The cricket world is paying respects to Australian player Phil Hughes following his death two days after he was hit on the head by a ball. (Reuters)

South Australia cricket star Phillip Hughes died Thursday in a Sydney hospital, two days after he was struck on the head by a short delivery during a match in Sydney.

Hughes, 25, was struck beneath the ear, just outside the helmet, by a bouncer and the accident is renewing debate over helmet safety in the sport. Although he underwent emergency surgery to relieve pressure on the brain, he was in a medically induced coma and died without regaining consciousness in St. Vincent’s Hospital.

“It is my sad duty to inform you that a short time ago Phillip Hughes passed away,” Peter Brukner, the Australian team doctor, said in a statement.

“He was not in pain before he passed and was surrounded by his family and close friends. As a cricket community we mourn his loss and extend our deepest sympathies to Phillip’s family and friends at this incredibly sad time. Cricket Australia kindly asks that the privacy of the Hughes family, players and staff be respected.”

The death of Hughes has prompted debate over whether the heads of cricket players are adequately protected by their helmets.

“We believe there’s more that can be done,” says Rene Ferdinands, head of cricket biomechanics research at the University of Sydney, told the BBC. “It is possible to offer protection that extends beyond the area covered by the helmet.”


Image provided by Masuri Group Ltd  shows a cricket helmet with old and new profiles. (AP Photo/Masuri Group Ltd via PA)

From the BBC:

One idea suggested by Ferdinands is to wear a skull cap, made of composite foam or other substance, reaching beyond the area at the base of the helmet. A study suggests such materials can absorb between 50% and 70% of the impact of a baseball, he adds, saying it would not impede mobility.

Masuri, the UK company which manufactured Hughes’s helmet, says he was not wearing the latest model, which offers “extra protection” in the area where he was hit, while still allowing “comfortable movement”. It is seeking more video evidence to determine the exact point of impact.

“This is a vulnerable area of the head and neck that helmets cannot fully protect,” the company says, “while enabling batsmen to have full and proper movement.”

Cricket players, though, have been reluctant to embrace new technology in a sport that only introduced helmets about 40 years ago.

“The ability of manufacturers to innovate is reliant on players embracing new technology and they are very, very traditional in cricket,” Brendan Denning, chief executive of Melbourne-based Albion, said via IBNlive.com.

“At the moment, we make incremental changes while trying not to upset the traditionalists. Other sports, like horse racing, more readily accept that injury is an issue.”