ECB head protection research ‘welcomed’

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Luke Fletcher: Notts seamer open to head protection development for bowlers

A brain injury charity is “hugely encouraged” by the England and Wales Cricket Board’s effort to develop protective headgear for bowlers.

Nottinghamshire pace bowler Luke Fletcher suffered a season-ending injury after being hit on the head by a ball during a T20 Blast match.

Already the ECB are “looking into different types” of equipment at its performance centre in Loughborough.

“We welcome how proactive the ECB have been,” a spokesperson for Headway said.

“It is very encouraging to see how far sports have come in the past five years in regards to concussion. We are having this conversation more and more.

“The ECB seem to be open to dealing with concussion. You can never underestimate innovation and that should be looked at.

“Head injuries can happen in any sport. Take this case in point. It was a freak accident and is an example why all sports should have concussion protocols in place – even those which are not high-impact sports.”

Headway, whose Concussion Aware campaign is supported by the Football Association and both England’s Rugby Football Union and the Welsh Rugby Union, said it would be open to working with the ECB on its protocols.

‘Lucky to still be around’

Luke Fletcher was bleeding as he was helped from the field at Edgbaston

Fletcher, 28, was released from hospital on Sunday after being struck by a straight drive from Birmingham Bears’ Sam Hain during Saturday’s game.

Following further tests, he was told on Tuesday that his season was over, but he said he felt “lucky to still be around”.

The seamer said he was “sure most bowlers will use” protective headgear as the dangers of the sport are a concern.

“Bowlers at Notts have practised in a separate net as we are scared balls are coming back at a pace where you can’t react,” he told BBC East Midlands Today.

“I think whatever they do, it is going to have to be comfortable for the bowlers. I don’t think you can run in with a helmet on as that would be a bit ridiculous.

“I think if they could come up with something comfortable and tested to work with bowlers, then I think most people would snap their hands off.

“Most people realise how dangerous it can be in T20 cricket.”

‘It will be thoroughly discussed’

Protective headgear for both bowlers and umpires will be discussed by the ECB committee in November, when injury substitutes will also be on the agenda.

“We are in the early stages of looking at different types of protective headgear,” a spokesperson said.

“There is no suggestion that anything would be seen in the professional game soon, it is more long term. The medical team at Loughborough University are looking into it and it will be thoroughly discussed in November’s meeting.”

Baseball pitchers have faced similar problems to bowlers.

Headwear, designed in collaboration between Major League Baseball and the MLB Players Association, has been worn in games but the helmets are yet to be used during the regular season.

A number of companies have also developed protective equipment for baseball players, including robust materials being used as inserts in caps.

Notts director of cricket Mick Newell said Fletcher’s admission to hospital following the incident at Edgbaston “surprised and shocked a lot of people” and that there would be no “rush” to bring the player back.

“It will be assessed as we go along,” Newell told BBC Radio Nottingham. “He will be keen to get back on the pitch but we must take advice.”

As for developing new equipment for bowlers, Newell said it will be a “debate to be had”.

He added: “It is difficult to know what bowlers could wear that would be protective and at the same time allow them to bowl.

“We already have umpires wearing helmets and arm guards because they are vulnerable standing 22 yards away.

“As coaches we are having debates about people throwing balls at players in practice and umpires taking protective gear onto the field to stand and officiate.”

Australian umpire Bruce Oxenford wore an arm guard while officiating at last month’s Champions Trophy

‘We need to have conversations with other sports’

Test Match Special’s Charles Dagnall, who was on commentary duty on the night of the game and watched the incident unfold, believes the authorities need to have conversations with other sports and discuss the best way to protect bowlers.

Dagnall, who was a seam bowler for Leicestershire until 2009, said: “We have to have the conversation now.

“A scrum cap is one idea or a Petr Cech-style facemask. Bowling in a helmet probably wouldn’t work, nor would an ice hockey-style cage, but it is important that something is done.

“We need to talk to other sports and see how they protect their players. Bowlers are unprotected yet closest to the bat.

“In a weird way it was a bonus this happened in front of a live television and radio audience, as it has really highlighted the situation.

“The fact that bowlers say they are scared of bowling in the nets says it all. Players are built bigger now, they have fast hands and they hit the ball harder.

“Luke was very fortunate. I would rather see if something can be looked at before a bowler loses their sight, which could easily have happened or heaven forbid, something worse.”

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