Cricketer Phillip Hughes’ death from a fatal bouncer would not have been prevented even if he was wearing the most modern protection available at the time, the NSW coroner has found.
Hughes died after being struck in the neck by a cricket ball in a Sheffield Shield match at the Sydney Cricket Ground on November 25, 2014.
The injury caused a haemorrhage in his brain and he died two days later.
NSW state coroner Michael Barnes said Hughes was targeted by short-pitched bowling, but there was no suggestion the ball was bowled with any malicious intent.
“Neither the bowler nor anyone else was to blame for the tragic outcome,” he said, speaking of Sean Abbott, who was behind the fatal delivery.
“I conclude no failure to enforce the laws of the game contributed to his death.
“He could have avoided the ball by ducking under it but such was his competitiveness, he sought to make runs from it.
Coroner recommends reform to:
- Rules governing dangerous and unfair bowling
- Personal protective equipment for batsmen
- Emergency response procedures
- Role of umpires in medical emergencies
“A minuscule misjudgement or a slight error of execution caused him to miss the ball which crashed into his neck with fatal consequences.”
The coroner said Hughes was not wearing the most up-to-date helmet, and game rules then did not require him to “however, had he even been wearing that most modern equipment then available, it would not have protected the area of his body where the fatal blow landed”.
“Since Phillip’s death, the rules and the equipment have changed,” he said.
The coroner said emergency procedures at the cricket ground at the time of Hughes’ death were concerning.
“None of those on the field at the time of the incident knew how to summon medical assistance onto the field,” he said.
“Although it was immediately obvious that Phillip was seriously injured, it wasn’t clear whose responsibility it was to call an ambulance.
“An ambulance was not called for over six minutes after he was hit.”
Sledging denials by cricketers ‘difficult to accept’.
The coroner said he was unconvinced by evidence given by a cricket player, that while sledging was common, it had not occurred at Hughes’ last cricket game.
“The repeated denials of any sledging having occurred in the game in which Phillip Hughes was injured were difficult to accept,” he said.