Five health and safety tips for cricket teams and players

A hard ball being bowled at high speeds with a batsman returning the favour with even greater velocity is always going to present an element of danger. There is good reason why a wicket-keeper looks more like they’re about to defend the goal mouth in an ice hockey match.

There have sadly been high profile deaths whilst playing the game, most recently Australian batsman Philip Hughes who was fatality struck by a ball and Namibia wicket-keeper Raymond van Schoor who suffered from a stroke whilst batting in a match in November 2015. There have been around 11 notable fatalities in a cricket match being either from injuries sustained whilst playing or through illness. The first being recorded in 1624 when Jasper Vinall was struck in the head by a bat. Despite these tragic cases, fortunately these are not common in the game.

The more frequent types of injury suffered whilst playing can be strains and sprains from repetitive motions and overuse, elbows and lower arm (for batsman), lower back and lower limbs (for bowlers) and fractures/bruising if actually hit by a ball. Most common, as you would imagine, is injury to fingers and the face. With exposure to such a wide range of injuries associated with playing the game it is therefore vital that you take adequate precautions to make the game as safe as possible.

Here’s a list of our top 5 safety tips to reduce the chances of injury.

1. Make sure players warm-up and warm down

Cricket matches can often be played for long hours so it is imperative that players are fit and well prepared. All players should stretch and warm up for at least 10 minutes before a game of training. Bowlers should also repeat a warm up exercise before their spell of bowling. The warm down is equally as important after any training session or match to help recover from the various stresses and strains the body has been put under. This would involve gentle stretching and jogging along with movement of all the large muscle groups.

2. Ensure players are coached to use the correct techniques

It is important that players know the correct techniques for bowling, catching and batting. This will include, for example, the correct sliding stop technique when preventing a boundary. Bowlers should not be overused, and particular attention should be made to their age and also physical capabilities. You should restrict the number of overs a bowler completes in a session, particularly fast bowlers who will be putting their bodies under additional strain.

3. Use protective equipment

Players should be aware of how to use equipment safely and correctly. It is advisable for all players to wear a mouth guard (that has preferably been custom fitted) at all times and wear comfortable footwear designed for cricket. Protective equipment should be worn by wicket-keepers and batsman whilst playing and including training.

Such equipment can consist of a helmet with face guard, body padding, forearm pads, leg pads, gloves and an abdominal protector. A helmet and faceguard should also be considered when fielding in close. The faceguard should be appropriately adjusted to ensure the ball cannot fit between the guard and the peak of the helmet.

4. Maintain a safe playing environment

Whilst players themselves can be provided with suitable protective equipment, it is equally important to ensure you inspect a playing surface prior to a match or training. You should remove any hazards such as stones, objects or anything that may cause injury.

The playing surface should be smooth and clean and any water removed from the pitch where possible. Make sure that any practice netting is strong enough to stop cricket balls and is inspected regularly for any damage.

Also many games of cricket, especially in the summer months, can expose players to challenging conditions. It is important to ensure all players are hydrated and also protected from the elements with appropriate sun screen, sunglasses and hats. Maintain intake of fluids regularly throughout the day and ensure adequate breaks in play in warm conditions. Play should be avoided and rescheduled in extreme weather conditions, wet or hot.

5. Make sure you have emergency procedures in place

It is important to be prepared in the event of an injury and qualified first aid personnel, first aid kits, ice packs etc are available at all times. Also it is advisable to make sure players, coaches and parents are aware of the symptoms of heat related illness.

Bleeding players should be removed from the field of play immediately and to receive prompt attention from qualified first aid personnel. Ensure telephone access is available at all times to the emergency services in the event of a serious injury or incident.