Friday, December 9, 2011

Injury Management - Need of the Hour

Injuries are part of the game, but sometimes we can avoid them by just practicing proper techniques : Troy Vincent

What is the major problem faced by Team India? One may point out to the lack of genuine fast bowler, lack of an allrounder, lack of match winning bowler to support Zaheer Khan and so on. But in the few years that coincided with the team’s golden period, one problem has been persistent. Loss of players to Injury has been a chronic feature in the side preventing the team to miss several first choice players in key matches. One series where India played almost at its full strength after a long while was the World Cup 2011 and no wonder it brought us the glory.

Injuries have been a part and parcel of sportsmen’s career since eternity. With Cricket being a sport requiring high precision and balance, a slight change from normal can lead to the disruption of the equilibrium of the musculoskeletal system leading to an injury. Hamstring injury, lower back injury, side strain, shoulder joint injury and ankle injury were identified as the most common injuries occurring to cricketers in a study conducted under the auspices of Cricket Australia.

Indian team has been suffering to lot due to the injuries. In the recent years, everyone of India’s first choice XI over the period of three years – Sehwag, Gambhir, Dravid, Tendulkar, Laxman, Yuvraj, Rohith, Pujara, Harbhajan, Praveen, Sreesanth, Ishanth, Aaron, R.P.Singh, Nehra, Munaf, Pathan have missed matches due to injuries and lack of fitness. Zaheer Khan, India’s only dependable bowler has missed more matches than he has played in the past 3 years. Here Dhoni is laudable for maintaining better fitness despite playing most of the matches along with T20 leagues and being a captain and wicket keeper in almost all.

The recent tour of England was a case point when almost every first choice player was nursing some injury or other or had been back to fitness just in time. No wonder India was downplayed right royally. The upcoming series against Australia too is looking gloomy due to the unfit bowling attack. Neither is the hosts spared as they too have a long list of top choice players out due to injuries.

The reasons for the surplus injuries to the players stems from various mismanagement. India has been playing a lot of cricket since the 1996 World Cup but the injuries have been too malignant in the recent 3 years or so. In an already crowded calendar, IPL and CLT20 matches are taking a toll on the player’s fitness. The inability of the board to stop the injured players from IPL, Franchises ignoring the near future of the Indian side and lure of the money on offer are all the reasons. 

Another aspect of this cramped schedule is the lack of time for a player to nurse a small niggle or a twist conservatively. With matches being played every third day (in case of Limited Overs Cricket), ignoring such small abnormalities can lead to aggravation of the injury process in the affected part leading to a bigger worry in near future. These are some aspects that the people drawing schedule can weed off rather than blaming the players.

Next important aspect is a lack of clear planning and management procedure by the BCCI. Until recently they were taking the player’s words regarding fitness. Any player can tend to overrule the aftermath effects occurring due to playing with half fitness. With the competition for places being high among the fringe and young players, they will not be ready to miss the opportunity to play for the national side. 

Comparatively the previous generation played lesser cricket and had a better fitness than the present one. Gone are those days when fast bowlers played all the matches for the side. This is not the problem just in India but is an epidemic across the Cricket world. The coaching manual is still to upgrade itself to the present demands. The players are not attaching as much importance to the athletic ability and stamina these days and it is a fact that cannot be denied. The fast bowlers come into reckoning before they attain complete maturity of the body and the system sets itself to equilibrium. Henceforth they have been the most affected sect in Cricket due to injuries.

In India, the bowlers coming from smaller centers are not exposed to the knowledge of maintain perfect balance during their delivery stride and tend to overwork their bodies in an incorrect manner leading to injuries. This problem has to be corrected at grass root level. When one tries to correct the bowling action to fit in with the equilibrium of the body after reaching the zonal or national stage, it results either in the loss of effectiveness of the bowling or aggravating an already overworked body. The addition of a fitness knowledge assessment is a must in coaching programme. Every Indian bowler has started with decent pace before dropping down due to injury. 

Another funny aspect is the coaching system that has taken newer dimension like a game of football during practice. While it can aid in developing the athlete in a player, we have instances of a whole series being lost (Ashes circa 2005) due to the freaky injury picked by a key player (Mcgrath in 2005). This makes us wonder the need for such coaching methods. Also the importance players attach for developing strong muscles is to be inculcated in the budding youngsters. A strong muscle and bone can help them hone their skill and allow them to perform to their potential.

The management of injuries by BCCI has been found wanting by and at large. The NCA does have a system of rehabilitation but the results are not there to see. A player returning from one injury soon gets another and the coordination between the coaches at NCA and players’ coach is lacking in a big way. The awareness programme for the local coaches is need of the hour and such clinics must incorpate strong points on the development of proper fitness among the grooming bowlers and batsmen. With the finances that BCCI has at its disposal, such an initiative is not beyond reach.
The lack of sports surgeons and physicians in the country is also one reason. The importance that the budding doctors attach for sports medicine is no way comparable to the interest in cardio vascular surgery or nephrology or even ophthalmology is due to the lack of opportunities provided. This can be corrected by the Cricket associations along with other sports bodies if they have a mind to. The current standard of treatment protocol with respect to sports management in India is much naive to the one in countries like England or South Africa. 

It is high time the authorities take a notice on the gravity of situation and act in accordance with the long term betterment of the side. Else the number of talents we will lose to injury will keep growing exponentially to the matches that are played in the country.  Let us hope the ones in power take drastic step to ward off the nexus. Else like a malignant cell, this issue can brag the team in a big way just like a Cancer.

Record breaker aged just 33 years, after one the most terrific slaughters, at the summit sum up the importance of fitness management quite brilliantly!

“I'm an old man and my back and glutes are tight”: Virender Sehwag

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