Several sports are taking the risks of head injury seriously. It’s time that such norms go to lower levels of cricket as well
The sight of Steve Smith lying low after a bouncer from English bowler Jofra Archer must have sent a chill down the spine of those not only sitting at Lord’s but also millions of spectators across the world. It was heartening to see Smith get up, something his Australian companion Phillip Hughes could not when he was struck by a bouncer in a domestic Australian game five years ago. However, nowadays, the worry is not just about immediate injuries but also the long-term consequences of head injuries, particularly concussions. A concussion occurs when the brain bounces around inside the skull, leading to bruising of the brain tissue. This, as doctors and scientists discovered, particularly with players in America’s National Football League (NFL), where there are regular head to head collisions, leads to a condition called Chronic Traumatic Encephalopathy (CTE).
CTE is dangerous as it leads to early onset of dementia and a much reduced quality of life given that brain matter decays after years of physical abuse. The NFL initially ignored the complaints that some players made but after some high-profile suicides and several studies, it quickly rectified its standards to deal with the issue. Soon after the issues with CTE were identified, several other sports — even ostensibly non-contact sports like cricket — took notice. New concussion protocols have been brought in that consider the short and long-term effects of brain injuries. A bruise on the brain takes a while to heal and the Lord’s Test set an interesting new first with Marnus Labuschagne becoming the first ‘Like for Like’ substitution in the history of cricket. In India, cricketing legends Farokh Engineer and Nari Contractor, both Parsis, were one of the earliest to be injured. It was from here that wearing helmets during matches became a common protocol. Other sports like soccer have also brought in concussion norms that force substitutions of players who have had an incident that a doctor feels has them shaken up. These are all positive moves and must be commended. However, one must remember that facilities at the top levels of sport and those at lower levels are often dramatically different. Several of these concussion routines are poorly enforced at lower levels of sport. Sure, the top players in the top leagues and highest echelons of sport face bigger dangers in a more competitive space but that is no excuse to ignore the clear and present danger of head injuries.
Writer & Courtesy: The Pioneer