Wednesday, November 7, 2007

Tennis elbow - what is it doing in cricket?

You may be looking at the title of this post and wondering what tennis elbow is doing in cricket. Good question. Tennis elbow is not caused by tennis alone. I know all about it because I have suffered chronic tennis elbow from my keyboard and mouse manipulations at work and by playing tons of tennis, 6-10 hours of it every week. There is no cure for tennis elbow and it is a nagging ailment that causes quite a bit of distracting pain and causes a loss in gripping power. As my friends from tennis say, the only half-cure if Vitamin I or a.k.a Ibuprofin.

The reason why I want to talk about it is that it is becoming very prevalent in cricket. I dont know the exact nature of Mohammad Asif's injury, but the chronic and nagging "elbow trouble" he seems to be having sounds just like tennis elbow. Umar Gul also seems to be suffering from it because he has been wearing a forearm brace since the start of the test series against South Africa. Other victims of tennis elbow include Sachin Tendulkar and Nasser Hussain. You can see from the pictures below that all three players are wearing different types of forearm braces to help alleviate tennis elbow pain.

I am not a medical expert but tennis elbow is an inflammation of the tendons that pass through your elbow. You can feel the tendons in questions by touching the fleshy, ball like part just above the bony part of the elbow. These tendons are connected to your wrist, and here is where things get interesting. Wristy movements cause these tendons to flare up and become inflamed.

In my case tennis elbow was caused by repeated use of the wrist in a snappy arc like movement (my poor backhand mechanics). The best cure is anti-inflammatory drugs, icing, physiotherapy and most important of all - rest! Wearing a tight forearm brace also relives pressure on the tendons - it is just like shifting the pressure point a few inches forward from the elbow to the forearm. However, based on my conversations with physiotherapists and orthopedic surgeons, wearing a brace for too long is not good because it alters the muscles in your forearm.

If you look at the two batsmen in the picture above, Tendulkar uses a very heavy bat, is a wristy player and has played 403 ODIs and 140 tests! If you put 2+2 together, its pretty clear why he has been having elbow issues. Both Nasser Hussain and Tendulkar seem to have suffered from tennis elbow in their left arms - any thoughts on why the upper arm needs to be wristy?

Asif and Gul are both wristy bowlers, they both snap their wrists to get more pronounced movement of the pitch and in the air. I think they would be better served by rolling their fingers over the seam rather than using too much wrist action. Also, for all the players affected, playing too much cricket never helps.

There is no substiute for rest, Are you listening ICC?

Let us know what you think!?

Make your pitch on this post...

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6 Pitched:

  1. Q said...

    I never really understood what tennis elbow is, till i read this post. thanks for the education Obaid...

    I do know that for cricket the upper wrist is used more to keep the ball on the ground when playing drives, pulls, and cuts thus anyone who has played as much as Sachin has is bound to suffer from something like that...but Nasser Hussain - why?

    As for Asif and Gul - they are still in the early stages of their career - surely they should not be suffering from this. They haven't even done a quarter of the bowling that the 2 Ws did for Pakistan.

  2. obaid said...

    Maybe Nasser Hussain was trying to be wristy without good wrists? :)

    Regarding Asif and Gul, I agree completely. They need to look at the root cause of why this is happening and remedy their action. As I said in the post, tennis elbow is a nagging injury and typically doesnt go away by itself

  3. Viswanathan said...


    I thought Asif's tennis elbow had something to do with Shoaibs return to the team.

    Is he showing his dissent by faking it?

  4. Q said...

    Haha, Ottayan your theory could very well be true..

    But then if it were a choice between Shoaib and Asif - who would u go with?

    But then for the first 4 ODIs against SA, Shoaib wasn't available, but Asif played only 1 i doubt its a fake..but knowing Paki cricketeres, u never know.

  5. NAzhar said...

    with sub-continent players, especially Pakistani players it is a general problem of not being fit to start with and then any strain or "too much" cricket can result in an injury.

    In the case of Asif I think he has had a heavy workload, especially with Shoaib and Gul being so unfit regularly!

  6. Anonymous said...

    Well written article!!Thanks for sharing.

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