The English cricket season has commenced and all eyes turn to Headingley this month as they host the first of England’s international matches, with the national team hoping to capitalise on last year’s triumph in the Ashes.
Although cricket may seem worlds’ away from the high impact nature of rugby or football, injuries are common in the game. The spine and lower back may be a vulnerable area for bowlers and fast bowlers, in particular, but we take a look at the types of knee injuries that cricketers can incur throughout a lengthy season.
3 most common ways to injure the knee in cricket
Problems with the knee are either the result of a sudden tear or strain or due to years of overuse:
#1 Cartilage tear
The cartilage is the tough, flexible tissue that covers the end of bones and allows the bones in your knee joint to move smoothly as the knee goes through its wide range of movement. The knee also has two cartilage discs called the meniscus, which act as shock absorbers. The medial meniscus is found in the inner side of the knee and the lateral meniscus is located on the outer part of the knee.
The lateral meniscus is less likely to be injured, but it can occur when the knee twists. The medial meniscus is much more prone to injury as it is attached to the medial ligament. A small tear may respond to a non-surgical approach of rest and rehabilitation, but a more severe tear usually requires surgery if you want to return to the game.
Although plagued by a variety of different injuries throughout his career, Freddie Flintoff was finally forced to retire from Test cricket due to a meniscus tear.
# 2 Ligament tear
During sporting activities, the knee is subjected to extreme forces and it is the ligaments that surround the knee joint that resist this force, keeping the knee secure and stable. The most vulnerable of the ligaments is the anterior cruciate ligament, commonly known as the ACL, and it can tear, either partially or completely as a result of twisting or a sudden change in direction. Surgical repair of the ACL can restore stability.
In 2014, Australian batsman Usman Khawaja was forced out of international games for nine months with a torn anterior cruciate ligament in the left knee, but returned to the national team after undergoing surgery.
# 3 Patellar tendinopathy
This can be the bane of bowlers as their patella tendon is continually put under strain during the delivery action, leading to the tendon fibres breaking down.
The patella tendon is positioned just below the knee cap and attaches the patella to the tibia or shin bone and it is put through the maximum stress when running or landing. Over time, the pain and discomfort felt when playing cricket will continue when at rest, with stiffness and lack of mobility that is often worst first thing in the morning.
Patellar tendinopathy usually doesn’t get better without intervention and there is rarely a quick fix for this knee condition and you may require a lengthy period of rehab. In 2014, South African batsman JP Duminy was sidelined for six weeks, missing internationals against Australia, due to chronic patellar tendinopathy.
However, one of the most horrific injuries in sport was the knee injury that ended David Lawrence’s cricketing career in 1992. In the middle of his delivery stride, his left patella shattered, with spectators hearing the ‘spine-chilling’ crack across the ground.
The lengthy nature of cricket games, coupled with the bursts of acceleration and deceleration and twisting action of bowling and batting, means that a cricketer’s knees are as vulnerable to injury as high impact sports such as football and rugby. Mr Jonathan Webb, orthopaedic adviser for Gloucestershire County Cricket Club, offers treatment for a wide range of knee conditions. To arrange a consultation at either his Bristol or London clinics call 08450 60 44 99.