Steve Smith is unlikely for the third Test. Picture: Ian Kington
Steve Smith is unlikely for the third Test. Picture: Ian Kington

Risk factor set to keep Smith grounded for Leeds

Steve Smith is highly likely to be ruled out of the third Ashes Test despite Cricket Australia declining to stipulate a minimum time frame on concussion.

If Smith was playing for England a line would have been put through his name automatically because the Test starts in just two days' time and the ECB mandates no return inside six days of concussion symptoms being recorded.

CA on the other hand does not specify a return to play minimum, sparking some confusion among experts.

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However, rather than leaving the door ajar for Smith to make a miracle recovery, News Corp Australia understands the rationale behind Australia's policy is in fact, increasing vigilance.

Cricket experts in Australia - who have spearheaded concussion reforms across the game - argue the standard six-day minimum common in the NRL and NFL works for those sports because there is a week between matches, but in cricket where Tests can be three or four days apart, they fear mandated stand-down periods could deter players from self-reporting symptoms.

Just because it's not written in stone, Cricket Australia players take between seven to eight days on average to return after concussion and that evidence alone suggests Smith's chances of playing at Headingley are extremely remote.

Respected physio Brien Seeney says the potential risk of "second impact syndrome" are so dire that no doctor would put Smith back in the Jofra Archer firing line until absolutely certain symptoms had passed.

"The biggest risk that people talk about is second impact syndrome," Seeney said.

"That can occur if an athlete experiences a second head injury before complete recovery from the initial head injury.

"It's relatively rare and it's not something you see all that often. But worst-case scenario you start to talk about death, which obviously no medical professional would put a player in that position.


Australia will likely take a cautious approach with Smith. Picture: Ryan Pierse
Australia will likely take a cautious approach with Smith. Picture: Ryan Pierse

"That's the worst-case scenario and it's important to stress that it's very, very rare. But the most important thing to do is give the brain time to recover … and not put them in harm's way before symptoms have subsided and full recovery is achieved."

Australia's Test team appears poised for a major setback but its credibility in the new world of concussion management continues to be enhanced.

CA officials focus on persistent testing of players who have suffered head impact.

Smith is not allowed to partake in any form of training until 24 hours after his last symptoms and even then, he must return gradually.

Questions have been asked over why Smith was allowed to return to batting on day four, only to be ruled out on day five with a "delayed concussion."

However, this is a dilemma that confronts all sport and Cricket Australia's chief medical officer, Alex Kountouris says doctors would be overreacting if they pulled out every batsman who is hit on the head.

"The reality is only about one in five or one in six head impacts end up in concussions," Kountouris said.

"If we pulled out every player who had head impact, we'd be pulling out 80 per cent of players who don't have a concussion. That would be an over-reaction.

"Delayed concussions are part of any sport."