The rare injury that claimed Phillip Hughes’ life has been caused by a cricket ball only once before and it happened 21 years ago when another player was killed during a training session here.
The rare injury that claimed Hughes, and its unbearable consequences, are known all too well by another cricket family.
An eerily similar case, perhaps the only other one caused by a cricket ball, from 21 years ago, is documented in a book of forensic case studies written by Melbourne-based journalist Liz Porter, ‘The Sydney Morning Herald’ reported.
When an exhausted and emotional Australian team doctor, Peter Brukner, addressed the media in the aftermath of Hughes’ death on Wednesday, he said the 25-year-old’s injury was an “incredibly rare” vertebral artery dissection, which had been reported only 100 times and caused by a cricket ball just once.
The other case is examined in Porter’s book. The scene was not a first-class ground but a set of cricket nets in suburban Melbourne at a week-night training session in 1993.
It received no media coverage that the forensic pathologist who reviewed the case, Dr David Ranson, can recall.
“Its circumstances make unbearable reading for any parent with children who play cricket -- or baseball -- or any sport involving sudden movement and a ball flying at some speed,” Porter wrote.
The bowler, a regular in the third XI, was not bowling at a particularly brisk pace because he was nursing a knee injury.
He chatted to his mate between balls about their respective scores on the weekend. The bowler’s mate then padded up and took his turn in the nets.
“The bowler took his usual short run, rolled his arm over and released the ball ... It didn’t land short enough to be a bouncer, and appeared to be heading to the leg side,” Porter wrote.
“The bowler saw his mate positioning himself to hit the ball. But, suddenly, the ball hit some gravel on the matting and reared up -- far higher than either of them expected. The bowler watched his friend move to evade it, scrunching his shoulder up and turning his head back sharply to the left, to avoid being hit as the ball bounced up,” he said.
The batsman was given CPR at the scene, rushed to hospital and placed on life support.
“The following afternoon, the distraught bowler was told that his friend had died,” Porter wrote.