SYDNEY (AP) — An international cricket player was hospitalized in critical condition Tuesday after he was hit in the head by a ball while batting during a game.
Phil Hughes, who plays for Australia, one of the world's leading cricket nations, missed the ball while batting. It struck him on the side of the head in an area unprotected by his helmet.
Hughes reeled back and then bent forward momentarily after the impact before collapsing. He was treated and given oxygen on the field by medical personnel, including doctors who were flown by helicopter onto the Sydney Cricket Ground. He was taken to nearby St. Vincent's Hospital by ambulance.
The 25-year-old player had emergency surgery for what Australian team doctor Peter Brukner called a severe head injury. He said Hughes is in the intensive care unit.
In cricket, bowlers almost always make the ball bounce before it reaches the batsman. Sometimes the bowler bounces the ball some distance from the batter to make it rear up toward his ribs, chest or head, intimidating batsman into a rash shot. Such pitches, called "bouncers" or "bumpers," have existed for decades and have always been controversial.
Hughes mistimed his shot and was hit on the back, left side of the head by a bouncer from New South Wales fast bowler Sean Abbott.
The Sheffield Shield tournament match between the state of New South Wales, where Hughes was born and raised, and South Australia, where he now plays provincial cricket, was canceled.
There have been several deaths of cricketers hit by the ball, which weighs just less than 6 ounces but is rock hard. It is thrown from just over 20 yards away at speeds up to 90 mph. Bouncing slows the ball a little, but hitting the uneven grass often means the ball rises toward batters at a sharp, unpredictable angle.
In the 1960s and '70s, Caribbean bowlers struck fear into opponents around the world, leaving batsman bruised. Batters began wearing reinforced helmets and today it is rare to see a bare-headed batsman at any level of cricket.
The International Cricket Council revised its rules on short-pitch bowling — a ball that lands well in front of the batsman — in the early 1990s. The governing body put restrictions on the number of short-pitch balls allowed.
In June, England's Stuart Broad needed surgery for a broken nose after a short ball from India's Varun Aaron smashed through his helmet's protective grille.
In baseball, shortstop Ray Chapman of the Cleveland Indians was hit in the head with a pitch in 1920 by New York's Carl Mays. Chapman sustained a fractured skull and died the next day. It is the only on-field fatality in major league history.