the shoulder joint, enabling movement in the shoulder and keeping the joint stable. Rotator cuff tendonitis occurs when the tendons in the rotator cuff become irritated and swollen and this condition usually develops over time due to ‘wear and tear’ or repeated micro-trauma to the tendon. One of the rotator cuff tendons can also partially or fully tear from overuse or from sudden trauma, such as falling with the arm overhead.
Symptoms of rotator cuff injuries commonly include pain in the shoulder which may spread as far as the elbow and across the upper back, swelling of the shoulder area and restricted movement of the arm; the pain will often worsen when the arm is raised or when lying on the affected side.
The full diagnosis of a rotator cuff injury should be carried out by a doctor and may include the examination of the shoulder joint using one or more of the following tests: X-ray, MRI scan or ultrasound scan.
Treating Rotator Cuff Injuries
The first phase of treatment for rotator cuff injury is normally the same as for other soft tissue injuries; rest the shoulder and avoid any activities that worsen the symptoms and apply ice packs to the shoulder 20 minutes at a time up to every two hours during the first few days. Taking some anti-inflammatory medication, such as ibuprofen, can help to reduce the swelling and pain.
The shoulder should be rested until it has started to heal, but doing gentle exercises as soon as it is comfortable enough to do so can help to reduce stiffness in the shoulder. The GP may recommend physiotherapy treatment to gradually build strength around the joint and increase flexibility and movement. It may be necessary to wear a sling or shoulder support, or to have the shoulder taped by a physiotherapist.
In severe cases where a tendon has been torn, or symptoms are persistent, the GP may recommend steroid injections, to reduce the swelling, or surgery, to repair the tear in the tendon.
Preventing Shoulder Injuries
One of the most effective ways to prevent shoulder rotator cuff injuries is to ensure that correct form and technique is consistently used during matches and training. Following an exercise programme leading up to and throughout the season which includes exercises for the whole shoulder complex can also help to improve the stability of the rotator cuff and reduce the risk of injury to the tendons. The programme should include exercises to build strength of the muscles surrounding the shoulder joint and stretches to improve flexibility.
It is important to gradually increase the amount of competition and training, in particular bowling and fielding practice, so that the rotator cuff muscles aren’t overloaded and they have time to adapt to the increase in workload. It’s also important to rest properly between matches and training sessions.