In 1990 I watched Graham Gooch of England make 333 and 123 in a Test Match against India at Lord’s. It was a different time and a different country. Gooch looked decidedly unathletic (although apparently a fitness fanatic) and I certainly don’t remember the Indian pace attack as anything like the current potent crew. As Gooch approached his three hundredth run, the BBC cut to a horse race showing the usual tin ear of public broadcasters. It was compelling but hadn’t quite reached exciting. For those of you not baptised into the religion of Test Cricket, simply put, one fellow throws a small hard leather ball in a special way (bowling) at some wooden poles (the wickets) from a distance of 22 yards (the pitch) while another fellow (the batsman) uses a wooden club (bat) to prevent this. Other fellows stand around to catch or intercept the ball, and also provide commentary on the batsman’s skill, character, and parentage.

I moved to Australia and one of the instant upgrades was supporting the Australian cricket team. Staying up in 1995 to listen to Steve Waugh wearing bouncer after bouncer after bouncer as Australia finally rolled the West Indies in their own backyard was incredibly exciting. Part of that excitement was risk. The players had arm/chest guards, gloves, pads, boxes, helmets, and increasingly large bats but the spectacle and danger of confronting 140-150 kilometre missiles was enthralling.

It had a lot of value for the players involved and for the audiences in the West Indies, Australia, and around the world. The West Indies are a collection of independent island countries who only come together as the West Indies for cricket. Much the same could be said about Australia and it’s Federation of States (especially in light of recent border shenanigans). Australia had been planning this assault for years. The West Indies were coming off a long period of world domination and were raging against the dying of the light as their great players aged.

Fast forwarding again, I went back to England in 2013 to watch the Australian team play England at Lord’s. One of the Australian players to watch was a star of the future – Phillip Hughes. He didn’t have the most auspicious day at Lord’s but certainly looked a player of the future. It was to be his final Test Match. Hughes was a short man, like many of the great batsmen, and so had become accustomed to bowlers aiming at his chest and head. He was an accomplished player of this style of (short pitched) bowling. Sadly, in 2014, Hughes was batting in a State game and despite all of his protective apparel, was hit in the neck by a short pitched ball. He was incredibly unlucky to be hit in the neck in precisely the wrong spot. Wikipedia recounts:

causing a vertebral artery dissection that led to a subarachnoid haemorrhage. The Australian team doctor, Peter Brukner, noted that only 100 such cases had ever been reported, with “only one case reported as a result of a cricket ball”

The risk that made the matches in the West Indies so enthralling and the risk that added value to that spectacle was the same risk that ended with Phil Hughes’ death. Certainly players, spectators, and officials thought long and hard about this risk afterwards. As a result of this we now have something called a stem guard which is a little bit of plastic that protects that very vulnerable area of the neck. Hopefully this particular type of injury will never happen again with these consequences. The amount of short pitched bowling decreased, for a while, but then returned to previous levels (perhaps regressed to the mean). Then, something else happened. 

Today we can see players like Neil Wagner eulogised for bowling into the batsman’s armpit, shoulder, and head. This line of attack into the batsman’s blind spot can hit them, hurt them, or just put them off their game. Wagner recently won a Test Match for his country like this (with two broken toes).

“Neil Wagner was outstanding,” Stead said. “I’m not sure there are too many individuals that could do what he did in that Test match.

Further statistics during the current Australia vs India test series show a clear advantage gained by short pitched bowling. Furthermore, almost uniquely in top level sport, this involves the some of one team doing what they do best against some of the other team doing what they do worst (bowlers bowling at bowlers batting).  Is this too much risk and who makes this decision and on what basis?

This conundrum – the risk of injury and death versus the benefits of economic value resulting from the spectacle – mirrors some situations we face in medicine and life:

Lockdowns vs Targeted Protection

New Vaccines vs New Viruses

Medication vs Lifestyle

I don’t have a universal answer for this, in cricket, life, or in medicine. I firmly believe that we should have these conversations and come to answers that are transparent and workable. From the macro level in Australia and the world to the micro level in the consult room, I think this is the way we should manage risk. We should be mindful of risk in all of our consultations and all of our dealings with patients. If you would like to be part of a team that can afford and prioritise the time taken to consider risk in each and every consultation and dealing then the way forward is clear: make your appointment with us conveniently online right here – or call our friendly reception team on 82953200 or…

here are the steps!

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For everyone, we believe that having a usual GP or General Practice is central to each person’s care and recommend that people with any health issues that come to the attention of other health professionals should be advised to attend their usual GP or General Practice rather than a specialised service (ie a place not providing the holistic care a specialist GP would).   If  they say that they don’t have a usual GP or general practice, they should be helped to find one and to actually attend it. Call PartridgeGP on 82953200 or make an appointment online here.

(Hat tip: Dr Oliver Frank)

(TL;DR – Get a regular GP or General Practice and use them!)

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If you are a great GP or a great Allied Health Professional, and you want to serve your clients or patients to the best of your ability, without worrying about all the non clinical things that get in your way, lets talk. Call Mrs Hayley Roberts on 8295 3200 and have a coffee and chat with us as to how PartridgeGP can help you to help others.