When I was in middle school one of my best friends was hit with a baseball during little league. Not in the “aww, he beaned you, take first base” kind of way but in the “call 911, there might be brain damage” kind of way. The hit was so hard it silenced the whole ballpark for an entire minute. He was rushed to the emergency room, unconscious, where the doctors had to cut a hole in his skull to relieve the pressure. He also suffered from mild amnesia for weeks after the injury, though he eventually recovered fully (and had a cool head scar to brag about afterwards).
The entire ordeal was frightening, which is why I was relieved to see Rawlings, one of the largest makers of helmets for little league players, introduce a first-of-its-kind ratings system for batting helmets. The standards will influence all of their helmet manufacturing on from this point forward.
The new system was designed to protect players based on age and size. Helmets given to younger players will now be made to withstand a hit up to 70 mph. Older kids,12 to 16, will have protection up to 80 mph and college kids will be protected up to 90 mph. All of these helmets are offer more protection than the current 68 mph, which is the national standard according to the National Operating Committee on Standards for Athletic Equipment.
What baffles me is why this is just now being re-evaluated. Head injuries in little league may not be as common as in the big leagues but they do happen, and often enough to warrant a set of guidelines to prevent them, including making NOCSA standard helmets a requirement. But the last time these standards were looked at was the 1980s.
With all the major technological advances in the last two and a half decades, why are we just now upping the ante on baseball safety? What about little league safety in general? I think improved safety regulations shouldn’t just stop at helmets; and I’m not the only one.
Lisa McGreevy, a New Jersey mom, is also concerned about safety standards in little league. McGreezy got the scare of her life when her son was hit in the chest with a baseball during a little league game. His heart stopped and he might have died if not given CPR by another mother. She is now lobbying for a chest protector requirement for all little-leaguers.
My family is a baseball family. My kids love it and my oldest is dying to get into little league. But until I can be certain that the safety technology is up-to-date I will always be one of the white knuckle moms in the stands hoping that my kid won’t get beaned.