4 | Phillip Hughes: Use of Protective Equipment in Sports
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4 / Phillip Hughes Use of Protective Equipment in Sports November 27, 2014 Professional cricketer Phillip Hughes was batting for South Australia in the Sheffield Shield match against New South Wales in Sydney. He was 63 not out when bowler Sean Abbott delivered a bouncer. Hughes swiveled his body to try to hook the ball but missed it. The ball slammed into the back of his head. Hughes, wearing a helmet, collapsed on the field. Hughes was resuscitated on the field, taken to St. Vincent’s Hospital, and placed in a medically induced coma. Despite two operations in which surgeons removed parts of his skull to relieve pressure on his brain, Hughes never regained consciousness. Australian team doctor Peter Brukner told the media that the impact of the bouncer, a quick, rising ball, caused a vertebral artery dissection when it hit the left side of Hughes’s neck. The arterial injury then caused massive bleeding in his brain.1 Immediately after Hughes hit the ground, officials stopped the match. The scoreboard read, “PJ Hughes retired hurt 63.”2 He died two days later. James Sutherland, chief of Cricket Australia, told BBC Sport, “It’s a freak incident, but one freak incident is too many.”3 Cricket is an inherently dangerous game. A bowler hurls a ball weighing less than six ounces at a batsman only 20 meters away at speeds that often exceed 145 km/h (90 mph). Add to that speed the fact that the ball is covered in hard leather. A bowler can also throw at the batsman’s head and body in an effort to intimidate him. Not surprisingly, serious injuries can occur. Like many cricket supporters do, Dr. Brukner argued that danger is part of the sport of cricket and possibly one reason fans love it. “I think the fans love to see a great fast ball or a bowler against a great batsman. There are real battles, and I think that is certainly a component of what crowds enjoy, there’s no doubt about that. The intimidating fast ball, it’s a great part of the game.”4 64 / That’s Gotta Hurt Likewise, Game Theory, a sports blog of The Economist, observed that while the danger is real, the sport must carefully balance the risk. “Yet part of the visceral attraction of the game comes from the knowledge that a batsman is facing down real danger. Watching a battle between a snarling fast-bowler and a fearless batsman at close quarters is one of the finest spectacles in sport precisely because of this tension. It is what makes them heroes to many. Cricket needs to be dangerous; it just should never be deadly. That is a fine line to walk.”5 Shortly after Hughes passed away, questions about cricket safety focused on the mechanism of injury: bouncers. A bouncer is a fast ball delivered in such a way that it lands on the ground short of the batsman and rises up to the level of the batsman’s waist or head. It is often used to drive a batsman back. A bouncer might confuse him as to whether to come forward or step back. A bowler might use bouncers to intimidate a batsman, many critics believe. Bouncers have been a key tactic in cricket since the 1930s. In 1933 English bowlers repeatedly hurled short, fast balls directly at the bodies of Australian batsmen, inciting anger between the teams and diplomatic tension between the countries. The current law with respect to bouncers does not forbid them but restricts the frequency with which bowlers can use them. “The bowling of fast short pitched balls is dangerous and unfair if the bowler’s end umpire considers that by their repetition and taking into account their length, height and direction they are likely to inflict physical injury on the striker irrespective of the protective equipment he may be wearing.”6 Currently the International Cricket Council limits bowlers to using bouncers for one of every six balls. The law also allows umpires to take the skill of the batsman into account. In an interview with Time magazine, the head coach of Australia’s Darren Lehmann Cricket Academy, Shaun Seigert, argued that the short ball should not be restricted at the youth levels. Essentially he believes that if young cricketers have no experience with short bowling, they might have difficulty facing it at the professional level.7 In professional cricket, bouncers are still commonly used as an intimidation strategy, especially against...


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Subject Headings

  • Athletes -- United States -- Biography.
  • Athletes -- Health and hygiene.
  • Sports medicine -- History.
  • Sports injuries -- History.
  • Sports -- United States -- History.
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