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DENNIS LILLEY (Australia) 08/1975 CricketerDennis Keith Lillee: arguably, one of the best fast bowlers of all time! Quick, aggressive and dead accurate, he could intimidate batsmen not just by sheer pace but by his guile with the ball too! Along with Jeff Thomson, Dennis formed, perhaps, the most feared fast-bowling pair of all time!

But Dennis wasn’t just a great fast bowler; he was a ‘thinking cricketer’ as well. When he broke down in the West Indies in 1973 and was subsequently diagnosed with lumbar stress fracture, most cricket pundits around the world thought his fast bowling days were numbered. Lillee – the fighter that he was – wasn’t, however, ready to give up just yet!

Seeking help from exercise and sports medicine researchers from the University of Western Australia (chiefly Dr. Frank Pyke), Dennis went on a strength and conditioning program to get his back sorted.

WHY NOW?

Why – after almost 5 decades – are we talking about Dennis and his magical comeback from a career-threatening injury?! Pretty sure, there must have been other miraculous cases of comebacks. While that is true, you’ve got to remember that what Dennis and his researcher friends did almost 50 years ago was pioneering work. What’s more, given the fast pace of modern cricket and the short recovery time at the disposal of modern cricketers, the number of injuries that young fast bowlers are diagnosed with is staggering. And, lumbar stress fractures are the most debilitating of these injuries, typically resulting in 6–12 months of missed playing time (Mitchell R. L. Forrest et al., 2017).

This makes discussing Dennis’ case even more relevant today, than back in the day!

STRENGTH AND CONDITIONING PROTOCOL

Here’s a little look at Dr Frank Pyke’s protocol for Dennis Lillee – it makes for fascinating reading – notice how the program doesn’t differ much in principle – from what you’d prescribe today. Having said, there are better fitness parameters and better conditioning tools at our disposal today. I’d definitely put in more Olympic lifts and plyometric moves than bench press and arm curls!

INITIAL TESTING

Baseline tests for monitoring progress were ordered; these were

  • Body weight
  • Body fat% using Skinfold method (Yuhasz, 1962)
  • Submaximal and maximal treadmill performance (Pyke, Elliott, Morton, & Roberts, 1974)
  • Arm, shoulder and wrist strength (Clarke, 1953)
  • Arm and shoulder power (Glencross, 1966)
  • Lower back and hamstring flexibility (Wells & Dillon, 1952)

STRENGTH AND CONDITIONING PROGRAM

Cardiovascular training

  • Initially 20 min. treadmill runs at 80% of maximal velocity
  • Interval training (treadmill) – 5 sec sprints and 15 seconds of walking

Strength Training

  • General strength improvement to start off with – bench press, dumbbell flys, incline sit ups were prescribed
  • Intensity gradually increased to 3 sets of 8 reps; less than a minute rest between sets
  • At the end of 9 weeks – explosive weight training initiated along with movement based exercises and patterns that mimicked bowling – by using a pulley system, bowling with a 10 Kg resistance and using a 2 Kg med ball

Flexibility training

  • Flexibility work for lower back and hamstrings (mainly) as prescribe by Holt, was undertaken (Holt, 1974)

lillee_case_study1Results of the Conditioning Program

In addition to the impressive changes in the fitness parameters shown above, Dennis’s performance in the comeback series against England was a great success.

In 1975, when he was clocked against some of the other fast bowlers in the world; Dennis was the second fastest of the group – only Jeff Thomson was quicker!

TAKE HOME MESSAGE

Fast bowlers and their ‘handlers’ need to realise that previous injuries are an important predictor for future injury. It makes even sense to design and implement a tailor-made strength and conditioning program for and improved biomechanics to prevent injuries in the first place.

An effective and tailor-made strength and conditioning program will:

  1. Help the athlete perform better,
  2. Prevent injuries, and
  3. Help the athlete recover better and in a shorter time

REFERENCES

Clarke, H. H. (1953). Cable Tension Strength Tests. Springfield, Massachusetts: Brown-Murphy Co.

Forrest R L Mitchell et al (2017). Risk Factors for Non-Contact Injury in Adolescent Cricket Pace Bowlers: A Systematic Review. Sports Med., 2017

Glencross, D. J. (1966). The Power Lever: An Instrument for Measuring Power. Research Quarterly, 37, 202-210.

Holt, L. E. (1974). Scientific Stretching for Sport. Halifax: Holt.

Pyke, F. S., Elliott, B. C., Morton, A. R., & Roberts, A. D. (1974). Physiological adjustments to intensive interval treadmill training. British Journal of Sports Medicine, 8, 163-170.

Wells, K. F. & Dillon, E. G. (1952). The Sit and Reach – A Test of Leg and Back Flexibility. Research Quarterly, 23, 115-118.

Yuhasz, M. S. (1962). The Effects of Sports Training on Body Fat in Man with Predictions of Optimal Body Weight; Unpublished Doctoral Dissertation. University of Illinois.

 

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Comical Cricket!


This is why I think cricket is the funniest game there ever was, is and will be…

McCrory, in The Wonderful World of Cricket 1reckons this is how you’d explain cricket to an American or a Canadian:

‘You have two sides, one out in the field and one in. Each man that’s in the side that’s in goes out, and when he’s out he comes in and the next man goes in until he’s out. When they are all out, the side that’s out comes in and the side that’s been in goes out and tries to get those coming in, out. 

Sometimes, you get men still in and not out. 

When a man goes out to go in, the men who are out try to get him out, and when he is out he goes in and the next man in goes out and goes in.

There are two men called umpires who stay out all the time and they decide when the men who are in are out. When both sides have been in and all the men have been out, and both sides have been out twice after all the men have been in, including those who are not out, that is the end of the game!’

This comical, traditional version explaining what cricket really is, is found on tea towels in most test cricket venues in England – especially Lords (the famous Lord’s ‘Cricket Explained’ tea towel).

Nothing comical about Lord’s Cricket Ground though – it is one of the most stunning sporting venues that you’ll ever come across!

..The Fitness Doc at Lord's Cricket Ground, 2012

Me..at Lord’s Cricket Ground, July 2009

Reference:

  1. McCrory, P. (2007). The wonderful world of cricket. Br.J Sports Med, 41, 467-468.

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Podcast for this blog post:

“Cocaine is a hell of a drug”- Rick James on the Chapelle Show

Cocaine, also known as coke, crack, rock and by numerous other names, is a drug used for ‘recreational purposes’. Allegedly, it causes an ‘euphoriant high’. No wonder then, that its regular use is fraught with the risks of developing a dependence. This propensity to cause cravings and the severe adverse effects associated with its regular use has resulted in a ban imposed on its use – either for medical or recreational purposes.

Recently, however, it is being increasingly suggested that cocaine has a profound effect on human metabolism and the way our bodies store fats. Thus, it is being touted as a potential drug in the fight against obesity.

Also, in sporting circles, there is a school of thought that cocaine – on account of  its stimulant effects – may help enhance performance. Athletes have tended to use cocaine both during competition and in training (to improve intensity). However, owing to severe adverse effects – even sudden death – associated with its use (in a sport setting) and the fact that cocaine use is banned by both the IOC and WADA Anti-doping code, athletes need to be wary of its use under any pretext whatsoever!

Here’s a bit more about cocaine and why you should avoid it – in competition and outside of it!

What is cocaine?

That question is probably as dumb as it can get! Most definitely, almost everyone knows a bit about cocaine. However, here’s some more info – especially relevant if you are an athlete.

Cocaine is the most powerful natural stimulant of the human central nervous system (Avois et al., 2006; Kloner & Rezkalla, 2003; Welder & Melchert, 1993) (in case, you are wondering – amphetamines aren’t natural; they are man-made). And, not to mention, cocaine also happens to be the most addictive of all drugs known to mankind (Avois et al., 2006).

Historically, humans have used cocaine as a psychoactive drug for thousands of years – dating as far back as the times of the Incas (aptly enough, one of the many street names for cocaine is Inca Message! – bet you didn’t know that…)

Pharmacologically speaking, cocaine is a triple-re-uptake-inhibitor; it inhibits the re-uptake of three chemicals (with potent neuroendocrinal actions): adrenaline, serotonin and dopamine. So, what does that mean in plain English?

Well, it means that cocaine inhibits the normal, rapid re-uptake of these neurologically active chemicals back from where they were secreted (vesicle present in the neurons or nerve endings of the central nervous system) – effectively prolonging the time duration of action of these potent neuroactive chemicals significantly. This leads to prolonged and potent physiological actions on the target cells, either in the human brain or peripheral organs like the heart – see below.

A point to be noted – the pharmacological actions of cocaine can be quite complex and may vary depending on the amount of dosage used.

What does cocaine do to your brain and body?

Normally, cocaine is administered using one of the following ways – snorting, smoking or injecting. Of these, snorting is the most popular. Owing to rapid absorption through the linings of the nasal cavities and almost immediate entry into the blood stream, this route of administration produces peak effects within 5 minutes.

Cocaine causes an ‘initial rush’ or a ‘feeling of well-being’ which is characterized by:

    • euphoria,
    • alertness,
    • clarity of thought process,
    • a decreased feeling of fatigue,
    • talkativeness, and
    • increased social interaction

This initial rush is, however, followed by depression! This is what makes cocaine a top candidate for repeated use and subsequent development of dependence (cocaine is more addictive than amphetamines).

Adverse effects that cocaine can cause are:

    • depression,
    • anxiety,
    • paranoid events,
    • arrhythmia,
    • respiratory disturbances,
    • epileptic seizures, and
    • strokes

Why are athletes tempted to use cocaine?

Contrary to popular belief, cocaine does precious little to help enhance sports, study, sexual or work-place performance! However, athlete still continue to use cocaine; believing that it may help them run that much quicker or lift that much more weight.

Cocaine may improve cognitive processes and therefore, the level of motivation (during competition) and skill-learning (during training sessions) may be affected favorably – some believe that this may be a prominent reason for athletes to get attracted to cocaine, especially since very little evidence suggests that cocaine enhances other aspects of metabolism sufficiently to affect sport performance.

Anecdotal evidence suggests that cocaine does precious little to enhance performance in ‘endurance sports’. However, an animal study conducted by Braiden et al., suggests that the opposite may be true and cocaine by accelerating glycogen degradation and accumulation of lactate during exercise, may, in fact, help endurance events (Braiden, Fellingham, & Conlee, 1994). In ‘power sports’ like weightlifting, there is evidence that some amount of benefit may be achieved through the use of cocaine (Bohn, Khodaee, & Schwenk, 2003).

Having said that, enough conflicting evidence exists for the effectiveness of cocaine use in either power or endurance sports. Additionally, some believe that cocaine may not affect sporting performance at all – favorably or otherwise. And that the sense of euphoria and clarity of thought process associated with cocaine use, creates a false sense of improved performance rather than actually improving it!

Why should athletes be discouraged from using cocaine?

Cocaine use is fraught with risks – some fatal! Cocaine (similar to amphetamines) increases risk of sudden death due to cardiac arrest during intense exercise sessions – such as an on-field sport performance, especially those involving short bursts of sprints!

Researchers believe that pathophysiological processes induced by cocaine that may be responsible (Avois et al., 2006), either singly or in combination for such fatal incidences as sudden cardiovascular death are:

    • enhanced heat production
    • increased lactic acid synthesis
    • intense constriction of blood vessels

Also, cocaine is an adrenergic drug. Regular use with resultant chronic stimulation of cardiac β1 receptors may cause death of heart cells. This may lead to fatal cardiac arrhythmia and cardiac arrest (Davis, Loiacono, & Summers, 2008).

If, however, you are not worried about the adverse effects and driven by the ‘win-at-all-costs’ attitude, another reason why you should refrain from using cocaine is because cocaine is not used in any over-the-counter drugs. Slightest traces of either cocaine or its metabolites (benzoylecgonine and methylecgonine) in urine, therefore,  constitutes a serious doping offence and ground enough for immediate suspension under the WADA (World Anti-Doping Agency) Code. Contrast that with ephedrine alkaloids which are present in some over-the-counter cough/cold medications; there can therefore be enough grounds for defending your case – whether you’ve unknowingly (or ‘otherwise’) used ephedrine/ephedra alkaloids.

Just to let you know, the World Anti-Doping Code’s Doping List classifies cocaine as an ‘indirectly acting sympathomimetic agent and a noradrenaline reuptake inhibitor and hence a performance enhancing drug (Davis et al., 2008). It is mentioned in the S6-a (stimulants) class of prohibited substances (on page 8 of the 2015 list).

TAKE HOME MESSAGE

cocaine_PEDTo conclude, notwithstanding the anecdotal evidence, cocaine seems to do precious little to improve sports performance. It may, on the other hand, be detrimental and may also increase the risk of fatal adverse effects. In short, using cocaine – for sports persons – is a ‘lose-lose situation’.

Therefore, if you’re an athlete and looking for an ergogenic aid, cocaine is the last thing on earth that you should look to get in your system!

 References

Avois, L., Robinson, N., Saudan, C., Baume, N., Mangin, P., & Saugy, M. (2006). Central nervous system stimulants and sport practice. Br.J Sports Med, 40 Suppl 1, i16-i20.

Bohn, A. M., Khodaee, M., & Schwenk, T. L. (2003). Ephedrine and other stimulants as ergogenic aids. Curr.Sports Med Rep., 2, 220-225.

Braiden, R. W., Fellingham, G. W., & Conlee, R. K. (1994). Effects of cocaine on glycogen metabolism and endurance during high intensity exercise. Med Sci.Sports Exerc., 26, 695-700.

Davis, E., Loiacono, R., & Summers, R. J. (2008). The rush to adrenaline: drugs in sport acting on the beta-adrenergic system. Br.J Pharmacol., 154, 584-597.

Kloner, R. A. & Rezkalla, S. H. (2003). Cocaine and the heart. N Engl J Med, 348, 487-488.

Welder, A. A. & Melchert, R. B. (1993). Cardiotoxic effects of cocaine and anabolic-androgenic steroids in the athlete. J Pharmacol. Toxicol. Methods, 29, 61-68.

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Trent Bridge… the name itself inspires a sense of serene beauty.

It isn’t one of the largest sports grounds you’ll ever come across but when it comes to sheer beauty, it is up there. In fact, in my view it is so pretty that it should be considered one of the tourist spots in the Midlands.

Located in the vicinity of the Nottingham Forest football stadium, Trent Bridge derives its name from the bridge over nearby Trent river.

View from the Radcliffe Road End

View from the Radcliffe Road End

My first impression of Trent bridge was in 2009 during the World Twenty20 in England. That was the time when the Ashes 2005 Test at this very ground was still fresh in everyone’s mind. And, everyone at the stadium kept reminding you of Andy Flintoff’s exploits and how the Brett Lee six over Fox Road stand hit an Audi parked outside (which belonged to one of the officials of the Nottingham Cricket Council – the story goes the official later auctioned it off on EBay!).

View from the press box, Twenty20 World Cup, England, 2009

View from the press box, Twenty20 World Cup, England, 2009

Since then I have travelled frequently to Trent Bridge (using cricket matches just a pretence, I might add). It’s just the feeling of being there which really excites me!

In my book, Trent bridge is even prettier than Lords. It is like being on centre court at W19 watching a ladies’ singles final (rather prefer them to men).

View from the boundary line at Radcliffe Road End, Twenty20 World Cup, England, 2009

View from the boundary line at Radcliffe Road End, Twenty20 World Cup, England, 2009

That’s me in the last picture. A tad too many bears the previous year… living in Glasgow – as I used to those days – and frequenting City Centre ever so often, just gets you in the ‘spirit’, I guess! 😉

Working for Notts Cricket County

Working for Notts Cricket County

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In comparison to the growing popularity of cricket and the kind of money that’s been pouring in lately, surprisingly little is being done to improve fitness levels of cricketers. It is indeed a shame that not too many cricket players look like athletes, let alone move like them!

Although a sport where skills – as most ‘knowledgeable’ coaches will tell you – supposedly matter more than fitness (an utterly absurd notion that has caught on;  if you ask me,  I think it is bollocks! Improving fitness will also improve skills – any fat head can figure that out).

Fast bowlers (…and I am mean EXPRESS FAST BOWLERS, not dibbly-dobbly medium pacers) need to be right up there when it comes to conditioning – not only to consistently bowl lightning quick but also to prevent injuries. For a genuine fast bowler, athleticism is a quality that cannot be compromised upon and should be highly sought after by all aspiring fast bowlers (as well as the ones that are already up there – performing).  So, as a fast bowler, how do you go about achieving that top athletic conditioning? If you look around, there is not much of information available either on the internet or in the form of books. Here’s a little sample program that you could follow to give your fast bowling career a much-needed ‘fillip’.

Well, first of, forget the current season – you won’t be able to do much to improve your fitness levels or pace. Best time to start is the off-season. Although, strictly speaking, strength and conditioning should involve different phases like strength, power, sprint training and sports-specific skills (each phase lasting for a minimum of 16 weeks), I’d recommend a mix of these for someone who is (running short of time) already performing at the first class level and done a lot of work in the gym. However, for a young fast bowler, I’d suggest you spend upwards of 16 weeks in each phase.

The basic idea behind the ‘strength and conditioning program’ is to get that spring in the step – meaning improving muscle power – contrary to popular belief, vertical jump ability (a good indicator of muscle power) is a measure of not just lower body power but that of the whole body musculature. Also, improving anaerobic sprint ability, sprint endurance, isometric contractile ability in the lower limbs, as well as rotational power movements of the upper body will go a long way in improving your performance and keeping you injury free.

Here’s a strength and conditioning program that fast bowlers can use to get fitter during  the off-season so they are well prepared for the stresses of the season. Not to mention, it is a generic program, if you are looking for something  more specific, do gimme a shout and I will look to send over a personalized program; do not forget to mention your current status of fitness, activities you do, the pace at which you bowl, and any injuries or niggles.

You can download the strength and conditioning program for fast bowlers here….please note that to be able to put in Olympic moves in your training, I am expecting that you have already done a few months of strength training with the ability to squat with at least your body weight on the bar – two times body weight is even better!

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Did you know that despite all the brouhaha surrounding them, there is not much scientific proof that customized footwear in fast bowlers are any better than your regular cricket shoes.

In fact, in a study published in the Journal of Foot and Ankle Research, the researchers found that using customized shoes (ASICS 490 tr) increased lateral shear force and knee external rotation at the moment of front foot strike (Bishop and Thewlis, 2011).

Although, the study doesn’t prove the existence of a correlation between the increase in forces at front foot strike and injury potential, it does, in all likelihood, increase the chances of foot, ankle and leg injuries.

In comparison, the conventional shoes are characterized with reduced shear and loading forces at foot strike.

However, before jumping to conclusions, let us acknowledge that there is a need to further investigate the role of customized footwear in causing/preventing injuries. This will ensure use of improved footwear for injury prevention and improved performance.

Reference

Bishop, C., and D. Thewlis, 2011, Footwear in cricket: issues facing podiatrists treating fast bowlers: Journal of Foot and Ankle Research, v. 4, no. Suppl 1, p. 5.

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Cricket is a popular sport played and followed by millions around the globe. It is a relatively non contact sport with a low to moderate risk of injury. However, in the last decade, the incidence of injury has been shown to be on the rise. This is possibly due to increase in the workload for modern cricketers.

Aim of the study

The aim of my study was to audit the prevalence and patterns of injuries in cricket in Scotland over a complete season. A study of this nature has never been undertaken in Scotland. This study will, therefore, act as pilot study for a long-term injury surveillance program in Scottish cricket. Cricket researchers have long been in favour of a ‘world cricket injury surveillance report’. This study, can therefore, contribute to such a report when undertaken.

This study was undertaken under the auspices of the University of Glasgow. I am forever grateful to Dr John A MacLean and Dr Paul MacIntyre  of the University of Glasgow and Mr. Andrew Tennant, Head of Performance at Cricket Scotland & National Cricket Academy, Edinburgh.

Methods

A questionnaire was sent to Cricket Scotland who in turn engaged 150 professional cricket players from the Scottish international team, SNCL Premier League, SNCL division I and division II. Involvement of the team coaches through the initiative of Cricket Scotland was sought to increase the compliance for return of the questionnaire.

Results

We received feedback from 26 of the 150 players that we approached. The numbers of injuries reported throughout the season were 18. An increased prevalence of injuries was apparent at the start of the season with 27% of all injuries occurring in April, 2008. Of all the players, 42% suffered injuries at some point of time during the season. Most of the injuries (66%) occurred in match situations. Acute injuries accounted for 60% of all injuries. As expected, bowling was responsible for 36.84% of injuries while fielding caused 52.36% of injuries.

Upper limb injuries contributed to 57.89% of the injuries. Finger injuries in the form of fractures or contusions had a prevalence rate of 15.29%. Lower limb injuries accounted for 31.58% of all injuries with knee and shin stress fracture being common and hamstring injuries having prevalence rate 16.67%. Midsection injuries accounted for 10.53 % of injuries with a 5.26% prevalence rate for side or abdominal muscle strain. During the entire season, there was not a single case of head, neck or face injury.

35.29% of injuries took more than 6 weeks to heal, while almost half of the injured players took more than 4 weeks to recover from injury.

An interesting statistic was that only 8.33% of international cricketers had access to a medical support in the form of a sports doctor or a physiotherapist. At the domestic level, provision of medical support as well as sports injury advice was lacking for 100% of players.  Likewise, none of the clubs we came across had implemented injury data collection or monitoring program.

Discussion

Time lost due to injuries – Weeks to attain match fitness

The injury patterns and prevalence rates identified showed similarities to previous studies, especially for lower limb and fingers injuries. Fielding was recognised as the most injury prone mechanism while bowling was a major contributor for injury. Also, time lost due to injury was seen to be a major concern. Thus, in our view, improved techniques for fielding, catching and throwing and biomechanical analysis for correction of technical flaws in bowlers’ actions and will go a long way in reducing injuries.

Also, we identified a need for the provision of medical support to players to make them realise their full potential.

A national database for cricket injuries within the confines of the Scottish government similar to the Accident Compensation Corporation (ACC), in New Zealand or the Sports Science Medicine Advisory Group (SMAGG) in Australia should be implemented. The ICC should look to help full as well as associate members in setting up injury prevention programs. It should allocate funds and provide expertise in the form of trained individuals for the same. Appointment of injury statisticians for recording of injury data for every first class, one day or twenty 20 match should be looked at. At the end of every match an injury report should be sent to the team management, and the SNCL which in turn will pass it on to the ICC. This collection of data should be anonymised as much as possible to help safeguard players’ interests.

In summary, I recommend designing and implementation of a long-term injury surveillance program, improved medical support to players and further research into methods to reduce injuries.

To read the official version of my study, click here.

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