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A new era in cricket research

- Wits University

Wits University has launched a cricket research hub for science, medicine and rehabilitation.

The newly launched Wits Cricket Research Hub located in the Department of Physiotherapy within the Wits School of Therapeutic Sciences seeks to produce research with social impact that will be beneficial to the cricket community.

The launch of the Wits Cricket Research Hub took place on 19 October 2021 and brought together researchers, cricket sportsman and women, medics, physiotherapists as well as various representatives from the sports industry.

In her address, Professor Helen Myezwa, Head of the School of Therapeutic Sciences said the School has been developing academics who contribute to the quality of life of in the country and will continue doing so through the Wits Cricket Research Hub.

“This research hub is one of the first in ensuring that we collaborate with industry. It will ensure that we research and feedback on the performance of our sport talent.”

Cricket players from Wits Sport

Cricket research changing the game

The Wits Cricket Research Hub aims to create new knowledge, which is locally relevant and innovative but globally competitive. Through translation of findings into practice and research collaborations, it will foster an evidence-based culture amongst coaches, trainers, healthcare providers, players, and other cricket stakeholders.

Speaking at the launch, Dr Veronica Ntsie, Head of the Department of Physiotherapy said that the Department has a strong focus on research that can make a positive change in the various sporting codes. She added that the Wits Cricket Research Hub is aligned to the vision of the University of being a leading research-intensive University.

“We pride ourselves in that we are in a research-intensive department and this brings about initiatives such as the Cricket Research Launch.”

Ntsie said the Department wants to conduct research that can be translated into practice. The Cricket Research Hub will enable them to make a difference in communities and in different sporting codes, she said. “Our research projects will not only focus on urban communities but also rural communities.”

Sports Research. For Good

The mission of the Wits Research Hub embodies the Wits. For Good slogan of advancing societal good by producing research and knowledge with social impact.

The creation of knowledge without its application is a futile exercise, said Professor Benita Olivier, Director of the Wits Cricket Research Hub at the launch. Olivier, who conceptualised the Wits Cricket Research Hub, said that previously, their research was getting lost in journals. They hope to undertake meaningful research that can solve problems and research that is consumable.

“We also strive to disseminate our research findings in a consumer-friendly way. We also actively search for opportunities to apply our research findings to real world situations, whether it is to inform policy, systems and processes or to change people’s understanding of the science,” she said.

A trained physiotherapist and Professor in the Department of Physiotherapy, Olivier’s research interest in cricket began in 2009. She completed a PhD in 2013 that explored the factors predisposing our bowlers to injury using three-dimensional movement analysis technology. 

Some of the research projects in the hub will focus on injury prevention and injury management, rehabilitation, performance enhancement and research data management and sharing.

Research focus on women’s cricket

The Wits Cricket Research Hub will also have a strong research focus on women’s cricket. Currently research in women’s cricket is very limited.

Gandhi Jafta, cricket player for the Northerns Women Cricket Team spoke at the launch, highlighting some of the challenges in women’s cricket. Jafta stated that the research focus on women’s cricket is timely because “there is not much information out there on how the women's body is impacted by cricket.

Jolandi Jacobs, a sports physiotherapist and researcher in the Department of Physiotherapy, will lead this area of research. Her research goal is to close the gap between male and female sport and to empower women in sport. Jacobs said women’s cricket research is important because women are different to men and research must be conducted to explore the predictors of both injury and performance in women.

“Injury indicators for female cricket is virtually unknown as studies examining cricket always include male participants only. The types of injuries sustained by male and female cricketers are different,” said Jacobs.