Cricket urged to reconsider concussion protocols after Smith incident

Brain injury charity Headway believes more may need to be done to keep players safe.

By Press Association Published: 19 August 2019 - 4.58pm



Jofra Archer

Concerns have been raised over the return of players after a head impact, following the Steve Smith incident at Lord’s.

Australia captain Smith had retired hurt after taking a 92mph bouncer from Jofra Archer in the neck during the second Ashes Test against England but was allowed to resume his innings less than an hour later having passed concussion testing.

That exposed him to the possibility of further blows to the head and he was diagnosed with a delayed concussion the following morning, ruling him out for the remainder of the match.

Steve Smith
Steve Smith retired hurt after being hit by the ball on his neck but was allowed to resume his innings an hour later (John Walton/PA)

Brain charity Headway’s deputy chief executive, Luke Griggs, said: “Cricket has been caught on the back foot a little bit with concussion. We thought it was an American football, rugby or football issue, but we are slowly beginning to realise that it affects all sports.

“The reaction time of a batsman facing a 90 mph-plus delivery is incredibly small and yet it is absolutely vital they are fully concentrated.

“With concussion the vision can be blurred and the brain can be slow at processing information. That leads to delayed reaction times and is just incredibly dangerous.”

“If there is even an hint of concussion when someone is bowling at 90 mph, there is absolutely no way a player should be on the pitch. ”
- Headway

It remains to be seen whether Smith will play in the the third Test at Headingley, which begins on Thursday.

The player has indicated he would like to, if passed fit, while captain Tim Paine said “it would be tough to stop Smithy walking out”.

Steve Smith
Steve Smith returned to top-score with 92 in Australia’s first innings but was unable to bat on the final day at Lord’s (John Walton/PA)

Sports scientist professor Ross Tucker has concerns over the return of players after a head impact, but expects Smith to return for the match.

He told PA: “It seems to me, as an outsider, that there is enough leeway in the cricket protocols to allow him to return within the five days of the injury.

“Strictly speaking, the process after a concussion would mean he can’t, but they’ve already emphasised that in the pro game, cases can vary from individual to individual.

“That seems to set up a loophole to allow him to play, and because it’s Smith, I’d suspect that unless there is very obviously something wrong or clearly indicating that he is still symptomatic, he would play.”

Professor Tucker said in rugby, about 10 per cent of players who are screened following a head impact will appear normal, only to fail tests two to three hours after the event.

He added: “I do have concerns over the return of players after impact. I think the solution to this might be to make more concussion diagnosis at the time of the impact, by looking at the immediate behaviour of the batsman, and weighting that a bit more.”

Cricket Australia has led the way on concussion since Phil Hughes died from the impact of a bouncer five years ago in a Sheffield Shield match, while Smith was allowed to be substituted – Marnus Labuschagne taking his place – owing to new rules brought in by the International Cricket Council this month.

Meanwhile, CA’s sports medicine manager Alex Kountouris insisted the organisation was happy with the way it dealt with the issue.