A Pitch for Rawlings' S100

Two scary on-field incidents on Saturday focused fans of professional baseball teams in the country's two largest media markets, New York and Los Angeles, on safety in professional sports. Los Angeles Dodgers pitcher Hiroki Kuroda was struck above his right ear by a hard line drive off the bat of hitter Rusty Ryal, and the team's trainer said the ball's velocity was twice what ordinarily causes serious brain injury, according to the Los Angeles Times' story. Hours earlier, New York Mets third baseman David Wright was hit in his helmet by a pitch while batting. He was released Sunday morning, diagnosed with post-concussion symptoms, after spending the night at a Manhattan hospital.

Kuroda was not wearing a helmet -– pitchers in the big leagues don't do that, of course. But not so long ago, NHL players did not wear helmets and NHL goalies did not wear protective masks.

As recently as September 2008, OSHA's enforcement director said the agency generally does not consider professional athletes playing in games to be under its jurisdiction. "OSHA has no specific [applicable] standards that address protection for professional athletes playing in games. More direct to your concerns, OSHA has no standards for protecting professional baseball players at bat or for protecting other employees in proximity to batters at major league games," that Letter of Interpretation states. "A question related to your concern and OSHA involvement is whether professional baseball players are considered independent contractors or employees. That question is important for the Agency because OSHA's jurisdiction is dependent on an employer-employee relationship. Without that relationship, our standards are not applicable. For your information, we note that in an interpretation letter to Dave Chamberlain, dated June 23, 2003, OSHA addressed a question regarding whether professional athletes were contractors or employees. In that letter, we stated that '(t)his determination must be made on a case-by-case basis after considering all of the circumstances affecting the relationship between the teams and their players and applying the common law factors.' In most cases, however, OSHA does not take enforcement action with regard to professional athletes."

In several professional sports, notable baseball, athletes have embraced protective equipment reluctantly, The New York Times noted Sunday. The newspaper asked whether ballplayers will again resist using the new S100 helmet, made to withstand a 100 mph ball by Rawlings® Sporting Goods Company of St. Louis, Mo., which is the official helmet and baseball supplier to Major League Baseball®. Rawlings debuted the S100 in April 2009, with Product Director Travis Gessley describing the four-layer Advanced Impact System the company developed: the shell, composite insert, polypropylene liner, and foam enhanced with Outlast technology for sweat reduction. Rawlings said it spent two years developing and testing the helmet. The company announced Aug. 6 that its R&D teams are now using a more powerful air cannon, the MAC (Mother of All Cannons), at its St. Louis Tech Center to launch baseballs and softballs in high impact and velocity testing. The cannon is helping to prove the durability and life span of protective helmets, gloves, baseballs, softballs, and protective gear, according to Rawlings, which offers the S100 in high school and college models in black, cardinal, dark green, maroon, navy, purple, royal, and scarlet for $99.99 in its online store.

BLS in 2004 evaluated professional athletes' fatal injuries in 1992-2002 and found this group's fatality rate was 22.0 per 100,000 workers, substantially higher than the 4.7 rate for all workers, and total fatalities increased among athletes but not among workers overall during the latter part of the 10-year period: "From 1992 to 1996, athletes averaged 16 deaths per year, while workers in general averaged 6,331 deaths per year. From 1998 to 2002, athletes averaged 22 deaths per year, while workers in general averaged 5,893 deaths per year," BLS's Stephen M. Pegula found. Auto or motorcycle racing was involved in 37.4 percent of the athletes' deaths during the period, with diving, swimming, and boating accounting for 23.3 percent, working with horses or bulls accounting for 16.0 percent, and boxing, kickboxing, or wrestling accounting for 6.4 percent.

Posted by Jerry Laws on Aug 17, 2009

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