Thu | Dec 8, 2016

Protecting players with rules

Published:Tuesday | January 6, 2015 | 12:00 AM
Atkinson

Atkinson, Walters firm choices for RJR Sportsman and Sportswoman of the Year

Dr Paul Wright, Contributor

Responsible administrators of sports worldwide constantly review the rules of a particular sport as dangers to the health and well being of the participants are threatened during play.

Thus, in the sport of boxing, the number of rounds in professional boxing have been reduced as it became obvious that catastrophic injuries were associated with the fatigue and loss of concentration of participants as the fight went on.

Similarly, in basketball, padded goalposts, parquet floors, reduced player contact, all became mandatory to protect the participants.

The tragic death of Australian cricketer, Phil Hughes, brought into sharp focus, the inherent danger in facing a solid ball directed at your body at speeds of up to 90 miles per hour from a distance of 22 yards.

Serious injury and death of cricketers struck by this ball have resulted in rule changes and the use of protective equipment, including helmets.

More discerning students of the game, while acknowledging the importance of protective equipment, have also recommended that a batsman or fielder in cricket should at all times keep his/her eye on the ball.

However, spare a thought for field hockey, a game played with a ball very similar in shape size and weight of a cricket ball. Only the goalkeeper is allowed expansive protective equipment, including helmets and padding. But in the situation of a short corner the ball has been clocked at speeds in excess of 90 mph, headed straight for players from a distance of five to eight yards.

For the non-hockey player or fan, a short corner is a free hit given to attacking players after a foul has been committed in the area, or 'D'. Only four defensive players are allowed to stand on the goal line with the keeper. The ball is then pushed to the edge of the 'D', where attacking players are gathered. The ball will be stopped and then struck towards the goal.

Serious damage

The defensive team usually has two players inside the goal - defending the goal - while the goalkeeper rushes towards the attacking player in an effort to reduce the angle of the attempt at a goal. The other two defensive players usually rush at great speed towards the attacking player, who is about to shoot at the goal, heads down, with absolutely no protective headgear, facing an oncoming ball at speeds in excess of 90mph, from a rapidly reducing distance of five to 10 yards.

Yes, players have been struck on the head and have died, or suffered serious neurological damage, or facial fractures etcetera.

With no universal call for safety gear, why aren't the people who play hockey not important, or is it that those in charge of the game just don't care about the welfare of the players?

I believe that 'we the people' have a responsibility to make our concern about player welfare known and if our concern is ignored, we have a duty to withdraw our support.

This withdrawal of support should also be reflected in our support for the products of sponsors who apparently place a greater priority on financial returns versus player safety.

In a few days, the RJR group will meet and decide the Sportsman and Sportswoman of the Year. In my mind, there are two certainties. For Sportswoman of the Year, swimmer Alia Atkinson's world record-equalling triumph and victory in the World Championships cannot be topped.

The juxtaposition of the brand name Jamaica and the fact that she is the first female black World Record holder makes her appointment mandatory.

For Sportsman of the Year, the exploits of Nicholas 'The Axeman' Walters, which includes the 'Knockout of the Year', should be enough to make his appointment mandatory.

So, congratulations are in order for Walters and Atkinson, deserving winners of the RJR Foundations' Sportsman and Sportswoman of the Year 2014.