Australia's Steve Smith lays on the pitch
Australia's Steve Smith lays on the pitch after being hit in the neck by a ball off the bowling of England's Jofra Archer during play on the fourth day of the second Ashes Test match at Lord's Cricket Ground in London on August 17, 2019. Image Credit: AFP

Melbourne: Batsman Steve Smith must be free of concussion symptoms for 24 hours before he can begin return to play protocols, Australia’s sports medicine manager has said, making him a doubt for the third Ashes Test starting on Thursday.

Smith suffered a sickening blow to the neck from a Joffra Archer bouncer during the second test at Lord’s, forcing him off the ground for a medical assessment. The right-hander returned to the crease 40 minutes later before being dismissed for 92 but he was then ruled out of the final day’s play and replaced by Marnus Labuschagne, who became Test cricket’s first concussion substitute.

With the third Test starting at Headingley in Leeds on Thursday, time may be Smith’s biggest enemy.

“He needs to be symptom free for 24 hours before he even gets to start the process,” Cricket Australia’s Alex Kountouris told reporters in Melbourne yesterday.

“So he is just recovering and sleeping, taking some time to feel better then after that he begins the process but there is obviously a very short time before the next Test.” Kountouris added that the decision on when Smith was able to return would be made solely by team doctor Richard Saw, who would follow the Cricket Australia protocols.

Saw made the decision to take Smith from the field on Saturday and, after a series of tests indicated no signs of concussion, allowed the batsman to continue his innings. Smith, however, had developed symptoms overnight and after further testing on Sunday, which is part of the process, Saw ruled him out of the fifth day.

“Delayed concussions are reasonably common,” Kountouris added. “About 30% of concussions are delayed. So it’s not uncommon and why we test the players the next day.” Kountouris added that any criticism about allowing Smith to return to the crease was misguided, given he had not presented with any signs.

“Everything he (Saw) did was according to the protocol,” Kountouris said.

“At the time Steve did not have a concussion. He was fine to play. If we left him out of the game it would have been for only what we saw on the field.

“The reality is that only about one in five or six head impacts end up being concussions, which is why we monitor them. If you look at that game there were three other head impacts and only Steve developed a concussion.

“If we pulled every player out who had a head impact we’d be pulling out 80% of the players who don’t have a concussion. That would be an over reaction.”

Australia captain Tim Paine said earlier that it is still too early to tell as to whether Smith will be available for the third Test at Headingley.

“Really nasty knock, he felt okay yesterday, but woke up not feeling at his best so the decision was made to leave him out,” said Paine in the post-match presentation. “Steve passed all his tests, he deteriorated overnight, he re-tested, they weren’t as good this morning, and the professionals made that call. He’ll need to improve (to play at Headingley) but too early to tell.”

The second Test ended in a draw, with Australia leading the series 1-0 after winning the opener at Edgbaston.

How concussion is dealt with in sport

The England and Wales Cricket Board has a mandatory six-day period after concussions, with a graded return to play. Cricket Australia rules that players cannot train or play for 24 hours after concussion. They are then assessed continuously, with a graded return to play.


Fifa protocol is that concussed players should not return for six days.


World Rugby requires players to have a minimum complete rest period of a week before a graduated return to play. The earliest any player can return to play after concussion is three weeks.


Rules vary, but the earliest a player can return to play in England is six days.

— The Telegraph Group Limited, London 2019