By TONY SMITH, Stuff.co.nz
Softball New Zealand will review its player concussion policies after Wellington’s Black Sox pitcher Josh Pettett was controversially ruled out of the National Fastpitch Championships final despite being cleared of concussion.
Wellington coach Thomas Makea was “disgusted” when Softball New Zealand (SNZ) officials ruled Pettett out of Sunday’s gold medal game against Auckland, and said the rule must be changed.
Makea was “very disappointed” that Pettett could not play despite being cleared of concussion by a doctor following scans and X-rays.
He was also at a loss to understand why Auckland – who beat Wellington 9-3 in the final – had insisted SNZ implement its mandatory stand-down protocol because of their apparent concern at potential further risk to Pettett.
Pettett was hit in the face by a hard-hit drive by Auckland player-coach Nathan Nukunuku in Saturday night’s semifinal at Christchurch’s Mizuno Ballpark.
He got to his feet and wanted to resume, but was prevented from doing so by match umpires in accordance with SNZ protocols.
SNZ chief executive Tony Giles said Wellington “did everything right” in getting medical clearances for Pettett, but SNZ had had to abide by “our concussion protocols, as part of our ACC scheme”.
Giles said that protocol required anyone suspected of suffering concussion to have a “graduated re-entry” to the diamond, “because there is the potential for delayed concussion”.
He said there was initial concern Pettett had suffered a hairline fracture and contusions.
The 25-year-old Wellington pitcher was taken to hospital for CT scans and X-rays which, Giles said, showed no evidence of a fracture or concussion. His only injury was “contusions to the neck”.
Giles said following discussions with Wellington and Auckland team officials on Sunday morning, SNZ decided it must “adhere to the policy”.
“But we will be talking to ACC and taking a second look at our policies that are in place to make sure we better align ourselves to other contact sports that have HIA [head injury assessment] protocols.”
A policy review cannot come quick enough for Makea, who hopes changes will be in place for next month’s national interclub tournament.
The Pettett ruling clearly rankled with the Wellington team, who, pointedly, left the ball park after the final out without waiting for Auckland to be presented with the trophy.
Makea said it was very frustrating to have Pettett ruled out by a “protesting technicality”. He could not understand why the young hurler was sidelined after being cleared by a doctor.
“We did everything right, got all the documents in place.
“There was no concussion at all, in the end it was a neck injury. He was fit to play, ready to go and he wanted to pitch.
“We are pretty disgusted. When you get to a final like that, you want to see the best against the best. We would have had the two number one [pitchers] going right at it, toe to toe. That’s what the softball public wanted to see.
Makea said Pettett had actually been ready to take the mound again on Saturday night. “Once he stood up [after being felled by the hit to his face], he said, ‘Give me the ball’., He had just bitten his tongue; there was a bit of blood, but that was all.”
Makea was surprised that Auckland had been so insistent about the protocol being enforced and wondered if Nukunuku and his team were worried whether they could beat Wellington with Pettett on the mound.
He said the outcome of the final may have been different “if we had our ace up against their ace.
“We would have been right in the hunt.”
Nukunuku, the Auckland player-coach whose hit accidentally felled Pettett, said his team were motivated out of a genuine concern about potential further risk to the Wellington pitcher.
“Half my team are his Black Sox teammates, we don’t want to be responsible for him getting hit in the head again, or something more serious … even if it rarely happens.”
Nukunuku felt it was important the protocols were adhered to and insisted he would have taken the same view had it been one of his own players. Player welfare had to come first, he said. Click here to continue reading at Stuff.co.nz and to see photos and video of the incident.