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Langer opens up on concussion in cricket

AAP logoAAP 26/10/2016 Rob Forsaith

Justin Langer has expressed reservations about the push to introduce a concussion substitute at every level of cricket.

Widely tipped to be Darren Lehmann's successor as Australia coach and one of the sport's great thinkers, former Test opener Langer is also well-versed in the area of concussion, having suffered five of them throughout a stoic career.

Cricket Australia (CA) introduced a concussion substitute for the 2016-17 Big Bash League and domestic one-day competition, with the new rule being used for the first time last week.

But the International Cricket Council (ICC) refused to approve its use in first-class games, meaning there will be no concussion subs in the Sheffield Shield this summer.

"I personally wasn't that upset that it wasn't passed (by the ICC)," Langer told AAP prior to the start of the domestic season.

"Maybe we've got to have a look at the whole concept of substituting a player through injury but to just do it for concussion - it's such a grey area.

"It's really hard to give a conclusive test of who has concussion and what level of concussion it is ... we've got to be consistent and with concussion I don't know how we can be consistent.

"All these things are really good discussion points and if it did come in I'd be cool with it as well."

Langer added the rule would work provided "people respect what it is".

"The problem is when people start looking for loopholes. Then it's no good, it wrecks it for everybody," the Western Australia coach said.

"We don't have runners any more but if people had maintained the integrity of that then we'd still have runners."

Steve Smith, Usman Khawaja, Matthew Wade and Ed Cowan were all vocal in their support of the new rule after Daniel Hughes was substituted out of last week's one-day elimination final, having been struck on the helmet by a Peter Siddle bouncer.

CA medicos Alex Kountouris, Peter Brukner and John Orchard have all lobbied for more stringent concussion protocols in recent years.

CA adopted a formal concussion and head trauma policy last year, giving team doctors the power to remove a player from the field when they determine a full assessment is needed.

The concussion substitute was only introduced this year, having been flagged as a matter "requiring ongoing consideration" in the independent review into the death of Phillip Hughes in 2014.

Langer had a strong relationship with Hughes, having worked as Australia's batting coach for much of the opener's international career.

"I'm hypersensitive to the Hughesy situation. Hughesy was a terrible, terrible accident," Langer said of the opener who died after being struck on the neck by a bouncer during a Shield game.

"That was a freak accident and I don't want to go too much into it. Hughesy's probably like my little brother and it's one of the great tragedies of my lifetime."

Langer isn't ignorant of the serious risks associated with concussion, having been "hit on the helmet as much as anyone" during a 105-Test career.

That list includes a particularly nasty episode in 2006, when he was rushed to hospital in Johannesburg following a Makhaya Ntini bouncer blow.

Langer, who wanted to return to bat during that Test despite being told he would be risking death, revealed he dealt with "a lot of migraines" shortly after retiring.

"I was really worried about it so I went and saw a neurosurgeon and he took some scans," Langer said.

"He looked at me and goes 'I'm going to give you some advice young fella, you've got to start having a cup of tea and toast with your wife more often. Every morning'.

"He told me I was too burnt out and that was the cause. He said my brain looks really good.

"I think about (whether the multiple concussions will impact him later in life) every now and then, but mainly I think about how lucky I was - when you think about what happened to Hughesy."

Langer added the damage caused by Ntini was "more psychological than physical".

"I dreaded the thought of getting hit on the head again," he said.

"I got home to Australia and Noddy (personal coach Noddy Holder) told me it's time to retire.

"He got very emotional about it. I told him I had to do the Ashes, we'd promised each other after losing 2005 we were going to win the urn back.

"It was horrible what I had to put myself through on the bowling machine.

"I look back on it and I had this public persona of being the tough guy - opened the batting and took the blows, bring it on - but nobody likes facing fast bowling.

"Anybody who tells you they like it is lying. Nobody does."

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