Cricket: Tourists' talisman may leave hospital for crease

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The Independent Online
JONTY RHODES could bat for South Africa this morning despite spending the night in hospital with concussion following his ducking into Devon Malcolm's bouncer.

Mike Procter, the South African coach, said he would consult the player - who suffers from epilepsy - and his doctor before deciding if he could bat.

'It could have been very serious; a blow on the head is worrying for anybody but more so for Jonty,' Procter said. 'Kepler Wessels said he was unconscious at the crease but he has had X-rays, scans and checks and is 100 per cent all right.'

Although he has managed to live a relatively normal life Rhodes' mild reflex epilepsy - diagnosed when he fell off a garden swing at the age of five - has unavoidably constrained aspects of his lifestyle. His condition, though it does not require medication, could lead to fits if he suffers a blow on the head. Thus rugby - his father's sport - is out, he has not played competitive football since his early teens, and he has batted in a helmet since he was 10.

'Without the helmet he would have been in serious trouble,' added Procter, who then displayed the helmet, which was cracked on the left side. 'They came in during World Series Cricket and everyone should consider them. I can remember Kerry Packer ordering Dennis Lillee to wear one - he did not want to out of bravado. It is a matter of personal preference with our players, but they all wear one.'

Craig Smith, the South African physiotherapist, said that 'without a helmet someone could easily be killed from a blow like that.'

Rhodes' mother, Tish, told of the injury by a family friend yesterday, said he has never suffered a fit after a blow to the head but usually felt dazed for some time followed by a 'very bad headache' the next day.

After being helped from the field yesterday it was close to an hour before Rhodes went to the Maudsley Hospital in Camberwell. The delay, caused by a discussion between South African staff and the St John's Ambulance officials over which hospital he should attend, included the possibility of summoning an ambulance helicopter.

Rhodes, who uses his public profile to raise public awareness of the condition, suffered a similar scare in 1991, when he was struck in a domestic match by Allan Donald; he went on to make a century.