Cricketers take extra precautions with the help of so many protective equipment at their disposal! And why not? Welfare and safety should be at the forefront of any game. But even with the protective gear, playing with a hard cricket ball would certainly pose some risks. It raises a question that is worth consideration: Is cricket a dangerous sport?
Cricket is definitely considered a dangerous sport. If adequate protection is not used, it could lead to a number of serious injuries. Even with protection, cricketers are exposed to the possibilities of various injuries; some of those are career-ending, while injuries to the head of the abdominal area can be fatal!
Here we will take a closer look at why cricket is considered a dangerous sport, and why you need to read and take on board some tips before you start playing to avoid suffering injury, illness or worse.
Why is Cricket Considered a Dangerous Sport?
There are a multitude of reasons why cricket is thought of as a dangerous sport. However, without a shadow of a doubt, the one which captures most of the focus is the cricket ball.
For batsman, bowlers, fielders and wicketkeepers it is perhaps their biggest fear: getting struck by the ball in a place which is not protected.
While there have been injuries caused due to the ball hitting a player in the ribs, on the toe or even in the fingers. But, the most dangerous injuries are caused when the ball hits a player in the sensitive part of his/her body.
Sometimes, even when with protection, a blow to the sensitive part of the body can lead to fatalities on the field of cricket! Consider the Phil Hughes incident –
Phil Hughes Incident
In November 2014, the world of cricket went into mourning after the death of Australia batsman Phil Hughes.
The left-hander was on the verge of a Test recall and was playing in a match for South Australia against New South Wales at the Sydney Cricket Ground. Hughes was on 63 not out when he tried to play a hook shot to a short-pitch delivery from fast bowler Sean Abbott. Hughes was wearing a helmet but was struck on an unprotected area of his head by the ball.
The injury caused him to collapse at the crease and despite being rushed to hospital he died from the impact which caused a brain haemorrhage.
The incident sparked a debate about the safety of cricket but it was determined the accident was a freak occurrence. Nevertheless, moderations were made to cricket helmets with additional guards fitted to the rear of the helmet to provide protection to the neck area.
Other Fatalities in Cricket
While Phil Hughes incident really created ripples of shockwaves around the cricketing world, it has not been a standalone incident on a cricket field!
Famous Pakistani international player Wasim Raja, brother of Rameez Raja, died while playing cricket. He suffered a heart attack while he was present on the pitch. Clearly, cricket is not for a faint-hearted player!
Other incidents include that of former Indian international player Raman Lamba, who died while fielding at the forward short leg position after the ball hit his temple on the head. Apparently, he was asked to wear a helmet, which he refused since there were only 3 deliveries left for the lunch break.
Cricketers have died due to heart failure, or a ball hitting on their head, or even due to the ball hitting on the heart! Death has also occurred on a cricket field when a bat hit a players head!
Even as a bowler, you are at risk as there have been bowlers who suffered a death after getting hit by a straight drive from the batsman
Career-Ending Injuries faced by Cricket Players
Until now, we have seen how some injuries can turn out to be fatal. While the risk is still high, the probability of a fatality on a cricket field is still low.
What is more commonly seen in the world of cricket are injuries that impact your skill or your capability to perform at the highest level.
There have been several cricketers who have been through career ending injuries!
Mark Boucher is perhaps the first name that comes to mind when we talk about career ending injuries. He was a prolific wicket-keeper batsman for South Africa. Known for his wonderful wicket-keeping skills, he was also considered a dangerous pinch-hitting batsman.
Mark Boucher holds the record for most Test Dismissals by a wicket-keeper which has not been surpassed to date. Boucher was forced to retire early when one of the bails flew off the stumps and hit him in his eye! Perhaps he would have set an unsurmountable record had he played his full career!
Another wicket-keeper who lost his career to an eye injury was the promising Indian player Syed Saba Karim. During an international match between India and Bangladesh, Saba Karim got hit on his eye by a cricket ball bowled by the Indian Leg Spin bowler Anil Kumble.
There have been several other players who have suffered a similar fate. England’s Andrew Flintoff was forced to retire early due to a series of knee and ankle injuries he faced during this career.
Likewise, New Zealand’s Shane Bond had to retire early due to several fractures and operations on his lower back.
Even when the injuries are not career-threatening, it can easily cause a worry or two. West Indies’ Shiv Chandrapaul faced it first hand when he got knocked on his head when batting on 83 against Australia in a Test Match.
What Are Some Common Injuries Caused due to Cricket?
Although the types of injuries that may be caused in the game of cricket can form a long list. Nevertheless, there are some injuries that cricketers are more prone to get merely based on how the game is played.
In a clinical review study conducted and published in Sports Health, (also visible in the US National Library of Medicine Website) it was found that bowling (41.3%) along with fielding and wicketkeeping (28.6%) actually account for more injuries when playing cricket than batting!
It does match the observations from common sense as the batsmen are often the most well protected when the game is played.
In the same study, it was also identified that about 64% – 76% of the injuries caused were acute injuries. Meaning, injuries that occur from sudden jerk or traumatic impact with an object are the most common cause of injuries amongst cricketers!
We can broadly classify the types of injuries that cricketers face into the following broader buckets –
1. Upper Limb Injuries
The upper limb injuries are mostly commonly seen across the shoulders, elbows and hands & wrists of the cricket players.
These types of injuries are common across fielders since they tend to make excessive use of their shoulders while throwing the ball from the deep end. of the field.
Injuries to the wrist and fingers are more common in the wicket-keepers as they have to catch the ball on almost every single delivery either stopping a ball bowled by a bowler or catching a throw by a fielder.
Wrist and hand injuries can also be caused due to incorrect technique while batting or bowling. While hand injuries are more common than the wrist, they both together contribute about 11%-13% of the injuries in cricketers!
Prolonged use of heavy cricket bats can also cause elbow injuries. The great Indian batting legend Sachin Tendulkar once feared that his career would be over due to the rare tennis-elbow injury that he sustained in 2005!
2. Back Injury
Back injuries are one of the most common cause of injuries in a cricketer’s career! More so, back injuries are more common for fast bowlers as there is a tremendous amount of stress caused on the back in an effort to bowl fast!
Prevelance of lumbar spine injuries in fast bowlers is quite common as the fast bowlers in cricket subject their spine to repetitive stress.
In a medical research conducted to identify whether fast bowlers are prone to back injuries, it was observed that the prevalence of lumbar disc degeneration in fast-bowlers ranges at a staggering 21%-65%!
Bowlers with chronic fractures in their lower back or fatigue also possess a danger of developing a slowly progressive mechanical backache! These threats are a reality of the game.
3. Lower Limb Injuries
Lower limb injuries are also quite common amongst cricketers. In fact, hamstring is one of the most common cause of injuries among cricketers.
Hamstring injuries are commonly attributed to high number of overs bowled in the recent past, excessive fatigue during play or inadequate flexibility.
Other common injuries to the Lower Limb are to the knee, foot and ankle. These joints are the most prone due to excessive increase in the workload.
The possibility of injury does matter on the role that you play as a cricketer. For instance, in a research conducted on injuries on Australian Cricketers at the First Class Level
Nevertheless, injuries are part and parcel of the game as it is with any other sport. While injuries can not be predicted, proper precaution can help avoid the occurrence
Tips for Cricketers to Stay Safe and Avoid Injury?
One might wonder, with the possibility of so many injuries, how do cricketers even manage to have a long career in the game?
The answer lies in proper protection and training!
1. Use Protective Gear
The use of protective gear is one of the first and foremost form of defence for cricketers. There are various forms of protective gear used by a cricket player. Some of the most important ones are mentioned below –
There have been countless number of Leg Before Wicket (LBW) dismissals in cricket. Every time a ball hits the pad, whether given out or not, the legs of the cricket player remain safe and well protected due to the cricket pads!
The legs of a batsman are subject to most hits from a ball! Thus, it is of utmost importance to have a good pair of cricket pads to protect yourself from an injury!
We wrote a detailed post on Cricket Pads and how to choose the safest material when buying a pair of cricket pads. Be sure to check it out!
An abdominal guard is also one of the most important pieces of protective gear that is used by cricketers!
An abdominal guard is worn by the cricket players to protect their private parts which also happen to be one of the most sensitive part of the body!
While buying a good quality abdominal guard is important, it is more important to know how to wear an abdominal guard the correct way! We covered this topic in detail on our post. Be sure to check that out as well!
It is important to note that most fatalities that have occurred on a cricket field is due to a player getting hit by the ball on his head!
Thus, helmet plays a crucial role in your protection. It is another one of the most common pieces of protective gear that helps you to remain injury-free!
As is the case with the cricket batting pads and an abdominal guard, having a good quality helmet is quintessential to playing cricket! It is interesting. to note that while it is not compulsory to wear a helmet in International Cricket, when you do wear one, it should comply with the ICC’s newly mandated standards!
We covered about the new BSS standards for a cricket helmet in detail in another post on our website! This post also provides you with insights on which helmet manufacturer can you choose!
Other Protective Gears
There are several other protective gears and items that are now available to keep a cricketers safe. These include Chest Guards, Elbow Guards, Thigh Pads etc.
In fact all these items are provided when you buy a cricket kit. If you are buying a new cricket kit, or you already have one but would like to double check if you have everything in place, be sure to check out our post on cricket kit item list.
2. Undertake Regular Training
Regular training can help a cricket player maintain match fitness. Most international cricketers have intensive training routines which are monitored and the progress is tracked.
The trainings are usually divided into multiple facets. These include skill based training, strength and stamina building training, net sessions for batting and bowling, drills for fielding and catching, and mental health training among others!
A strong training schedule helps cricketers maintain a rigorous playing calendar.
Training is definitely one of the most important way to avoid injuries and staying safe as a cricketer.
3. Remember to Warm Up and Cool Down!
Cricket is dangerous in another way: it forces the human body into some unusual positions.
Bowling, for example, can place stress on a person’s knees, back, arms, shoulders, and other parts of the body.
We wrote a detailed post on how to warm-up correctly before bowling. While this focusing on bowling, the exercises are applicable to all cricketers! Make sure to check out the 17 easy and simple exercises to warm up and cool down before bowling!
Do remember – it is important to warm-up properly with the dynamic stretching to avoid injury before play, and to warm down properly preventing the build-up of lactic acid after play. Otherwise, strains, twinges, pulls, and tears can cause a spell on the side-lines or worse.
4. Prevent the Dangers from the Sun!
Some of the dangers in cricket are much than less obvious than being struck by a hard cricket ball when batting or fielding. Skin cancer is a hazard for any cricketer spending long days out in the sunshine during the cricket season.
In a bygone era, the warnings about putting on sun cream were not prominent enough or simply ignored, and in some cases, it has caused issue for players in later life.
Australian cricketer-turned-commentator Richie Benaud died n 2015 after a battle with skin cancer. What a player might think is just a bit of sun burn can lead to serious health issues.
Even with all the advice around today it can still pose a problem. Last year, former Australia captain Michael Clarke recently had three non-melanoma skin cancers removed from his face.
Even players who may think their skin can cope with the sunshine need to follow the slip, slop, slap approach: slip on a shirt, slop on sun cream and slap on a hat. Better still if you’re watching cricket, seek some shade.
5. Remember to Hydrate to Elevate your Performance
The sun can not only affect your skin it can also make you become dehydrated which can have a severe impact on health and wellbeing during a game.
It is vitally important for all cricketers to take plenty of water on board. However, this is not just on days when the temperature on the thermometer is high.
Performance analysts and sports scientists believe that even as little as 1% dehydration can reduce the performance of a cricketer and lead to injuries. So, players need to keep their fluids topped up regularly throughout a game.
Typically, a cricketer should try to drink around one to three litres of fluid, although this could be higher on hotter days. Also, the amount of liquid a player needs to take on board can vary depending on the amount of energy used.
A fast bowler will likely need more water, than a colleague stood at slip all day. Remember also that certain drinks – especially those high in caffeine or containing alcohol – can actually have the opposite effect and serve to dehydrate you. Tea, coffee and alcohol are not recommended to be drunk by players during play.
6. Be Careful when you Field close-in Near the Batsman
The injuries which players sustain after an impact with a cricket ball struck by a batsman can be because they are stood in a dangerous position. A captain has a responsibility to the safety of his players not to place them in undue danger, and they should assess a fielder’s suitability for a particular position.
Of course, certain specialist positions will require protective equipment. A wicketkeeper will need pads, gloves, abdominal protection and if he is standing close to the stumps a helmet.
A short-leg will need a helmet and possibly shin pads. A good captain will be able to protect his players by using them in the right places.
Remember Raman Lamba, we mentioned how he died by getting hit by a cricket ball in the temple of his head simply because he refused to use the helmet! Avoid this mistake!
7. Prevent Burn Out from Excessive Cricket
Over-exertion can be dangerous for cricketers and lead to injuries.
Just as a car needs regular checks, servicing and maintenance so does the body of a cricketer, especially bowlers. Rest and recuperation to allow the muscles in the body to recover are very important.
Diet, fitness, and core strength can also help reduce the chances of injury. It should also be noted that younger players (those under the age of 24 in particular) are susceptible to overuse and bowling injuries more than older players.
8. Avoid antagonising the bowler!
A bowler who is angry and fired up is much more likely unleash intimidating bowling on a batsman who is confrontational out in the middle.
Why make life more difficult for yourself? The need to avoid conflict, sledging and diffuse controversial incidents could potentially make life easier out in the middle and reduce the chances of danger.
Similarly, a captain on either side (as well as the umpires) should not be afraid to step in if a bowler is contravening the Laws of Cricket or the spirit of the great game.
There is no two ways about it, cricket is a dangerous sport.
When thinking of the dangers of cricket many people tend to focus on the impact made by the ball, usually when it hits the body of batsman or fielder.
However, the potential dangers of cricket can come in many shapes and sizes – and these can be equally as hazardous and often an afterthought. Failure to wear a thigh pad might leave you with a few bruises, but failure to wear the correct footwear could lead to serious muscle tear.
It is important cricketers prepare to play the game in the correct manner at all times, considering the full range of challenges they may face. Looking after your body is key to enjoying a long and successful playing career. Humans, as the players, are arguably the main dangers in cricket, because they are unpredictable.
We can assess variables such as how a pitch plays, but other factors such as emotions, feelings and how we react in different cricket situations can make it a dangerous sport. Remember, cricket is only a game!