Welcome to the SportsGuard Blog! Featuring important news,tips and commentary about youth sports protection.
 
 

 

SportsGuard continues to win independent praise from parents and consumers nationwide. Click here and here and here, to read some great posts from mothers who celebrate this brand.

This interview with Dr. James Andrews is a reminder - one we should respect - that there is a crisis in high school sports. Specifically, the problem involves the increasing number of chest and head injuries among a variety of teenage athletes, individuals who deserve better protection. Unless we educate ourselves about this issue, and until coaches and parents recognize the gravity of this situation, high school athletes will put themselves at great risk. The subsequent injuries are too significant to ingore, so let's confront this challenge immediately.

This video is further proof that we must protect players from baseball-relatd head and chest injuries. Let's take action -- now!

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HeadGuard FAQS
 
  1. WHY IS PROTECTION FOR NONHELMETED YOUTH BASEBALL PLAYERS NEEDED?
 
  1. HOW DO ALUMINUM BATS AFFECT YOUTH BASEBALL?
 
  1. WHAT ARE THE STANDARDS FOR BASEBALL HELMET PROTECTION?
 
  1. DO SOFTER BASEBALLS REDUCE THE SEVERITY OF HEAD IMPACTS?
 
  1. DO NONHELMETED BASEBALL PLAYERS CURRENTLY USE PROTECTION FOR THE HEAD?
 
 
 
HeadGuard FAQS
 
WHY IS PROTECTION FOR NONHELMETED YOUTH BASEBALL PLAYERS NEEDED?
 
            It has been estimated that greater than 19 million children are involved in youth baseball in the United States.  The Consumer Product Safety Commission has also concluded that more baseball related fatalities occur in the 5-14 year old age group than in any other sport. The two scenarios documented by the CPSC focus on the impact of a baseball to a child’s head and chest. It has also been estimated that softball and baseball cause more injuries leading to emergency room visits in the United States than any other sport. See Analysis and Comparison of Head Impacts Using Baseballs of Various Hardness and a Hybrid III Dummy.
 
Baseball is a sport with inherent risks. Participation in the sport implies acceptance of the risk of injury. Helmets have traditionally been used to reduce the risk of injury from direct impact to the head for batters and runners. However, the risk of head injury for nonhelmeted baseball players in Youth Baseball Leagues has not been addressed. Young pitchers and infielders, especially, are vulnerable to direct impacts from baseballs that are hit from aluminum bats and throws from other fielders.
 
Aluminum bats used in Youth Baseball have been shown in some studies to increase the batted ball speed and rebound of baseballs. Youths that have slower reflexes may be unable to respond as well to these increased speeds. In addition, softer baseballs have been shown in studies to reduce the risk of injury from impact to the head.
 
            Most recently, after an unfortunate and catastrophic head injury to a minor league third base coach, Major League Baseball (MLB) has changed their rules to protect first and third base coaches. As of the 2008 season, MLB third and first base coaches must now wear helmets.
 
            Protection for nonhelmeted youth baseball players that does not inhibit their play, provides ventilation and can be used with their ever-changing uniforms at a reasonable price for parents has not been addressed. HeadGuard by SportsGuard is protection in the form of a light-weight, comfortable sports guard for nonhelmeted baseball players at a reasonable price.
 
HOW DO ALUMINUM BATS AFFECT YOUTH BASEBALL?
 
            Aluminum bats were introduced in the early 1970’s and have since dominated the youth and amateur adult baseball and softball markets. Some studies have shown that aluminum bats may perform better than wood bats in two ways: (1) the balls “rebound” or come off metal bats faster and (2) the “batted speed” or the speed of the ball itself after it comes off the bat is faster. See Physics and Acoustics of Baseball & Softball Bats.
 
Most recently, some school systems and baseball leagues have banned aluminum bats due to a concern that their increased performance may endanger the safety of the youth baseball player.
 
Aluminum bats may outperform wood bats because (1) they may be swung faster, (2) they have a “trampoline effect” as the hollow bat acts like a spring, and (3) the batted ball speed away from the sweet spot is higher than in wood bats.
 
This increased performance has shown in some studies that aluminum bats may allow balls to be hit as much as 8-mph faster than a wood bat. These same studies have also indicated that the batted ball speed is often 20-30 mph faster than the pitched ball speed. Therefore, a pitch of 60 mph that is hit may have a batted ball speed of 80-90 mph when it goes into the field of play towards the youth baseball player. Until now, batters were protected from the 60 mph pitch with rigid helmets and nothing was done to protect pitchers and fielders from the 80 mph batted ball coming back at them.
 
So, youth baseball players that are fielding hits from aluminum bats will according to some studies have to react to batted balls that “rebound” faster, come at them with greater speed and go farther. Unfortunately, it is youth baseball players, ages 7-12, that may have slower reflexes or reaction times to deal with the increased speeds of aluminum bats compared to their older counterparts.
           
WHAT ARE THE STANDARDS FOR BASEBALL HELMET PROTECTION?
 
            Standards for helmet protection in the United States have traditionally fallen into two categories, government standards, such as those mandated by the CPSC (U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission), and voluntary, or industry standards.
 
Organizations such as the American Society for Testing and Materials (ASTM) or the National Operating Committee on Standards for Athletic Equipment (NOCSAE) have determined voluntary standards for helmets.
 
            The CPSC has mandated since March of 1999 certain standards for bicycle riding helmets manufactured for sale in the U.S.   Other helmet standards for sports such as baseball, football, hockey and lacrosse have been determined by the NOCSAE and ASTM. In 1973 the NOCSAE standard for football helmets was developed. The NOCSAE standard for baseball helmets was first published in 1981 and first tested to this standard in 1983. The standards and their testing have been revised over the last twenty years.
 
            The NCAA and the NFHSA (National Federation of State High School Associations) mandate that helmets for football, baseball batters, and lacrosse meet the NOCSAE standards. The NOCSAE and ASTM helmet standards attempt to measure the injury producing linear and angular accelerations resulting from head impact. (Tests include dropping a helmet in free fall and measuring the helmet’s ability to attenuate the kinetic energy imparted during the test and linear projectile impact tests. The NOCSAE tests require a series of impacts in specific locations. The results are reported in severity index (SI) units. The ASTM data are usually provided in peak g levels. The pass-fail criterion may vary with headgear type but is normally 300 g or below registered inside the headform in a drop test.)
 
To meet some safety standards, a baseball is shot 60 mph at close range at a batting helmet. Helmets must resist impact and damage as measured through a severity index.   (See NOCSAE standards for Baseball Batter’s Helmet and Baseball Catcher’s Helmet - NDO22, NDO24.)
 
DO SOFTER BASEBALLS REDUCE THE SEVERITY OF HEAD IMPACTS?
 
            Modifications in the hardness and compressibility of softballs and baseballs have been developed for use by children of different ages with the intent of reducing the force of impact while maintaining performance characteristics. The NOCSAE has developed standards for these softer baseballs. An expert review indicated that softer balls that meet the NOCSAE standard are less likely to result in serious head injury or commotion cordis (chest injury) attributable to ball impact. See Youth Baseball Protective Equipment Project: Final Report. CPSC.
 
            The helmet evaluation tests for softer baseballs have limited validation for direct head impacts. Independent tests of softer baseballs and a check of the NOCSAE standard as a safety test for unprotected head impacts was conducted by the Institute for Preventative Sports Medicine and Orthopedic Surgery Associates in Ann Arbor, Michigan. See Analysis and Comparison of Head Impacts Using Baseballs of Various Hardness and a Hybrid III DummyThis study explored the direct baseball impact on the front and side of the head to a nonhelmeted youth baseball player.
 
            This study used a pneumatic baseball gun to impact a test dummy’s head at 60 mph as specified in NOCSAE standard for helmet impact protection. Baseball impacts were delivered to three head locations: frontally on the forehead, frontally between the eyes, and laterally on the right temple above the level of the nasion. Commercially available baseballs were tested in the three-head impact configurations. The relative impact energies were identified. Data was analyzed for the “head injury criterion” (HIC) to determine head injury risk, utilizing skull fracture and brain injury data for forehead impacts to calculate the probability of serious injury during frontal impact. The results indicated that softer baseballs resulted in progressively greater reductions in acceleration and head injury criterion (HIC) and showed a reduced injury factor.
 
            Of note, frontal impact areas that had a greater thickness of skin covering the metal skull of the dummy in the testing, showed a lower acceleration and HIC (less risk of injury). In addition, lateral impact areas showed greater acceleration and HIC than frontal impacts in part related also to a thinner head skin covering the temple region. 
 
            This was explained by the fact that skin bottoms out with a hardball impact, the skull remains stiff, and high acceleration occurs. The study found that the softer balls significantly reduce the risk of skull fracture and head injury. The study concluded that a validated procedure is required to measure the underlying risk of direct impact by baseballs and soft balls used in sport.   
 
DO NONHELMETED BASEBALL PLAYERS CURRENTLY USE PROTECTION FOR THE HEAD?
 
            As a result of an unfortunate accident involving a minor league baseball coach in July of 2007, beginning in the 2008 Spring Season, Major League Baseball first and third base coaches must wear helmets. See New Helmet Rule for MLB Base Coaches.
 
            All the current standards applied are for rigid helmeted baseball players.   Few studies have looked at nonhelmeted baseball players. The only studies that reviewed direct impact to the head with nonhelmeted baseball players have found that softer balls and thicker skin on the skull will reduce the risk of injury from direct impacts to the head.
 
            Youth Baseball players that play with aluminum bats have never had protection in the field. The way protection from direct impact to the head for fielders and pitchers should be designed has never even been addressed. Complicating the issue is the need for protection that does not interfere with pitching and fielding, ventilates well, can be used with different uniforms from year to year of youth baseball leagues and is reasonably priced. 
 
            Such nonhelmet protection will not conform to the standards of a rigid batting helmet. But, it may offer some protection to reduce the risk of injury by modeling its design from evidence in studies about reducing the risk of baseball direct impact head injuries. These studies have shown that softening the baseball or thickening the skull’s skin reduces the risk of injury from a direct impact by a baseball to the head.
 
Other protection currently offered as sports guards for youth baseball players, such as the heart guards, do not have, perhaps because of their relatively new and novel approach, organizational testing standards at this time. Their goal is to prevent the impact to the chest from producing a rhythm disturbance to the heart and respiratory rhythm due to the high speed of baseball impact and shock to the cardiorespiratory systems. Some of these heart guards have even been adopted by youth leagues and made mandatory.
 
The HeadGuard by SportsGuard is the first protection designed for nonhelmeted youth baseball players. 
 
The HeadGuard is protection for nonhelmeted youth baseball players that does not inhibit their play, provides ventilation and can be used with their ever-changing uniforms at a reasonable price for parents. HeadGuard by SportsGuard is protection in the form of a light-weight, comfortable sports guard for nonhelmeted baseball players at a reasonable price. The HeadGuard is protection where THEY need it!
 

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