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Are the new light catchers masks endangering catcher safety?

Sep 3, 2013, 9:44 AM EDT

Jason Varitek Reuters

I don’t know if there are more catcher concussions today than there used to be or if it’s more a matter of baseball better diagnosing them and people talking about and publicizing them. But given how much more seriously the matter of concussions is being taken these days this article about catcher masks by the Pioneer Press is interesting.

The issue: whether the newer generation of catcher’s masks — made with lightweight titanium — are less safe than the old school steel ones. Catcher are increasingly going to them for the weight and comfort, but they may be worse at absorbing shock. Ultimately it’s about force absorption, right? And the greater mass of the steel masks helps in that regard.

  1. gabeguterres - Sep 3, 2013 at 9:59 AM

    Making them out of Vibranium would totally solve the problem.

    • Marty McKee - Sep 3, 2013 at 10:50 AM

      Or Unobtainium. But that’s kinda tough to get.

  2. illegalblues - Sep 3, 2013 at 10:53 AM

    they could be made out of solid platinum and the noggin is still going to get rattled around. it’s just like football, if you get hit in the head, you’re going to suffer a head injury.

  3. gostlcards5 - Sep 3, 2013 at 11:29 AM

    I would think this would be an easy test to set up. Set up a dummy with a force monitor, use a pitching machine to throw balls at the face, and get some data for each type of mask.

    • zzalapski - Sep 3, 2013 at 12:58 PM

      You’d have to consider the angles at which impact is made, to account for the different types of pitches as well as richochets off the bat.

      • Walk - Sep 3, 2013 at 6:39 PM

        As long as the strike was consistent it should give an accurate reading on the force absorbed by the masks. Place a pressure pad beneath the mask and dial a pitching machine up to 90 or so and let fly. If the masks are different materials then you should see a reduction or increase in the pressure on the masks. That will be your baseline readings. To see a more complete picture of the danger then yes you would want to strike it from all angles, but that is not needed to compare the masks to see if one absorbs more than the other. The 7 day dl is a good thing, however a lot of catchers get listed as day to day from bruising or swollen knees. They usually did not get put on the 15 day dl very often for that. Normally they would sit out a few days and go back in. The seven day dl though is about perfect for that. Sit the catcher for 2-3 days, back date the dl stint to last day played, and you only lose the catcher for 4-5 days instead of 10-15. Yes he was not playing but it is a big deal just to have a catcher available for an emergency.

  4. Arods Other Doctor - Sep 3, 2013 at 2:38 PM

    The other thing is that a lot of catchers are moving from the hockey style back to the old school two piece masks. I’m a little surprised that the article didn’t mention that since it’s for the same reason – concussions. It’s upsetting to me that high school rules mandate the use of the hockey style, which I don’t believe are as safe. Their reasoning is to prevent kids from getting hit in the ear, but if you’re playing high school baseball you shouldn’t be catching if you turn your head anyway.

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