Anyone who was watching the cricket yesterday would have seen the incident that led to Michael Clarke leaving the field with severe back pain. For the uninitiated Michael Clarke is the captain of the Australian Cricket team. The last week or so may have been, quite probably, the most traumatic and stressful period of his life so far. Recently there was the tragic injury, while batting, and subsequent death of Australian cricketer Philip Hughes. Phil Hughes happened to be a very close friend of Michael Clarke. A sad event all round and our condolences go to family, friends and the cricketing community at large.
I won't presume through this Blog to know exactly what is happening with Michael Clarke's lower back. I've heard it all from the commentators and journalists - disc degeneration, disc prolapses, sprained sacroiliac joints, pars interarticularis fracture - and the list goes on. No doubt he has a team of specialists giving their two cents on what is wrong and what he can do about it. What interests me is how such an innocuous incident could lead to a flare up of a pre-existing complaint.
The previous week Phil Hughes was felled by a bouncer while batting for NSW. Without going into detail it was a tragic and unfortunate accident that ultimately ended his life. Yesterday, while facing up to the Indian pace attack in the first Test Match of the summer Michael Clarke was travelling along quite well. He has recently altered his batting technique to take pressure off his "niggly" low back and hamstrings and it seemed to be working well. The Indian bowler at the time bowled a bouncer at Michael Clarke (which was a pretty ordinary ball putting the batsman under little pressure at all) to which he flinched to instinctively get out of the way. Wham-Oh! His back went into spasm and he was unable to continue.
Michael Clarke was under pressure - emotionally and physically. He was carrying a "niggly" lower back and hamstring problem. Suddenly a bouncer comes at him at 140km/hr and his brain says "ALERT, ALERT!" There is a reflex tensioning of the body and the messages from the brain to the lower back were greatly exaggerated. Here is a perfect storm for aggravating a pre-existing problem. Stress, anxiety and physical duress can all impact on the DANGER signals to the brain and the way the brain interprets that danger. It is quite likely Michael Clarke has not done any further "damage" to his lower back, and honestly I hope he is not being told how "damaged" his lower back is as it does not directly equate to a persons pain experience one iota.
Michael Clarke is an impressive captain to bravely go out and face that red ball under such stress and I'm sure will bounce back and hopefully be better for it. In fact, I think he just got a century.