Martin Devlin: Sensibility prevails with Steve Smith being rested from Ashes

Martin Devlin,
Publish Date
Thursday, 22 August 2019, 2:41PM

So Steve Smith won't be playing in tonight's third Ashes test at Headingley.

Finally some sense and sensibility, and honesty, following that horrendous blow he got to the head during last week's Lords match. And it was horrendous.

For everyone watching, just sickening to see. Immediately dropping to the turf Smith gasped, choked, writhed around and looked in obvious and serious trouble.

In fact nothing other than what you'd normally expect when an unprotected part of the head gets belted by a rock/bat/beer can/fist/ cricket ball delivered at a speed approaching 100mph. If that wasn't disturbing enough, the most shocking bit was yet to come.

Taken from the field for mandatory medical checks, including the recently introduced "concussion protocols", Smith was somehow cleared to return to play less than an hour later. "I felt fine" he said.

Of course he wasn't fine, the full effects of delayed concussion the reason he's now been omitted. And as team-mates. commentators, the Australian team management and highly-qualified medical staff all pat themselves on the back saying what a good decision it is to stand him down etc etc, not a single one of them is prepared to address the rather large elephant still in the room - that being, how the hell did these experts let him back out there in the first place?

I'm hoping there was something more scientific undertaken than just asking the bloke how he felt. Because whatever their diagnosis and however they came to it, high time these idiots all admitted they got it horribly wrong. Easy to be wise after the event but the truth is they let a concussed guy go back out to face 150kph bouncers aimed at his bonce! So there's only one of two conclusions to reach here.

And both paint a picture the sport doesn't want to be seen. Either those conducting  the tests let their own fears be over-ridden by his desire to return to play, or their well-meaning "protocols" seriously failed. Any medical test for concussion that cannot detect the possibility of it being delayed is clearly and obviously inadequate.

Surely this is all the warning anyone needs? If Smith had copped another hit, if he'd suddenly and inexplicably collapsed during that second batting stint, damn sure all these experts would've ducked for cover saying "we couldn't tell", "we did all the relevant checks", "he answered the what is your name question with ease".

Immediately I wonder whether rugby's HIA covers the delayed concussion possibility.

I think we all know the answer to that which is there is no current test that can ever  100% guarantee accuracy in these matters. Smith got lucky. Very very lucky. And unless those in charge acknowledge this then both medical staff and players are doing nothing  but continue to play Russian Roulette with their health and at worst, their lives. 

The protocols have just been proven to be guesswork at best, irrelevant at worst. To treat these off-field tests as some sort of failsafe is a serious accident waiting to happen. To quote Steve Smith himself, surely with at least a hint of irony attached, "it's a no brainer".

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