Cricket, F1 and head injuries

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    Terrible news today — an Australian international cricketer, Philip Hughes, has been killed after being hit on the head by a ball during a match: http://www.bbc.co.uk/sport/0/cricket/30219440

    This obviously has horrible echoes of the both the Schumacher incident at the end of last year and the Bianchi incident this year.

    Personally, I don’t think the cricket community is reacting in the best way it could. It seems that every press release or media statement from anyone contains the words ‘freak accident’, as if a memo has been issued not to admit that the tragedy could have been prevented by better safety precautions.

    The fact is, the evidence so far suggests that this incident could have been prevented by better helmet design. The player was hit on the back of the head (/ top of the neck) in a region that wasn’t protected by his helmet. It is easy to design a helmet that protects the back and side of the head — if I understand correctly, they already have them in baseball. But unfortunately I fear that the extreme conservatism of the cricket community may result in no change to helmet designs.

    It makes me reflect on how F1 handled the Bianchi incident. I don’t remember anyone except Max Mosley dismissing it as a ‘freak accident’. In the 1970s, I think many people would have classed it as such and moved on without doing anything. But now we rightly have very high expectations regarding safety, and action was quickly taken to identify ways in which Bianchi’s accident could have been prevented. By the next race they were already trialling the ‘virtual safety car’ system.

    I think that’s the right way to react to tragedies like this. It’s vitally important to learn from them in order to improve safety in the future. Often accidents that no one could have foreseen at the time turn out to be easy to prevent in future, if we learn the lessons, rather than dismissing the event as a freak accident.

    I hope both cricket and F1 learn from their terrible experiences this year.


    Interesting to read your opinions Jonothan189. I disagree in some part. The injury sustained by Phil Hughes was a very rare occrance. The doctor who treated him stated their had only been 100 previously recorded cases of his type of injury (an artery leading to the brain that lies below the ear was split by the impact of the ball) and only one recorded case throughout the history of cricket. Conversely, I cannot help but think of how avoidable Jules Bianchi’s accident was. How many times have we seen cars skid off a wet track in the same corner that another car already has?
    The Phil Hughes incident was absolutely unimaginable but it was so easy to see the possibilities of that vehicle being trackside at Suzuka.
    I think the cricket community has handled the tragic events of last week amazingly and respectfully.
    I hope that there is suitably appropriate findings from this investigation which is meant to be finalised in a day or so’s time but I strongly doubt it. I think it was a clear cut case of negligence and the parties responsible should be told so. No outcome will help Jules though.

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