A new batting helmet turns off the fashionistas

There’s a new batting helmet design (pic in article) that is supposed to provide substantially greater protection from beanballs, but no one — apart from David Wright and Edgar Gonzalez, who is still suffering the effects from one to the head — seems to like it all that much:

“No, I am absolutely not wearing that,” Mets right fielder Jeff Francoeur said with a laugh after seeing a prototype, as if he were being asked to put a pumpkin on his head. “I could care less what they say, I’m not wearing it. There’s got to be a way to have a more protective helmet without all that padding. It’s brutal. We’re going to look like a bunch of clowns out there.”

No matter. Something tells me that Frenchy has less to worry about from a fastball to the head than anyone else anyway. Others:

“I want a helmet that’s comfortable,” Athletics infielder Nomar Garciaparra said, “and that doesn’t look bad.” Yankee first baseman Mark Teixeira said the new helmet would make him feel as if he were wearing a football helmet in the batter’s box. “The one I’ve used for my entire career is fine,” he said.

This is not terribly surprising. There is always a lot of resistance to this kind of thing. People didn’t even start wearing seat belts that often until the 80s for cryin’ out loud. Only David Wright seems to be making a lot of sense here:

“If it provides more protection, then I’m all for it,” said Mets third baseman David Wright, who last week dodged a Brad Thompson fastball traveling on a frightening vector for his head. “I’m not worried about style or looking good out there. I’m worried about keeping my melon protected.”

I’d draw the line at anything that compromised my visibility or the ability to turn my head the way I needed to in order to hit a pitch. Short of that, however, you could put just about anything you wanted up there as long as it kept me protected.

(thanks to Robert M. for the link)

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  1. lar said...

    Too bad the picture in the article gives you no sense of what they’re complaining about. I’d like to see it on someone’s head, and from a few different angles (most notably head-on). It can’t be that bad, though.

    I’m with you, Craig. These guys generally have little reason to oppose something like this if it does what it’s supposed to do. The complaints smack of “it looks silly so I don’t want to change”.

  2. Troy Patterson said...

    Francoeur feels the same way about the helmet as I’m sure many Mets fans feel about him being on the Mets.

  3. Jason @ IIATMS said...

    Funny, I was writing a similar thing at the same time: http://www.itsaboutthemoney.net/2009-articles/august/your-logic-and-protection-is-no-match-for-my-bravado.html

    I likened it to the HANS devices that were fought in racing circles before instituted as mandatory.  Not sure if that’s a 100% valid arguement/comparison.  Eventually, all racers had to wear these devices and a basal skull fracture injury risk has been mitigated. 

    Sometimes, the sport’s governing authority needs to protect the players from themselves.

  4. Jason Seaver said...

    One thing I didn’t quite catch from the article is whether the new helmet is significantly heavier than the current ones.  Bulky or goofy-looking is not the greatest reason to stick with the old one, but if this is putting enough weight on your head to potentially mess with your balance or adjust your stance, that might be an issue.

  5. George said...

    From that picture, it doesn’t look vastly different from what they wear now.  After reading the player comments, I was expecting something like a batting helmet surrounded by memory foam surrounded by a second helmet that was shaped like a butt.

  6. Ron said...

    Yeah, but the new helmet isn’t going to make a difference.

    All the serious injuries from being hit in the head have come from being hit in the face, or the ball being deflected by the bill.

    Tony Conigliaro, Dickie Thon, etc, were hit in the face, where the helmet wasn’t protecting them. Someone tell me if I’m wrong, but there hasn’t been any player that has suffered the severitiy of the injury they recieved by the ball actually hitting the helmet. The problem has been the psychological aspect of being beaned, not the physical.

    This new helmet doesn’t provide any additional protecton (that I can see) for balls hitting the face or neck. So the new helmet will only do what the old helmet is already doing. Protecting players who get hit on the helmet.

    Unless this new helmet has some kind of magic, invisible forcefield it doesn’t talk about, it’s no different than what is out there now. And I’ve been hit wearing one. This is just a marketing ploy offering a benefit that is already available, but claiming it is better in doing exactly what the existing prodcut is doing.

    Nowadays, when ever anyone screams ‘health and safety’, people automatically overreact without even bothering to find out if the new product is even better.

    Which this one isn’t.

  7. Rob² said...

    @Ron – You don’t need to get hit in the face in order to get a concussion.  Mike Piazza and Edgar Gonzalez would be quick to point that out.

  8. Ron said...

    Rob, if it works, great, I would be all for it.

    But right now, the only evidence is that it doesn’t dent at 70 mph.  What does that prove? Care bumpers get dented all the time, and no one is suggesting they aren’t effecitive. Car bumbpers do what helmets do. Diffuse the impact.

    It’s not Kevlar, it’s plastic, or some form of polymer. Just because it doesn’t dent the helmet doesn’t mean it does a better job than what the current helmets are doing.

    Besides, if it does such a signficantly better job of preventing concussions, then why isn’t the NFL using it? They seem to have a really big problem with that.

    And what is the limit at which a concussion will be prevented? Is a helmet that protects at 100 mph even to prevent concussions? Or is a helmet that protrects at 120? Or 150?

    I would rather see there be more emphasis on making the player wear clear face guards than spend a lot more money that hasn’t been proven is any more effective than what is currently being used?

    Or do we know for a fact that current helmet doesn’t work? I missed that study?

    I agree that concussions are bad, but the bad injuries come from being hit in the umprotected area of the head.

  9. Motherscratcher said...

    I don’t think they look too bad at all from that picture.

    Ron, do you have some scientific data that shows that the new helmet doesn’t protect better than the old one, or are you just somehow infering it from the picture?  I’m assuming that it does protect better because the people that designed it and tested it have told me so.  I suppose that it could be BS and just be a marketing ploy, but that seems kind of silly.

  10. The Rabbit said...

    “Sometimes, the sport’s governing authority needs to protect the players from themselves.”
    I understand what you are saying, Jason, but I’ve personally had enough of people with lower IQ’s than mine deciding what should be my acceptable amount of risk. I suspect others feel the same.
    PS “Fashion” does not dictate my choices.

  11. kardo said...

    From the link on NYTimes gave, the new helmet doesnt look any bigger then the regular helmets.

    And The Rabbit, its not about IQ, its about knowledge in a specific field. I am happy to let construction workers tell me where I can and can’t walk on a construction site.

  12. Ron said...


    All I saw in the article was that it was tested by a pitching machine at 100 mph and didn’t dent. As I said, car bumpers dent, but still protect people. That was the only ‘evidence’ that I saw. That’s telling me someone says it’s better becasue it doesn’t dent, but they don’t really know. The only way to really know is to put it on a batter and have him take a few dozen balls off the skull to see if it works. That seems a little extreme to me.

    A few years ago, one of the car companies (I think it was Mercedes or BMW) did a commercial about all of the safety innovations they had come up with and patented. Over 50 in all, but they had never pushed the patent issue and let other companies use them without compensation. Sure, it was a marketing ploy, but as the commerical said, “It’s about the safety of the indivduals”.

    If this guy believes in the helmet so much that he makes his son wear it, why isn’t he donating them to Little League, high schools, and youth programs? Or at least at cost, to make sure everyone can wear them?

    Any time someone creates a product designed for saftey, with the only claim to it be a better product is a laboratory test, with no comparison testing to show the existing equipment doesn’t do the same thing already, and a ‘personal recommendation’, I’m going to question it’s validity.

    Especially when they slap a ridiculous price tag on it and start turning a profit, while the people it’s designed for can’t even afford it.

    As Anthony Anderson’s character in ‘Hustle and Flow’ said, “Some people talk the talk, and some people walk the walk”.

    The car company walked the walk. Is the guy who developed the helmet walkin’ or talkin’

  13. Motherscratcher said...

    Ron – I’m not sure what car bumpers have to do with anything, but saying that the only way to test it and get an idea if it’s safer is to “put it on a batter and have him take a few dozen balls off the skull to see if it works” is absolutely ridiculous.  I’m pretty sure that isnt’ how medical, pharmaceutical, safety, really any breakthroughs work.

    I’m fairly certain that there exists machines and computers of great sophistication that can measure forces, velocities, impacts, and whatnot so that we can get a very good idea of what will be happening inside someone’s melon should it get struck by a Lincecum fastball, without having said melon actually be struck.

    Hell, 25 years ago we could measure with great accuracy the PSI of Ivan Drago’s PED enhanced punch.  We didn’t have to put Rocky’s face in the way to know that it would hurt.

    I still see no evidence from you that this helmet isn’t an improvement and instead some sort of marketing ploy.  There’s absolutely nothing from which to draw that conclusion other than your anecdotal and completely non-relevant and non-scientific comparison to a car bumper.

    You also need to explain to me why it is the developer of this new helmet’s responsibility to donate his work for no compensation.

  14. mm said...

    “Besides, if it does such a signficantly better job of preventing concussions, then why isn’t the NFL using it? They seem to have a really big problem with that.”

    I’ve seen several articles over the past 5 years of so as the NFL has been switching over to new helmet technologies.  I don’t think its mandatory (at least, I remember it being voluntary when I first read about it), though I remember Peyton Manning and some other big names being some of the first adopters written about in articles.

    The thing about the helmet is that the the difference is in padding on the inside (not the outside) of the helmets, little pockets of padding that’s designed to compress in ridiculously short fractions of a second to absorb high velocity impacts, and then restore its shape when the pressure is stopped.

    I only looked briefly for info on this, so I didn’t find any of the articles I remembered reading that explained the technology, but here are 2 links I found: the first is the product page for one of the helmets the NFL uses (at least it advertises itself as such) which shows some interior padding, while the second mentions the military looking to adapt this technology for their own helmets:



  15. Travis M. Nelson said...

    “There’s got to be a way to have a more protective helmet without all that padding.”

    Um, no, Jeff.  There isn’t. 

    “F = ma” is a basic tenet of Newton’s physics,  and since you can’t change the mass of the ball, the only way to decrease the Force is to decrease the Acceleration (or in this case, deceleration). 

    The ball is going to go from 100 mph to zero mph using your head to slow it down.  The only way to lower that acceleration number is to stretch out the time it takes to drop from 100 to zero, and the only practical way to do that is to put something in between your hard head and the hard ball, specifically something soft to absorb all that energy. 

    To me, this helmet looks like a pretty good way to do that. 

    Though if players are still reluctant, you could always present George’s suggestion of a helmet/memory foam/butt (Helmembutt?) and let them choose between the two.

  16. Trinian said...

    Brad Thompson fastball . . . frightening vector . .

    These phrases don’t belong in the same paragraph, much less the same sentence!

  17. kardo said...

    @ Rob^2 – I am saying that even those construction workers with lower IQ then me, will have a better understanding of the risks I am to take on a construction site.

    Because lets face it, they wear protective helmets much more often then I do.

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