MLB’s Carbon Fiber Batting Helmets Increase Protection

Rawlings S100 Pro Comp Carbon Fiber Helmet

Players model the Rawlings S100 Pro Comp, designed to withstand 100 mph pitches.

Major League Baseball has stepped up player protection by mandating new carbon fiber batting helmets that can withstand 100 mph pitches. The Rawlings S100 Pro Comp is designed to be far stronger than plastic helmets with minimal weight and size increases.

Professional and amateur sports leagues, from the NFL to Pop Warner football, from the MLB to little league, and everywhere in between, have focused anew on head injuries after recent discoveries — or admittance — of the seriousness of concussions and repetitive injuries. Autopsies and brain scans of athletes, particularly those in hard contact sports, have shown evidence of chronic traumatic encephalopathy (CTE), which has severe effects, often including memory loss and dementia.

While many have been injured by pitches to the head, Cleveland Indians shortstop Ray Chapman is the only person to have died as a result of one. He was hit on Aug. 16, 1920, and died the following day.

LA Dodgers Rawlings S100 Pro Comp carbon fiber batting helmet
The new helmets are 3 times stiffer and 130 times stronger than the recently used plastic models. The carbon fiber batting helmets, slightly larger and heavier than plastic models, but smaller and lighter than previous carbon fiber designs, are made to withstand 100 mph pitches, up from the 68 mph standard. In 2012, around 200 players opted to use the S100 Pro Comp before it was mandated by MLB in the 2011 bargaining agreement.

When the New York Mets’ David Wright, returning from an injury, used the original S100 helmet in 2009, he found it too heavy and bulky. He ditched it after a few days. The size of the carbon fiber batting helmet led to its nickname — The Great Gazoo — and ridicule by fans and players. In the redesign, the Rawlings team took players’ preferences into account for the S100 Pro Comp, which is five ounces and 200 cubic inches smaller than the original S100.

MLB is also considering some sort of head protection for pitchers. The most famous case was when a come-backer from Gil McDougald hit the Indians’ Herb Score in 1957; Score missed the remainder of the season, and his career was derailed by the accident. Several pitchers, including the Oakland A’s Brandon McCarthy and the Detroit Tigers’ Doug Fister, have been hit in recent years.

The S100 Pro Comp carbon fiber batting helmet is a finalist for the 2013 Edison Award in the Materials Science (Composites) category. The winner will be announced April 25, 2013 at the Navy Pier in Chicago.


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1 Harold Kasselman { 02.27.13 at 10:51 pm }

If you would enjoy a novel about a homicide prosecution of an MLB pitcher for fatally beaning a batter, with the Raqling helmet as an issue, please see A Pitch For Justice.

2 Carl Abraham { 07.30.13 at 3:10 pm }

Can anyone direct me to the test data documenting the alleged significant improvement over the pre-existing helmets with reference to the absorption and dissipation of impact forces?

3 youth base ball bat reveiws { 09.14.15 at 3:01 pm }

Basically we are using helmets for our saltiness. This is called accident when the players get injured in the pitches still wearing helmet. Its called bad luck. The Great Gazoo is more safe from the plastic helmet. This article is very informative thanks for sharing this.

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