What Pitchers Could Do to Avoid a J.A. Happ-like Head Injury
It wasn't the first time, and it probably won't be the last.
But after the world watched Toronto Blue Jays pitcher J.A. Happ take a direct blow to the head from a line drive on Tuesday night, players and parents may be wondering what safety gear is available for baseball.
Much of the focus in recent years around brain injuries in sports has been on concussions sustained playing football, where players are already required to wear helmets and body protection.
However, in baseball where pitchers and fielders (other than catchers) are not required to wear protective gear, there has been less awareness and acceptance of what exists in the marketplace.
Here are some of the safety products now available:
— The Halo, from Unequal Technologies, is a flexible padded insert made from Kevlar that can be placed on the inside of a baseball cap. The company says it can reduce the severity of being struck by a ball by up to 50 percent.
— An EvoShield Chest & Back Guard uses a custom-molded shield technology called "Gel-to-Shell" that a player inserts into a compression shirt. This shirt is then worn underneath the jersey and is designed to help disperse the impact from an approaching baseball.
—The Defender Sport Shield is designed to provide extra protection for the faces of baseball and softball players. The mask is strapped to the head and comes with a chin cup and an eyebrow pad to help increase comfort for the player.
—Markwort's Heart-Gard is held in place by elastic straps and made of high density polyethylene. The product is geared toward covering and absorbing impact away from the heart.
Whether or not any of these types of protection eventually get mandated into use across the baseball spectrum—from Little League to professional—remains to be seen.
But one thing seems certain. Every time a J.A. Happ moment occurs, it prompts parents and players to consider an extra layer of safety.
The 30-year-old Happ said he expects to make a full recovery from a skull fracture behind the left ear that doctors believe will heal on its own.
"I feel really fortunate," he said at a news conference at Tropicana Field in St. Petersburg, Fla., on Wednesday, after being released from a hospital.
_ By CNBC's Brian Beers. The Associated Press contributed to this story.