WHY CRICKET NEEDS TO SUPPORT SAFER HELMETS
Kieswetter, Broad, Shehzad, McClenaghan, Rossouw, Miller, Samuels, Pollard… all high profile players who have recently suffered serious facial injuries whilst wearing an 'old style' helmet. There are many more examples in the next tier of the sport that never make the news...
The simple fact is that the old style helmets are not fit for purpose and if something is not done then it won't be long until there is an incident with more dire consequences than facial fractures. Recently when Mitchell McClenaghan was asked how close his injury was to being more serious he responded saying:
I was shocked to see the damage and how bad it was... It [bone fragments] went very very close to going into my brain, I had fragments of bone in my sinus cavity so two plates were put in place to reinforce the orbital bone…”.
The game has changed, more batsmen taking more risks every day, meaning that helmets are being 'put to the test' on field more frequently than ever before.
By nature a sportsperson’s primary focus is performance, it is their priority above all else, because performance is the difference between success and failure, winning or losing, selection or omission. As such a sportsperson will rarely put their safety first, a good example of this occurs in rugby, where it is common for players to intentionally under perform in their baseline cognitive testing so that in the instance where they are being given a concussion test after suffering a knock, they are more likely to pass and be allowed to play on. It is quite obvious that putting players in charge of player safety is not the answer.
The ECB’s experienced medical staff have worked together with the Players’ Union (PCA) to agree some sensible regulations that both organisations can support for the good of the game and the players’ welfare. These regulations have been developed in consultation with representatives from all stakeholder groups including players, manufacturers, medical experts and independent testing laboratories. This work commenced in 2010 therefore the notion that it is in any way a knee jerk reaction to recent tragic events is simply incorrect.
Safer helmets are positive step forward for cricket. Since the time compliant helmets were introduced in early 2014, there is yet to have been a facial injury whilst wearing one. Many players have achieved incredible feats whilst wearing compliant helmets, such as Rohit Sharma’s world record 264 in an ODI, or closer to home Ben Stokes’ amazing innings of 258 from 198 balls in South Africa. The 2016 County Cricket Season started on the 10th April, today is the 19th – during this 9 days there have been 3 double centuries, 14 centuries and 39 fifties, all scored by batsmen wearing compliant and safer cricket helmets. The sport has certainly not suffered for its move to require safer helmets.
Finally for those who reference the likes of Sir Viv Richards, a cricketing great who famously never wore a cricket helmet, as justification for why safer helmets are not required, please take a moment to consider the lesser known players who had their careers cut short after receiving nasty blows to the head. Those such as Andy Lloyd who was hit by Malcolm Marshall in a match that Viv Richards was playing in… Lloyd never played for England again. Or more recently Craig Kieswetter who was forced to retire during the prime of his career after being hit in the eye socket wearing an old style helmet…