For good reason, the plague of head injuries in sports is most associated with football, and the NFL. But the recent skull fracture suffered by Oakland A’s pitcher Brandon McCarthy, who was struck in the head by a line drive in a September 5th game — he required two hours of brain surgery, but luckily, he’s out of the hospital and seems to be recovering — showed that baseball players are at risk too. And to Major League Baseball’s credit, the league seems ready to act.
According to a report from Foxsports.com, MLB is studying the possibility of requiring additional headgear for pitchers. Helmets, the safest option, seem unlikely, at least in the near future: while some youth and high school leagues require helmets, major league pitchers would most likely find them cumbersome. (After Mike Coolbaugh, a minor league first-base coach in the Colorado Rockies organization, was killed after a line drive struck him in neck in 2007, MLB required all first-base and third-base coaches to wear helmets. But as the Foxsports.com report correctly points out: “coaches, though, are not players.”)
So what kinds of protections could baseball consider? According to Foxsports.com:
For pitchers, one compromise could be the placement of a foam or Kevlar sheet inside a player’s cap. NFL players already use supplemental helmet protection designed by Unequal Technologies. Other companies such as Evoshield offer protective guards for other parts of the body that could be adopted for pitcher’s caps.
Baseball can’t afford to lose momentum on this issue. If pitchers are protected, both the players, and the fans who pay big money to see them, you know, pitch, win.