SST (Safer Sports Technologies) was born from a family of ballplayers having competed in all levels of play including High School, Collegiate, Semi-Pro, and Pro baseball. With this experience came a recognition to bring awareness of the need to provide a product that would help reduce the risk of serious head injury for today’s pitchers.
Due to training methods continually evolving, today’s athletes are bigger, stronger and faster than ever before. With this in mind, SST set out in 2011 to design a product for pitchers and infielders that would reduce the risk of serious head impact injury without being a physical or mental distraction. Following a grinding 3 year developmental phase which included redesigns and rigorous high speed impact testing, SST is proud to provide a head protection product that we believe will help make the game safer for today’s pitchers and infielders.
Q&A with SST Founder Matt Meier from Colonial Baseball Instruction
What was it that gave you the idea to invent the pitcher’s head guard?
I can trace my idea for this product back to a personal experience I had when I was 13 or 14 years old. I was pitching in a district All Star tournament when I was struck on the knee by a batted ball. After the initial impact, the ball bounced from my knee and struck me square in the jaw which caused a very brief black out. From there, I remember opening my eyes with about a half dozen people asking me if I knew where I was and how many fingers they were holding up.
Over the years since then, the idea for a head guard kept evolving in my mind as the number of MLB pitchers suffering batted ball head injuries started to pile up; becoming well documented with the growth and reach of sports media.
Are there any statistics on come-backers and head injuries?
Our research revealed that on average there are 170,000 baseball related head injuries each year. Greater than 80% of these injuries were experienced by fielding position players. Approximately 40,000 of injuries required emergency room care.
High level pitchers have a maximum reaction time of 400 milliseconds to complete a defensive move when reacting to a batted ball. This translates to a batted ball exit velocity of 137.8 feet per second or 93 miles per hour. Still developing youth pitchers need additional reaction time. Skull fractures can occur at a ball exit velocity of approximately 85 feet per second or 58 miles per hour.
How many pitchers are hit by come-backers each year that may have had reduced injuries if they were wearing the Head Guard?
Exact numbers regarding how many pitchers would have been helped by using SST Head Guards are difficult to predict. Our main focus and concern is with the potential of fracture and traumatic brain injury, or TBI, resulting from lateral impacts to the side of the head. TBI can occur when an impact has a “shaking” effect on the brain. Video footage of these impacts including Brandon McCarthy, JA Happ, and Dan Jennings, just to name a few, show that the guards would have absolutely helped in reducing the severity of injury.
How long did it take to perfect the product?
It took us 3 years to get to the point where we felt really good about bringing it to market. We put the guards through numerous design changes and experimented with several materials; all in an effort to balance protection as well as physical and mental comfort. Mental comfort in that we believe you don’t have to look like Super Mario to reduce the risk of injury.
While we love and believe in our product, we recognize that the perfect product will never need another technological advancement or improvement. You can make the argument that no product on Earth is exempt from improvement. Therefore, we are continuously looking for ways to improve and advance all current and future products that provide protection.
Is it made in the USA?
100% Made in the USA and always will be.
What kind of testing did you put your guards through? Findings?
Testing was probably my favorite of the development process. We put the guards through a very comprehensive set of tests that compared the effects of variable speed impacts with and without SST Head Guards. To capture these effects, we used equipment that records thousands of data points per second. Each data point measured the level of force experienced at that specific moment. The testing consisted of baseball impacts on a dummy head form ranging from 49-93 MPH. After combing through hundreds of thousands of data sets we were able to determine that using the guards cut the level of force in half when compared to impacts without the guard.
How can you see your head guards affecting the game in the future?
Our goal is to be part of a solution to a problem that consists of safety without inhibiting performance.
Head injuries and the resulting consequences are still a relatively young science. It wasn’t that long ago since we learned that head injuries can cause mental and physical health complications 10, 20, 30 years later. Today’s athlete, especially the ones who collect a paycheck, most often do not want to risk reducing performance on account of wearing additional gear. If we can bring something innovative that covers both bases then we will have played a part. And that feels good. Not to mention providing some peace of mind to numerous parents and coaches along the way.
Notice: SST aims to provide products that may help reduce the risk or level of serious injury. SST products cannot and does not prevent injury or guarantee safety from injury. SST products should only be used as intended and as detailed in the product description. Failing to use SST products as intended could result in serious injury or death.