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 www.kettering.edu and click on: “Foul tip trauma.”