Pars Stress Fractures in Youth Cricketers
Lower back pain is one of the most common injuries sustained by fast bowlers. Causes of this back pain can be varied, however the repetitive nature of bowling which takes the back through extension and rotation puts extra stress on the lower back, which can lead to the development of stress fractures (spondylolysis).
This has effected players such as Aussie fast bowler Pat Cummins, and talismanic Yorkshire all-rounder Tim Bresnan.
What is Spondylolysis?
Spondylolysis is commonly known as a stress fracture and is a common cause of lower back pain in active adolescents. Stress fractures are non-displaced fractures of the spinal vertebra at the pars bone which helps join vertebra to vertebra. The most commonly affected vertebra is L5 and tend to affect the opposite side to the bowling arm.
Stress fractures tend to be caused by excessive loading and repeated extension and rotation. During front foot landing the ground reaction force can be up to 15 times your body weight, which puts added stress on the vertebra.
Symptoms you might experience are a sudden onset of one sided back pain (non-bowling arm side), pain is aggravated by arching backwards, rotating and high impact activities, pain can radiate to buttock and thigh, tight glutes, hamstrings and hip flexors.
Players are particularly at risk when growing. During growth the pars bone elongates, when this happens it takes on a lengthened, weakened state. This means when it’s put under stress and mechanical loading it’s more susceptible to fracture as it’s not in its normal compact form.
Higher activity loads are correlated with stress fractures. The repeated extension and rotation movement is directly linked with stress fractures, therefore the more this movement in performed at a high intensity level, it increases injury risk. This is linked to muscle fatigue and weakness, as if the muscles can’t sustain the load then more of it is transferred through the vertebra.
Monitoring the overs you bowl can be important as a young player. As many of you not only play for your club teams, but also school, college, district, county and the training that goes along with it.
Core strength is pivotal in preventing stress fractures. As previously mentioned the stronger your core is, the more load it can take, keeping stress away from the vertebra and pars bone, especially as fatigue sets in.
Have your coach look at your bowling action. Those with a mixed or side on action are more likely to sustain stress fractures due to those actions demanding more extension and rotation.
Keep steaming in and bowling fast! But remember to keep focusing on core work, to rest and recover well and monitor your overs. Keep track of how many overs you bowl and speak with your coaches on how to best monitor your loading.
If you do show any symptoms of a potential stress fracture be sure to act quickly and get seen by a physio as soon as possible!