Trading carrots for chocolate pudding since 2012.
A century ago, safety equipment in sports barely existed. Baseball batters didn’t wear helmets; in fact, in the 1920s, Washington Nationals’ catcher Herold “Muddy” Ruel called them “tools of ignorance,” noted the Society for American Baseball Research. Prior to the 1870s, the glove wasn’t even a part of the game as players would rather have their fingers smashed catching a ball with bare hands than protect them and be called a “sissy.”
From archaic leather headwear of football’s past to the super-savvy Bluetooth motorcycle helmets, technology is shaping the design and functionality of modern sports safety equipment.
While you probably haven’t seen one out on the baseball field yet, Major League Baseball recently approved new padded hats aimed at protecting the heads of pitchers, reported ESPN. Previously, pitchers wore standard baseball caps that provided no protection, but because the players can sustain serious head injuries when struck in the head with the ball, the MLB realized it was time for a change.
These new hats are about a half-inch thicker in front and an inch thicker on the sides near the temples. They are able to protect frontal impact locations against line drives up to 90 miles per hour and side impact locations up to 85 miles per hour.
Historians claim the very first helmets were worn in football during the 1893 Army-Navy game. The contraptions were held to the head with three heavy leather straps designed by a harness maker, therefore referred to as a “head-harness.” In the 1920s, more padding was added to reduce impact, and in the ‘30s, the outer shell became harder and more impact-resistant, and a face mask was added soon after.
Fast forward to today, and concussions and traumatic brain injuries to football players have been in the headlines frequently in recent years, sparking greater advancement in the way helmets are put together.
One of the most exciting changes is the Riddell Insite Impact Response System, which is able to monitor, record, and transmit the shock of the hit a player sustains on the field. When a player is hit, sensors located in the helmet’s liner are able to measure the impact. If it is outside of an acceptable range, it can then send out a wireless alert which is received by the appropriate personnel who view the information to determine if the player should remain on the field.
The very first motorcycle helmets were developed after the famous British Army officer T.E. Lawrence, known as “Lawrence of Arabia,” suffered head injuries and died following an accident that threw him over the handlebars of his motorcycle. The very first motorcycle helmet is believed to have been half a sliced-open soccer ball that was tied around the rider’s chin with a piece of yarn. In the 1950s, the first fiberglass helmet that covered the back of the head, as well as wrapped around and covered the ears, was developed.
Motorsports safety has come a long way since then. One of the latest advancements in motorcycle helmets, introduced by Skully Helmets, is a full-face helmet with a rear-facing 180-degree camera that allows bikers to see what’s behind them. If the rider is distracted by something that causes the head to turn, the camera will pick up the blind spots. What it sees is then transmitted to a heads-up display which appears in the corner of the rider’s field of vision.
At this time, the Skully Helmet is still in the beta-testing phase, but is expected to be released in 2014.
Can you imagine the injuries and deaths we would see nowadays if we didn’t have better equipment and motorsports safety?