Pain and Gain

One incident sticks out in Richard das Neves’ memory when thinking about the most gruesome injury he’s ever seen on a cricket field.

“I can remember a game between Gauteng and Border at UJ,” said the former Gauteng captain, now head coach at the University.

“Temba Bavuma was batting for us and he hit one in the air. Two fielders closed in under the ball, but neither called for the catch. They collided and the knee of the big fast bowler broke the smaller fielder’s leg… badly.

“I was in the final year of my biokinetics studies and everyone looked to me to assist. I could tell straight away that his leg was broken, but you never want to tell the player that up front.”

Das Neves calmed his writhing patient, nodded to another player to call an ambulance and stabilised the injured leg with an improvised splint made out of leg pads.

Wear and tear

Shattered bones are less commonplace in Das Neves’ new profession as a biokineticist based at the Wanderers Medical Centre.

“I’m probably fortunate in that, as a bio, I don’t see many traumatic injuries anymore, I deal more with the final phase of rehab.”

“Cricket is such an overuse-sport,” pipes up Cliffe Deacon. Like Das Neves, Deacon retired in 2014 after a 12-year career with North West and the Lions. He now has a physiotherapy practise in Johannesburg.

“You seldom see acute injuries like you get in rugby, where there are high-speed collisions all the time. In cricket, it’s more of an overuse issue, but you do see things like bowlers suffering from fractured vertebrae…”

Oh so minor stuff then… wait, WHAT!?

“Javelin throwers and fast bowlers are the most prevalent with those sort of stress fractures,” said Deacon, who was once a devastating left-arm fast bowler. “It’s a big overuse injury that comes from repeating the same action all day.”

Deacon would know, his 2005 season was cut short by a spinal compression.

“There’s a big scientific part to recovering from that,” added Das Neves. But in addition to the science, there’s also a degree of intuition. As an ex-cricketer, Das Neves has an intimate knowledge of the types of injuries that occur with cricketers, as well as the techniques that can be used to help them. “When a fast bowler is injured,” he says. “I know the biokintetics of what goes into a bowling action, and we can look at errors in his bowling technique.”

Play to work

Das Neves and Deacon became exercise and healthcare specialists through studies partly funded by SACA’s Player Plus program.

“Player Plus helped me to further my biokinetics studies by doing external courses towards continual progress development,” said Das Neves. “You have to do so many courses every year to stay in touch with developments in your field, and SACA assisted with that.

Das Neves and Deacon both agree that there is an increasing need for something like the Player Plus programme because so many players are not guaranteed to play international cricket or franchise level for an extended period. Having an academic qualification helps players to figure out how to make a living.

“I would give Player Plus a 100 percent recommendation,” said Deacon. “I’ve always been a massive supporter of people taking the onus for development on themselves, and this gives you a great platform to do that.

“Where else do you get paid to play the sport you love, and study a qualification – for free – at the same time that sets you up for the future after cricket?

“You’d be stupid not to take that opportunity.”

Article courtesy of The South African Cricketers Association