AN INVESTIGATION has been launched into the death of hockey player Lizzie Watkins after the 24-year-old was struck in the back of the head by a ball during a game.
Ms Watkins and her older sister Cath Carroll had been playing alongside each other when she was struck at Perth Hockey Stadium on Sunday. She was revived after collapsing on the field but died on the way to hospital.
The doctor for the Australian women’s hockey team said the on-field accident was a ‘‘freak occurrence’’.
Hockeyroos doctor Carmel Goodman, who is also the medical director at the WA Institute of Sport, said she had never seen or heard of anything similar occurring before.
She said it was likely Ms Watkins suffered bleeding in the brain, and the impact would have been similar to someone striking their head on the pavement.
‘‘Everybody is obviously in deep shock, particularly for the national hockey team it is a huge shock and they need to regroup and mourn,’’ she said.
Ms Watkins’ coach, Colin Brandis, a three-time Australian Hockey League winning coach with the WA Diamonds, said the incident occurred midway through the first half.
‘‘It was a fairly innocuous incident which occurs 100 times each game,’’ he said.
‘‘She rushed from fullback to make a tackle when the ball deflected and hit her on the back of the head.’’
Mr Brandis said the competition in which Ms Watkins — a former state junior representative — was playing was regarded as one of the best in the world with many current and former Olympic representatives.
‘‘This was not a backyard game of hockey — this is the strongest competition in Australia, if not the world,’’ he said.
The sporting fraternity remains in a state of shock following Ms Watkins death. Hockey WA chief executive, Kevin Knapp, said it was a tragic incident.
Hockey Australia chief executive Mark Anderson said Sunday was a very sad day for the sport. ‘‘On behalf of the entire hockey community I would like to express our support and sympathies to the Watkins family.’’