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Science and Technology

Using technology to protect pitchers from death

Unequal Technologies

Major League Baseball is working with a couple of different companies to design a special pitchers baseball cap that would protect them if hit in the head.  MLB medical director Dr. Gary Green says he's trying to

eliminate skull fractures and catastrophic bleeds into the brain. During the World Series last fall Pitcher Doug Fister of the Detroit Tigers got drilled by a line drive.

Fister appeared to be fine and was left in the game with only a bump on his head. Former Oakland A's pitcher Brandon McCarthy, now with the Arizona Diamondbacks, was hit in the head last year. His injuries were more serious and required surgery. May 7, 2013 Toronto Blue Jays pitcher J.A. Happ suffered a head contusion after being hit.

The critical area is above the ear

Dr. Green says this is the temporal bone where the skull is the thinnest and you have a very critical artery that runs through there. "And we have had instances where pitchers have been struck in that area and have had bleeds. Luckily they've all recovered and they're back to pitching, but that's the one that really scares medical professionals. it's the catastrophic injury that can cause an epidural hematoma that can result in death." The protective headgear is not designed to prevent concussions.

MLB has discussed the  subject of protective headgear for a couple of years now. Dr. Green says a report about it was presented at last year's baseball's winter meetings. The specially designed cap would either use Kevlar, foam padding, different types of plastics or a combination, and could not weigh more than a half a pound. The cap would be voluntary, not mandatory.

MLB Pitchers have mixed reactions:

  • Cincinnati Reds reliever Sam LeCure says he would probably try it out
  • Cincinnati Reds pitcher Mat Latos doubts he would wear it, figuring it would be uncomfortable
  • Both LeCure and Latos wonder how much it would protect, given your face is still exposed

Dr. Green stresses pitchers getting hit in the head is rare. Of the 750,000 pitches per year in MLB, only 2 or 3 pitchers get hit. That's once every 200,000 or 250,000 pitches.
MLB is hoping to have a prototype by the end of the season.