Thursday, April 5, 2007

Which Catcher’s Mask Works Better?

As Baseball Season Begins, Which Catcher’s Mask Works Better? Kettering University Students Test Traditional and Hockey Style Masks During Research Project

FInspired by professional baseball catcher Mike Matheny’s forced early retirement from major league play, four Kettering University seniors tested the protective properties of catcher’s masks. Their findings support one for foul tips and the other for batter backswings.

Using high speed video, a crash test dummy and a skeet throwing machine, they propelled a baseball at about 100 mph at the dummy wearing both styles of catcher’s mask. Both masks that the group tested were manufactured for professional use by All-Star, a division of Ampac Enterprises.

Crash dummies are instrumented with accelerometers that indicate possible brain or closed-head injuries in humans. The group measured the G-forces exerted on the head in two different types of tests; frontal impact test, simulating a foul-tip, and side impact test, simulating a batter’s backswing striking the side of a catcher’s head.

The traditional style mask performed better on frontal impact. Peak G-force of the traditional mask at this location was 3.763, while peak G-force for the hockey-style mask was 9.814.

The hockey style mask performed better on side impact with a G-force of 13.57 in comparison to the traditional mask recording a value of 32.02.

Their conclusion, the traditional style catcher’s mask is better against a foul-tip, and a hockey-style catcher’s mask is better against a hitter’s backswing. The front impact location was where the foul-tip that ended Mike Matheny’s career struck on the hockey-style catcher’s mask.

The old style is a two-piece design with a metal cage with padding across the forehead and over the cheekbones and chin areas, with no padding on the sides of the head and a helmet with no padding.

The hockey-style looks like a goalie mask, a plastic outer shell over a metal frame and padding underneath with protective coverage back to the ear area and over the top of the head in front.

The research team was Morris “Mo” Roth of Commack, N.Y.; Scott Barel of Sterling Heights, Mich.; Jeff Schulze of Bay Port, Mich.; and Josh Maag of Leipsic, Ohio.

To see photos from the student project, visit and click on: “Foul tip trauma.”

1 comment:

Bryant Cycling said...

Ok. Mike Metheny had a series of hard hits in a short period of time … that’s what caused his concussion. It was not just one hit to the mask.
In the test that these students performed they used a high school rated mask… nothing compared to what the pros wear. There is no way that they should be making these judgments on what is safe or not if they are not testing the helmet within the helmets fields. Sure Kettering U students, if you want to shoot a 100 mph fastball at a high school rated mask and make the general conclusion that “hockey style masks” don’t test well enough for MLB players go ahead. Just know that it makes no sense (aren’t they students? Shouldn’t they know you can’t compare apples to oranges?). Here is my advice for “Mo” and his buddies: Get a MLB mask, shoot balls at it, and then make your judgments.
Trust me, I would take a foul tip with a HSM any day compared to a regular mask.

This is a really cool experiment… just done very very poorly.