Australia captain Steve Smith used neck protectors during the 2019 Ashes series ©Getty Images

Loughborough University have highlighted the introduction of a new test method for helmets and the increased use of neck protectors as evidence of their research helping to ensure the safety of cricketers while batting.

Loughborough University’s Sports Technology Institute received a grant from the International Cricket Council to work on developing an evaluating test methods for helmets.

The project came in the aftermath of the death of Australia batsman Phil Hughes in 2014, leading to  to manufacturers beginning to supply neck protectors that attached to the base of the helmet.

The protectors were aimed at reducing the frequency and severity of injuries to the rear and upper neck.

The project was also supported by the England and Wales Cricket Board (ECB), Cricket Australia, and the British Standards Institution (BSI).

Research led to the creation of a standard test which was approved by the committee for inclusion within BS7928, a BSI specification that came into force in 2017.

"Our previous research led to a new test being included in the British Standard, but more recently, the issue of injury to the neck - which is typically not covered by the helmet - had come to prominence following Phil Hughes’ tragic death," Andy Harland, Professor of Sports Technology at Loughborough University, said.

"Many players now wear these protectors, yet for years these were not subject to any standard testing.

"As a result of our research, neck protectors can now be tested and certified, giving confidence to the authorities and those that are wearing them.

"The way in which we were able to work in partnership with the cricketing authorities, British standards, certified test laboratories, and the manufacturers was testament to the committed approach all stakeholders have to making the game as safe as possible."

Loughborough University highlighted that the neck guard was used during the 2019 summer Ashes Test series.

The protection was used by Australia captain Steve Smith as he returned from a concussion for the fourth Test at Old Trafford, where he went on to score a combined 293 runs over the two innings to help Australia earn victory.

The neck guards are yet to be compulsory under ECB and Cricket Australia's policy, however Loughborough University say this may change when it is reviewed later in 2020.