Concussions seem to be the newest topic to be taking the sports world by storm. Although we hear about it mainly in Football, head injuries are prevalent in nearly all sports, Baseball included. If you are a Baseball fan, then it’s difficult to forget the image of a player being struck in the head by a ball traveling over 100 miles per hour, which unfortunately happens approximately 2-3 times a season in the major leagues; that doesn’t include all the players being hit on a near daily basis in training, practices and games on the little league, high school, college, andminor league levels nationwide. Although the incidence rate of a ball striking a player in the head is relatively low in comparison to other sports; it is nevertheless a severe and potentially fatal blow. And the most at risk? Our pitchers.
Pitchers are the most vulnerable players on the field; their motions and field position leave them without much reaction time in the split-second it takes for a ball to fly off the hitters bat with a projectile path towards their head. And in the event that the ball makes contact with their head, the outcome is not only gruesome but likely life-altering. Pitchers injuries can be life threatening; like Brandon McCarthy who a few years back while pitching for the Oakland Athletics took a hit to the head and was forced to undergo emergency surgery to relieve the pressure from the internal bleeding in his head. The scarier part perhaps is that McCarthy walked off the field, yet what was happening inside his head could have proved fatal if not for the proper medical attention.
So the question becomes, how can we protect our pitchers from these rare but devastating injuries? Baseball has seemed to embrace the protection of our players: our catchers wear ample protective gear, our hitters wear helmets, even our baseline coaches in the MLB wear helmets (a rule adopted after the death of base coach Mike Coolbaugh who was struck and killed by a line drive hit to the neck during a game in 2007). It seems the MLB has been pondering this very question for some time now and the answer may come this spring. The MLB and MLBPA have approved a new protective headgear design that will be debuted by 20 major-league pitchers this upcoming spring training.
The new Boombang design looks like part helmet part visor and also provides ear protection. Like prototypes from the past, the trick is going to be combining protective technology with comfort that is seamless enough to not distract pitchers on the mound. Having 20 MLB pitchers on board to actually try out this new prototype is a feat all its own, since the last isoBlox protective cap was sported by only one pitcher in the entire MLB, Alex Torres. Though the true test won’t be until we see how many pitchers actually sport these helmet hybrids during official game season, this is a start.
With the number of sports lawsuits on the rise, and recent claims against baseball organizations, bat manufactures and recreational facilities and parks for injuries sustained by line drives to a pitcher, it may be in the games’ best interest to protect the pitcher – and the Boombang head gear may just be the perfect starting point. Although the MLB’s efforts in introducing this new protective gear at Spring training should be praised, perhaps an even more novel approach should be introducing it to our youngest of players - so that by the time our future athletes are stepping onto an MLB pitching mound, they’ll be doing so with protective headgear that’s just as much a part of their uniform as a baseball glove.