Nearly a year and a half after pitcher Brandon McCarthy was struck in the head by a line drive and suffered life-threatening brain injuries, the MLB has begun testing numerous prototypes of padded caps to provide head protection against high-speed hits.
According to ESPN.com, the league told their ball clubs that it has approved a padded cap for the first time, after consultation with the Players Association. “We’re excited to have a product that meets our safety criteria,” Dan Halem, MLB executive vice president for labor relations, told Outside the Lines. “MLB is committed to working with manufacturers to develop products that offer maximum protection to our players, and we’re not stopping at all.”
In testing, the MLB was looking for a cap to provide protection at 83 miles per hour, the average speed of a line drive when it reaches the area of the pitching mound.
The new caps are a little over half-an-inch thicker in the front and an inch thicker on the sides than standard caps, and afford protection for frontal impact locations against line drives of up to 90 mph and for side impact locations at up to 85 mph. The soft padding is made of “plastic injection molded polymers combined with a foam substrate” and is designed to diffuse energy upon impact through a combination of dispersion and absorption techniques.
They’re manufactured by isoBlox, and will be made available to pitchers for spring training next month. However, use is optional.