Cricketer’s sudden death shocks the world

The 25-year-old Australian Phillip Hughes was an outstanding talent in his prime, but a freak cricket accident has cut his life short. Should it make us reconsider how safe some sports are?

This week the sport of cricket is in shock. Australian international-level cricketer Phillip Hughes was batting in a game when, in a ‘freak’ accident, the ball bounced awkwardly and smashed into his neck. After two days in a coma, he has died.

‘It’s an understatement to say we’re completely devastated,’ said Australia’s cricketing chief. Severe injuries in the sport are extremely rare. In under-19 matches batsmen and fielders near the wicket have been required to wear helmets for the last 30 years, which has greatly reduced the chances of a head injury. Nearly all other professional players wear them too. But in a game that involves a ball being hurled at speeds close to 100 mph, there is always a risk. And although Hughes was wearing a helmet, the ball struck him in an unprotected area.

The shock death has drawn attention to the dangers of sports, especially for children. There are very few statistics on the risks of schoolchildren playing rugby, but one study suggests they have a one in six chance of being seriously injured during a season. The risk only grows at higher levels, and a former Scottish international says players ‘see stars’ in nearly every match.

American football is becoming increasingly popular in the UK and is even more dangerous than rugby. After much pressure, America’s National Football League admitted that one-third of professional players will suffer some form of brain damage.

As Hughes’ case shows, even sports that are considered safe come with risks. An American study found that, on average, 4.8 out of every 1000 young gymnasts received injuries that needed treatment at the emergency department. Dislocations are common, as are neck and head injuries, especially among males.

'No pain no gain’

Some say that the unexpected death of Phillip Hughes should make us reconsider the safety of sports we take for granted. Some are clearly more dangerous than others: an Irish A&E department found that 43% of all sports-related injuries among school children came from rugby. While nothing is without risks, it would be better to avoid the sports with higher injury rates.

Yet others say that we can find the risk of injury everywhere. A 2008 survey found that 2.1m Britons suffer from illnesses caused by work, but people cannot simply stop working. And doing no exercise at all is an even greater danger. A new study has found a quarter of children are obese by the age of 11. Unhealthy living will lower their quality of life and cost the NHS billions. Surely it is better to be active doing something we enjoy, while trying to minimise the risks, rather than be too afraid to try new things.

You Decide

  1. Are some common sports simply too risky for young people to take part in?
  2. Do people in the UK worry too much about safety?

Activities

  1. In pairs, choose two sports, perhaps one that you enjoy and one that you dislike. List what are the five biggest risks in both of them and decide how seriously those risks should be taken.
  2. Research someone who has been injured playing a sport of your choice. Look at whether their injury changed safety in the sport, and whether that person’s attitudes towards the sport changed as a result.

Some People Say...

“He who is not courageous enough to take risks will achieve nothing in life.’Muhammad Ali”

What do you think?

Q & A

Is cricket more dangerous than we thought?
The sport is relatively safe, but Phillip Hughes’ shocking death shows that just because the risk is low, we cannot take safety for granted. There have been seven known deaths in the sport since 2000, with four caused by a ball. Yet the accident should not put anyone off playing cricket.
Which are the most dangerous sports?
It is often assumed that boxing is dangerous and there have been several attempts to ban it. Yet there is a huge difference between amateur boxing, where boxers try to score points and wear headguards, and professional boxing, in which major injuries do occur. A 2007 study found no evidence of brain injuries at the amateur level. Outside of extreme sports, the most risky sport for young people appears to be rugby.

Word Watch

Rugby
A journalist for the Independent conducted a study of her son’s year at school. She found that 37% of the 76 boys had received an injury playing the game and two-fifths gave up playing it as soon as they could.
Admitted
When American footballers started complaining of head injuries in the 1990s, the NFL tried to play down the issue. However, last year the NFL tried to settle a law suit involving injured players with a $765m payment. But a judge ruled it would not be enough to cover the medical bills for all of their injuries.
Department
Over 100,000 gymnastics-related injuries are treated in the US alone. Most commonly, they include sprains, slipped disks and tendonitis.

Subjects

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