Ashes 2019: Why will Steve Smith miss the third Test?

By Sports Desk August 20, 2019

Steve Smith has been ruled out of the third Ashes Test due to a concussion suffered at Lord's last week.

The Australia batsman was struck on the neck by a fierce bouncer from England debutant Jofra Archer on day four.

Although Smith returned to resume his innings on Saturday, Cricket Australia (CA) announced the 30-year-old would not play any part on the final day of the second Test.

And following that draw, Smith will also now miss the third Test at Headingley.

Before his absence was confirmed, Omnisport spoke to expert Dr Sam Barke, medical director of Return2Play, about Smith's concussion, the delayed symptoms and the protocol for returning to action.

 

CA said Smith "passed the CogSport and SCAT5 assessments" when he came off the pitch at Lord's, so why was the concussion not spotted then?

The key to those tests is there is not really a pass-fail situation, it's just evidence building. Along with how the player is responding, how they're feeling and their symptoms, we do these tests to gather as much evidence as possible to try and work out whether the concussion has happened.

Unfortunately, there is not a 100 per cent test at the moment for concussion. It's adding all those pieces of evidence together to try and be as sure as we can.

Not infrequently we end up with situations like we had with Steve Smith where all the evidence from those tests has said, 'No, we don't think a concussion has happened'. Then further down the line symptoms start to come on.

It was later revealed that Smith suffered a "delayed concussion response" – what is that?

The concussion itself hasn't been delayed. He had concussion from moment one. It's that he wasn't showing any signs or symptoms that concern that until now.

In my experience, the vast majority of time players do have some symptoms at the immediate point of injury and then they go away very, very quickly. It may have been by the time they got out there he was feeling absolutely fine.

So it looks like the Australia medical staff followed all the procedures correctly?

We reckon that probably about 10-to-20 per cent of concussions have that delay in onset.

As an outsider, it looks like everything's been done correctly and the right decisions have been made at every point, and he unfortunately fits into that small category of players that look fine at the time and then go on to develop symptoms further down the line.

The third Test begins on Thursday and, per CA's concussion policy, Smith must not play or train until at least 24 hours after he has been cleared by the doctor. What is the process for a player returning to their sport and why do medics have to be careful?

You shouldn't be doing any activity until your symptoms have settled. In professional rugby they say you have to be 24 hours symptom-free before you start doing any sort of exercise. The theory is most people start to feel well when they do absolutely nothing and we want to see whether any symptoms come back with exertion and mental strain, so you gradually start to introduce exercise.

The big thing about concussion and the way you manage it, is the risk comes from further injury, not the initial injury. The risks from a one-off knock that's treated well are almost non-existent, but while the brain's still recovering, if it takes further knocks, that's when risks happen.

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    Delving a little deeper, the five Tests made clear the obvious flaws in both teams, but also demonstrated their strengths. Now, though, they can draw breath, recharge their batteries and start thinking about the future.

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    BATTING

    Not even retaining the urn has been enough to silence the questions that were already there before the Ashes about Australia's batting.

    Smith's heroics were enough on this occasion, but coach Justin Langer has work to do going forward.

    David Warner, who should be Australia's second-best batsman, became Stuart Broad's bunny, making just 95 runs at an average of 9.50 during the series and falling to the England paceman seven times.

    Between Warner, Cameron Bancroft and Marcus Harris, Australia's opening stands during the Ashes were an average of 8.50 runs, immediately putting themselves under early pressure.

    Marnus Labuschagne was a revelation after getting his chance, scoring 353 runs at an average of 50.42 to cement his place in Australia's top-order. But, going forward, places are up for grabs.

    Matthew Wade combined two centuries with eight scores of 34 or less, while Travis Head (who averaged 27.28) and Usman Khawaja (20.33) were both dropped during the series.

    Harris and Wade top-scored in the Shield last season, but the likes of Kurtis Patterson, 26, Will Pucovski, 21, and Jake Lehmann, 27, should all be sensing an opportunity.

    Given the others have failed to take their chances, albeit in tough conditions, perhaps the time has come to build around Smith and Labuschagne while preparing for the future.

    Like their opponents, England have gaps to fill in the top six.

    Rory Burns (390 runs at 39) had success at the top of the order, but the gamble on Jason Roy failed to pay off. Joe Denly may have received a stay of execution with his 94 at The Oval, but it is hard to see how a 33-year-old who has spent recent domestic seasons further down the batting list is the long-term answer.

    Joe Root had made clear in the past that three is not his favoured role, so it will be interesting to see if Trevor Bayliss' replacement is happy to drop him one position lower.

    The team's success in the longest format has often come courtesy of rearguard actions in difficult situations, but the time has come to start batting big.

    Stokes (441 runs at 55.12) showed the way with two second-innings hundreds, but Jonny Bairstow has reached 50 only once in his last 14 Test innings and Jos Buttler is in the strange position of being picked as a frontline batsman that comes in at seven.

    A busy winter schedule offers an opportunity to blood some fresh faces. Dom Sibley and Zak Crawley are the two openers regularly talked about as possible candidates to have a go alongside Burns. 

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    BOWLING

    Unlike their batting, Australia's bowling is far more settled and with good reason.

    Pat Cummins won the Allan Border Medal in February and the paceman showed he can lead his nation for years to come. The 26-year-old played all five Tests – a fine feat for a player with his injury history – and was comfortably the leading wicket-taker in the Ashes with 29.

    Cummins took his 29 wickets at an average of 19.62 and economy rate of 2.69.

    Such is the depth and talent in Australia's attack, Mitchell Starc played just one Test, selectors perhaps looking elsewhere to capitalise on the English conditions.

    Josh Hazlewood has long been expected to be the man in such situations and he grabbed 20 wickets at 21.85 in four Tests.

    Peter Siddle and James Pattinson played three and two Tests respectively and while their spots are far from certain, the ability of the attack to deliver as a unit would have pleased Langer.

    They were helped by Nathan Lyon, who bowled more overs than anyone else on his way to 20 wickets at 33.40.

    Siddle (34) is the oldest of the group, but Cummins, Hazlewood (28), Starc (29) and Pattinson (29) look to have several years ahead of them in an excellent sign for Australia. Even Mitchell Marsh took his chance with the ball in the fifth Test, grabbing seven wickets, although the all-rounder is often criticised for his performances.

    The bowling was expected to be Australia's strength during the series and it proved just that, with few signs of it being an area of concern going forward.

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    For England, the preparations for the tour Down Under in 2021-22 should begin immediately, or else they may be waiting a little longer to get the urn back.

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