Changing Bumrah’s action last resort, says former Team India physio

Andrew Leipus explains stress fractures and why changing Bumrah’s action could result in the loss of the unique action that makes him dangerous.

Changing an established action means Jasprit Bumrah risks losing the unique movement patterns that made him such an effective bowler.   -  Getty Images

India seamer Jasprit Bumrah, who in his short international career has emerged as one of the world’s most destructive fast bowlers, was recently ruled out of both the South Africa and Bangladesh series owing to a stress fracture on his lower back, with a recovery period of two months due to early detection.

Sportstar caught up with Andrew Leipus, a former physiotherapist with Team India as well as the Kolkata Knight Riders in the Indian Premier League, to try and understand the nitty-gritty of stress fractures and why Bumrah’s unorthodox action may not be the reason for the injury.

READ : Michael Holding: Bumrah needs action that puts less stress on his body

West Indies legend Michael Holding feels Jasprit Bumrah should consider changing his action to avoid injuries in the long run. Do you subscribe to that suggestion?

I’m not going to debate against a legend apart from saying that from a movement science perspective, trying to change anyone’s action, especially at the peak of one’s career, is a long road without a guaranteed outcome of success, with the potential of messing things up more, loading another areas, losing pace, losing line and length (control), etc. It all depends on what changes are proposed and to what degree. This is his first bone stress injury that I am aware of and not an ongoing or recurrent issue at this stage. In this respect, I would be targeting any objective biomechanical impairments first. I agree that if there is a strong biomechanical issue with the action that excessively loads a certain part of the body, then measures need to be taken to ‘de-load’ that area. This can be done in a number of ways, but the easiest way might just be to address any tangible impairments such as range of joint motion, improvement in strength, improvement in control, etc.

100

Jasprit Bumrah's action has been under the scanner constantly ever since he broke into the international scene. The filter now, however, is fitness over legality.   -  Getty Images

Speaking of changing the action, just how challenging is it for a bowler to tweak his action and does it expose him or her to more injuries?

It is very difficult to change an established action and there is a chance that his unique movement patterns that made him such an effective bowler might be lost through the attempt at change. They need to be sure it’s the action which is the primary problem before messing with that. Rule out and/or address all other factors first. This is the last resort in my opinion.

What exactly is Bumrah's injury and could it have occurred because of playing too much cricket?

I am not privy to the details of his injury apart from what I have read, so my comments are based on our science. Certainly, the load is one of the biggest factors to consider when a bone stress injury occurs. These injuries do not occur if the workload is low unless there is an underlying pathological or metabolic process pre-existing.

READ : Stress fracture has got nothing to do with Bumrah’s action, says Nehra

Once a player recovers from a major injury, or any injury for that matter, how challenging is it psychologically to get match-fit again, overcoming the fear of getting injured again?

A robust rehabilitation programme will address the psychological elements that develop because of the injury. Fear is a real emotion – fear of re-injury, fear of poor performance, fear of full execution of the action, fear of full effort, fear of losing one’s place in the team, etc., etc. Rehab pushes players both physically and mentally to the levels that they need to achieve in the competitive environment. That’s why shortcuts don’t work and rushing players back is dangerous. Coaches, captains, selectors and administrators need to trust the sports science guys (for example, the National Cricket Academy) to finish their job properly.

Are teams giving too much lip service to workload management and actually doing little to implement it?

Every game at the elite level is important and the best squad is always wanted on the field. But I have personally experienced pushback from captains, players, selectors and team management to ignore what the workload data is telling us. This is a reality in professional sport, where players are expected to put their bodies on the line. It is not an exact science yet, but the research is getting us closer to being more accurate with our predictions. Remember we are dealing with humans in uncontrolled environments so there is always going to be a risk of injury – we can’t remove it completely.

100

Andrew Leipus believes it is imperative to have an exposure to the fast bowling environment for an S&C expert to best help bowlers with injuries of the sort Bumrah has picked up. (File photo)   -  V.V.Krishnan

 

READ : Jasprit Bumrah’s awkward action an advantage for him, says Zaheer Khan

Lastly, going back to Holding, he says the strengthening of bowlers in the gym has to be set out by someone who understands the job of fast bowling and not just by someone looking to create a hulk. A comment on that?

I couldn’t agree more with him on this point. We know a lot more about strength and conditioning (S&C) for cricket than we did even five years ago and the science is constantly updating. The S&C guys need to be cognizant of all of the physical and physiological demands of the sport in order to train the guys properly. It is not a job for a short-course-trained gym instructor to train cricket athletes. It takes a university-educated person who understands sports science and human movement science to provide the best training environment for each individual player. Even better if that person has been exposed to the fast bowling environment. There is no cookie-cutter approach. Unfortunately, a little knowledge is often dangerous and the players end up in a worse place in the long term.