When Phillip Hughes was struck on the side of the neck by the ball, it was a freakish accident and “catastrophic” head injury, the doctors involved in treating the opening batsman explained.
Hughes died in hospital two days after being struck by a bouncer while batting at the Sydney Cricket Ground for South Australia in a Sheffield Shield match.
Speaking at a media conference at St Vincent’s Hospital on Wednesday evening, the hospital’s director of trauma, Dr Tony Grabs, and Australian team doctor, Peter Brukner, said Hughes’ injury was incredibly rare.
There were only around 100 recorded cases of the particular injury recorded and “only one caused by a cricket ball”, Grabs said.
As a result of the blow to the side of his neck, Hughes’ vertebral artery, one of the main arteries leading to the brain, was compressed and that caused the artery to split.
“He had a massive bleed in his brain,” Brukner said. “Such a blow is frequently fatal at the time.”
A small amount of bleeding causes drowsiness, a lot of blood around the brain leads to unconsciousness, he said.
The doctors played down concerns that any delay in emergency vehicles arriving at the SCG in any way contributed for the test cricketer’s condition.
Hughes was resuscitated and transported to hospital in “reasonable condition”, Brukner said. “Ambulance waiting time is more relevant when the sick person is not being treated.”
A trauma surgeon from Newcastle, Dr Jim Stanley, was in the crowd at the time and assisted with treatment, along with NSW team doctor John Orchard.
“What I can say is that he arrived at the hospital in very good condition… and we proceeded with the treatment,” Dr Grabs said.
Hughes was given a CAT scan, which showed his head had filled with blood around the brain, and then underwent surgery for one 80 minutes, which included removing some of the skull to relieve pressure on the brain. He was transferred to intensive care and was placed.
“He did not make very much improvement as we know,” Dr Grabs said. “As a consequence of the injury, he died.”
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