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Let fly without fear


Fearless Fast Bowling is the name of a new study being undertaken by Wits physiotherapy researchers to help young cricketers improve their performance while avoiding injury.

Benita Olivier, Associate Professor in the Department of PhysiotherapyThe study, led by Associate Professor and Wits alumna Benita Olivier (MSc Physio 2008, PhD 2013), will track players from school and club level, building up a database and community of fast bowlers. One of its aims is to extend their playing careers by preventing injuries.

Fast bowling involves high speed, a high load on the body and a complex, asymmetrical action. Fast bowlers often injure the lower back, in particular, and the resulting change in movement can affect other parts of the body. Hamstring, knee and ankle injuries are common too.

Professor Olivier says bowlers obviously want to be accurate, consistent and fast. (The world record is around 160km/h.) These performance goals are sometimes placed ahead of the goal of injury prevention. And there are many players who don’t have access to professional monitoring and care.

The Fearless Fast Bowling study will look for what can go wrong at an early stage and seek ways of preventing it without sacrificing performance.

Prof Olivier is no stranger to the idea of competing goals. An acclaimed young academic, she says she has never felt discriminated against as a female but has experienced internal conflict over her multiple roles and the demands placed on her. But “there are ways to manage these things”, she says. “You can fulfil your family and social roles and also your own dreams and make an impact in the academic world.” More than that, she is also involved in mentoring other researchers.

She was one of 10 scientists under the age of 40 who were elected on merit to the South African Young Academy of Science in 2017. The academy is a platform where young academics can influence decisions, develop capacity in science, collaborate and contribute to solving society’s problems.

Recently, she spent some time at Jomo Kenyatta University of Agriculture and Technology in Kenya, sharing her skills in teaching, research and curriculum development.