xmlns:og='http://ogp.me/ns#' The Font of Noelage: Is sports medicine a health hazard?

Thursday, 6 December 2012

Is sports medicine a health hazard?

Our top cricketers play less cricket today than those of earlier times. They have all sorts of medical and paramedical training staff  but these days they seem to be constantly breaking down.
Until about twenty years ago, our top cricketers played five test matches and eight Sheffield Shield games every summer. When not engaged in those international and national matches, they fronted up each week-end and played grade cricket for their local teams.
Up until the early 1970s, Australian teams playing in England would arrive in late April, have a few days practice in the nets at Lords and then play in five test matches and numerous county games for six days a week, until the end of August. That is over three months of continuous cricket against quality opposition.
It was very rare for a player in those days to break down with a pulled muscle or any injury that would keep him out of the side. Of course some were injured as result of being struck by the ball, but very rarely by the act batting or running in to bowl.
These days our top cricketers are hardly ever allowed to play Sheffield Cricket and almost never play grade cricket.
Alright, many of them do play Twenty/20 and One Day cricket, but these matches, in physical terms, are little more than the equivalent of a lengthy net session followed by some strenuous fielding practice.
What has changed?
Well, players today may play less cricket but they have coaches for batting, bowling and fielding as well as teams of doctors, paramedics, sports medicine specialists and physiotherapists to monitor and improve their general physical fitness. They also seem to break down a lot more.
In the Adelaide test match against South Africa we had Shane Watson and Patrick Cummins ruled unfit before the match started. James Pattinson broke down in the first innings, bringing his cricket season to a halt.
For South Africa, in their first innings, Dale Steyn pulled a leg muscle and Jacques Kallis pulled a hamstring. Both played on under duress.
After the game the Australian selectors, on the advice of their sports medicine advisors, said that Peter Siddle and Ben Hilfenhaus would not play in the Perth Test because they were exhausted.
There were three rest days before the Perth Test. 
Is it possible that these finally trained athletes lacked the resilience to front up after a three day of rest? Clearly a lot of retired players thought that these two bowlers should have been selected to play. Denis Lillee and Brett Lee certainly made their feelings clear in the media.
Maybe, if all the sports medicine experts were compulsorily retired and the players forgot about all their specialist sports medicine training and just reverted to playing Test and Sheffield Shield matches we would see more of our top class players actually playing the game and read less about them breaking down.

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