The England and Sussex seamer Jofra Archer, whose injury troubles have kept him out of all forms of cricket since last July, has been ruled out for the rest of the English summer after suffering a stress fracture to his lower back.
The 27-year-old becomes the third England seamer to be diagnosed with the same injury in the past week, after Lancashire’s Saqib Mahmood and Yorkshire’s Matt Fisher. Mark Wood, Olly Stone, Chris Woakes, Sam Curran and Ollie Robinson were also unavailable for selection for the first Test squad of the summer, announced on Wednesday, because of injury or illness.
Dr Peter Alway, research and operations manager at the England and Wales Cricket Board with a PhD in the field of lumbar stress fractures, said that bone density lost during Covid lockdowns could be contributing to the spate of injuries. “Fast bowlers have very, very adapted spines,” he said. “The loads are around 100 times the impact of running and, in response, they get super dense spines. But if you don’t bowl for a while that adaptation decreases and you lose the protection offered by it. Covid lockdowns deconditioned bowlers a considerable amount. It could be a contributing factor.”
Alway said research had shown that bowlers lose between 3% and 5% of their lumbar bone density within the first eight weeks of enforced inactivity. “That number may not seem like a lot but the rate of loss is equivalent to what we see from astronauts in space,” he said. “It’s basically as fast as anyone has ever seen bone density decrease.”
Archer’s setback comes a week before the start of Sussex’s Vitality Blast campaign, in which he was hoping to make his comeback from a long-term elbow injury. In a statement the ECB said that “no timeframe has been set for his return” and that “a management plan will be determined following further specialist opinion over the coming days”.
It is more than a year since Archer last played international cricket, a Twenty20 against India in Ahmedabad last March. He missed last year’s T20 World Cup and the Ashes because of the injury to his elbow, which was operated on last May and again in December. His latest setback has put in doubt his participation in this year’s T20 World Cup, which starts in Australia in October.
Archer admitted this month that he had feared his career might be over during his long spell out of the game. “In a situation like this, when you are forced to have operations, you do think about whether you are going to play cricket again,” he said. “It’s natural for anyone to worry about the future in that kind of situation. Suppose I had rushed my comeback, I might have messed things up more or injured something totally unrelated to what I had done previously and then I would be even further down the pecking order.”
A documentary about the career of the new England Test captain, Ben Stokes, the filming of which was revealed in February by the Guardian, will be released on Amazon Prime this year. In the documentary the 30-year-old discusses the mental health crisis that temporarily forced him out of the game last year. Phoenix from the Ashes, executive produced by the Oscar-winning director Sam Mendes and based around a series of interviews between him and Stokes, also features contributions from several international teammates and family members.
In it Stuart Broad says that before Stokes took a break from the game to prioritise his mental health he was sufficiently troubled that “I could have seen him never playing again”. “I never thought that I would feel like I do now,” Stokes says in one interview included in the newly released trailer. “My anxiety has gone through the roof. You are sat on the toilet in your hotel room and you are having a massive panic attack.”
In a video played at the announcement in London on Thursday Stokes, who is in the Durham side playing Middlesex at Lord’s in the County Championship this week, said: “I still think it’s crazy sat here that there’s a documentary being done about me. And then on top of that having Sam come and do the interviews. The whole thing is a crazy experience still for me to think about.”