REUTERS - The death of Australian cricketer Phillip Hughes was caused by a "freakish accident" that gave the 25-year-old international batsman little chance of survival, his doctors said on Thursday.
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Hughes was struck by a short-pitched delivery on Tuesday while playing in a domestic match and died in St Vincent's hospital on Thursday having never regained consciousness.
"I think in this instance, this was a freakish accident because it was an injury to the neck that caused haemorrhage in the brain. The condition is incredibly rare," Cricket Australia doctor Peter Brukner told a media conference at the hospital.
The injury, called a subarachnoid haemorrhage, occurs when an artery is compressed and splits, forcing blood into the brain area. Only one case had previously been reported as a result of a cricket ball, said Brukner.
Such catastrophic injuries were frequently fatal at the time, but Hughes was resuscitated on the field and taken to hospital in a "reasonable condition," he added.
Tony Grabs, the head of trauma surgery at St Vincent's Hospital, said Hughes was taken quickly to surgery where part of his skull was removed to relieve pressure on his brain.
"Over a period of the first 24 to 48 hours, as we know, he did not make very much improvement and unfortunately as a consequence of the injury he died," Grabs said.
Manufacturers of cricket safety equipment had earlier said Hughes's accident was unusual and nothing on the market now would likely have prevented it.
But they also say advances in cricket helmet technology are being stymied by a lack of enforcement of international safety standards and the reluctance of elite-level players who prefer the game's traditional aesthetics to adopt new styles.