Some reports have shown that head injuries in baseball may comprise up to 18.5% of all competitive sports-related head injuries. The objective of this study was to evaluate the response of catcher and umpire masks to impacts at these different regions to discover the impact conditions that represent the greatest risk of injury. A series of 10 events in which a catcher or umpire in Major League Baseball, who experienced a foul ball to the mask that resulted in a concussion, were analyzed through video and data on pitch characteristics. It was found that the impacts were distributed across the face, and the median plate speed was approximately 38 m/s (84 mph). To determine the relative severity of each identified impact location, an instrumented Hybrid III head outfitted with a catcher or umpire mask was impacted with baseballs. Testing at 27 and 38 m/s (60 and 84 mph) suggested that impacts to the center-eyebrow and chin locations were the most severe. Peak linear and rotational accelerations were found to be lower than the suggested injury thresholds. While impacts to a mask result in head accelerations which are near or below levels commonly associated with the lower limits for head injury, the exact injury mechanism is unclear, as concussions are still experienced by the mask wearers.
Keywords: Mild traumatic brain injury; Linear; Rotational; Angular; Acceleration; Impact; Biomechanics