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Friday, November 28, 2014

#RIP Phil Hughes ............. some Qs on the accident !

The batsman, from Macksville, New South Wales, never recovered after a ball delivered by Abbott struck him in the back of the head while he was playing first-class cricket at the Sydney Cricket Ground on Tuesday afternoon.    He  was born on November 30, 1988, the son of Greg and Virginia. His first international innings was over in a few balls, his pet cut shot drawing an edge behind. It may not happen in many countries but it occurred to Hughes – in his last Test in July against England (2nd test of the the series) he scored 1 & 1 and prior to that he had made unbeaten 81 in the  first test at Trent Bridge – he was dropped not for the first time (but for the last time now !!)  

An air ambulance helicopter landed on the outfield and doctors performed CPR on the field after Hughes was stretchered from the pitch and shrouded by screens. He was taken to St Vincent’s Hospital in Darlinghurst  - and sadly, Phil Hughes, only 25 is dead ! Players, coaches and other friends had been in and out of St Vincent's Hospital in Sydney throughout Wednesday and Thursday, visiting Hughes and supporting his family, and each other.  The word tragedy gets used far too often in sport but this freak accident is now a real-life tragedy.   Irrespective of his talent, or chances to stage a comeback it is cruel fate befalling on a person just shy of his 26th birthday.  Hughes played 26 Tests for Australia and scored three centuries, and he appeared a strong chance to win a recall for next week's first Test against India at the Gabba, with Clarke expected to be ruled out due to injury.

Doctors who treated Phillip Hughes say there had only been 100 cases of vertebral artery dissection. St Vincent's Hospital Head of Trauma Tony Grabs said he had never encountered the condition before.  The ball hit Hughes on the side of his neck at Sydney Cricket Ground on Tuesday and compressed his verbal artery which carries blood to the brain. It caused the artery to split and led to a 'massive bleed' in the brain, which Dr Brukner said was 'frequently fatal'. Doctors told reporters on Thursday only a hundred cases of vertebral artery dissection had ever been reported.  They stated that Hughes was resuscitated with the help of Cricket NSW doctor John Orchid and Newcastle intensive care specialist Tim Stanley.  'They all did an excellent job of keeping Phillip alive and he was able to transported by ambulance to hospital in reasonable condition,' Dr Brukner said. If there were to be lot of blood around the brain, the person will become unconscious and it was early recognised to make an intervention into the brain to help get the pressure down. An extensive surgery to remove part of the skull around his brain to allow the brain to expand so it wasn't compressed was conducted and it took about an hour and 20 minutes – yet he could not be saved !

The pitches down under offer a lot for pacers – they are hard and bouncy and Aussies are adept in playing fast bowling.  Phil  fell victim to a delivery that did not quite have the pace he had anticipated. He swung, missed, and collapsed in a heap, never to rise.

## As an immediate reaction, fierce debate erupted over how to make cricket safer. Some called for a complete ban on bouncers, saying cricket is not worth dying for. Others dissented, arguing this would only accentuate the growing imbalance in the game, already loaded in favour of batsmen. They also pointed out that the injury suffered by Hughes was an extremely rare one. Some  even said that the real fault was in a diminishing of batsmen's technical skills against the short ball. They say that in the era of no helmets – such incidents did not occur ! ~ this was no chin music by Jeff Thommo, Dennis Lillee, Holding, Croft, Garner, Marshall, Daniels, Imran, Akram, Shoaib,  Bob Willis or …. !!

## Then there was the debate on the head gear – whether he would have been saved by a different kind of gear, not to speak of the quality.   The Masuri helmet that he was using left a significant part of the neck exposed. Most top Indian cricketers prefer to use the Indian-made Forma helmets, which have deeper protection at the back ! They say that fomra helmets offer better protection in the grill plank too, as seen in Broad getting hurt off Varun Aaron.
These were the pre-helmet days and it was indeed a miracle that cricket did not see too many fatalities despite the fact that the protective equipment was not as effective as it is today. What stood out then was the technique of the batsmen. It was a 100 years after the introduction of the abdomen guard that the helmet made its appearance on a cricket field.

I had earlier based on the video clippings and newsitems lauded the alacrity with which treatment was given – but that too is now under scanner.  The players did react swiftly and reacted with awareness on how to handle a victim – but the response time of the  ambulances is now being criticised amidst conflicting reports from various agencies. 

##  Some reports suggest that the head of New South Wales Ambulance was to be hauled before the state health minister Jillian Skinner on Thursday after the ambulance authority issued conflicting statements about their response times. The arrival of the first ambulance took 15 minutes, NSW Ambulance clarified in a statement on Wednesday. The state's median response time for the highest priority "life-threatening cases" was just under eight minutes in 2013-14, according the authority's statistics.

The photos and reports do reveal that an air ambulance helicopter landed on the outfield and doctors performed CPR on the field after Hughes was stretchered from the pitch and shrouded by screens. He was taken to St Vincent’s Hospital in Darlinghurst by road ambulance and arrived on life support.

The timeline was stated to be :
2.23pm: Phil  hit by a bouncer and falls to the ground
2.29pm: Sydney Cricket Ground staff raise the alarm and phone triple-0 for an ambulance
2.37pm: Another call is made to NSW Ambulance
2.44pm: An ambulance that responded to the second call for help arrives at SCG
2.52pm: The ambulance responding to the first call made 23 minutes ago finally arrives at the scene
The NSW Ambulance timeline is bit different.
2.37pm: NSW Ambulance receives first 000call from the ground [i.e., 14 minutes after the fall]
2.44pm: NSW Ambulance and two paramedics arrive at SCG
2.50pm: NSW Ambulance helicopter tasked to respond
3.02pm: Two more ambulances and four paramedics arrive
3.05pm: NSW Ambulance helicopter lands at the SCG

Some experts say that the delay in paramedics reaching batsman  after he was hit in the head by a 135km/h bouncer may have been critical to his chances of survival. Health Minister Jillian Skinner last night confirmed she would be meeting with the state’s ambulance commissioner following confirmation by NSW Ambulance that the first ambulance dispatched took 23 minutes to reach the SCG — despite the nearest ambulance station, at Paddington, being just 800m away. Daily Telegraph reporter Ben Horne was at the SCG and said: “David Warner was signalling for an ambulance to be called and then sprinted to the boundary to make sure that message was delivered. NSW officials were running everywhere looking for help. Wicketkeeper Peter Nevill was standing out on Driver Ave in his whites looking for an ambulance.” For 21 crucial minutes until the paramedics arrived treatment of Hughes was left in the hands of NSW team doctor John Orchard, who administered CPR after Hughes was stretchered to the boundary.
Peter Nevill and Dave Warner Signal 

When the three ambulances arrived and were joined by a doctor on a NSW Ambulance helicopter, a tube was inserted to clear Hughes’s airway before he was finally driven to St Vincent’s Hospital, just 1.5km away. Hughes had been on the ground for 40 minutes.

So, what killed Hughes ????  ~ meantime, the bowler Sean Abbott was visibly distraught after learning of the death.  The young cricketer wiped away tears after visiting the hospital  - the cricketing community has rallied around the 22-year-old bowler over fears for his emotional well-being.  Past and present players have come out to offer their support to Abbott, insisting the tragic death was not his fault.

With regards – S. Sampathkumar

28th Nov. 2014.

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