SAD DEATH: Phillip Hughes died two days after he was struck by a short-pitch ball.
SAD DEATH: Phillip Hughes died two days after he was struck by a short-pitch ball. Eranga Jayawardena

Erring on the side of caution

It is unclear whether Phillip Hughes would still be alive if he was wearing the latest helmet design with increased neck protection.

The 25-year-old international was fatally struck on the neck and killed by a bouncer at the SCG in 2014, while playing in a Sheffield Shield match for South Australia.

An independent review, chaired by Melbourne barrister David Curtain QC, has concluded the main difference between the helmet worn by Hughes and a more recent model was that the grille protecting the face had been extended further to the rear of the helmet.

"I do not believe that the new helmet would have afforded protection against the blow given the location of where Phillip was struck, as the protection to the neck, at the rear, is no different," Curtain said in his report.

Despite that Australian cricket authorities have erred on the side of caution and introduced a range of measures designed to avoid another tragedy.

While first-class players will not be required to wear new clip-on neck guards, they will have to wear helmets when facing fast and medium-paced bowling. And in first-class matches in Australia, those helmets must adhere to the British standard.

Players will also need to wear the helmets during training, as will wicketkeepers when standing up to the stumps and fielders within seven metres of the batsman on strike.

Fielders behind square of the wicket on the off side will not be forced to wear helmets. Cricket Australia is also recommending a "concussion substitute" be allowed in domestic cricket.

That follows former Australian opening batsman Chris Rogers being struck in the head during a Test against England at Lord's last July, and New South Wales opener Ed Cowan being forced to retire after being struck by a bouncer in a Sheffield Shield game against Western Australia which took place in New Zealand in February.

Curtain's key findings also concluded that:

The treatment Phillip Hughes received was appropriate after being struck in the neck by a ball.

The now-compulsory British Standard helmet would have offered no protection where he was struck.

There is limited scientific evidence that current neck guards will prevent a similar tragedy and they must be properly evaluated before they are made compulsory.

A defibrillator must be available at all Cricket Australia-sanctioned competitions in the unlikely event a player suffers from a heart condition.

Cricket Australia chief executive James Sutherland said he needed to act on Hughes' untimely passing, even though the tragedy was a "freak accident".

"I said at the time it was a freak accident, but still it was a freak accident too many," Sutherland said.

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