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softball injuries

Analysis and Comparison of Head Impacts Using Baseballs of
Various Hardness and a Hybrid III Dummy

David C. Viano, Ph.D., Joseph D. McCleary, Dennis V. Andrzejak, and David H. Janda, M.D.
Institute for Preventative Sports Medicine and Orthopedic Surgery Associates, Ann Arbor, Michigan, U.S.A.

The use of batting helmets in baseball has substantially reduced the incidence of head injuries, and softer baseballs have been developed to further reduce the risk of injury for an unprotected head. This study utilized a 5th percentile Hybrid Ill female dummy, which is similar in size to a 10-12-year old child, to evaluate the effectiveness of various softer baseballs. A pneumatic gun accelerated the balls to a speed of 60 mi/h (27 m/s). Head impacts were delivered frontally on the forehead or between the eyes and laterally on the temple. Peak resultant head acceleration and head injury criterion (HIC) were significantly lower with the softer baseballs. Using logist analysis of the forehead HICs, the risk of head injury was 20% with an official hardball versus 12-16% with softer baseballs, a 4-8% lower increment in injury risk. The risk of injury was higher using head acceleration and for the temple impacts, however, the range in effectiveness of the softer baseballs is smaller than predicted from the National Operating Committee on Standards for Athletic Equipment (NOCSAE) test procedure. Since the NOCSAE procedure was developed for helmeted impacts, there may be a lack of biofidelity for unprotected head impacts. The force of impact was 2.5-18.0 kN and was significantly lower with the softer baseballs. The results of this study indicate that the softer baseballs reduce the risk of head injury, but not to the degree previously claimed. Additional work is needed to determine the actual range of effectiveness in pre venting sport-related injuries in children.

Key Words: Baseballs - Head impact - Reduced injury.

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Copyright 2001 The Institute for Preventative Sports Medicine. All rights reserved.