Saving the Head: In Search of the Safest Helmet

 . Last updated on 0000-00-00 00:00:00
Saving the Head: In Search of the Safest Helmet

Safety in games like cricket, baseball and rugby has always been an intricate concern. A baseball or a rugby player at work is much akin to some kind of medieval warrior at the battle field. On contrast, in cricket, players are dressed up with just trousers and T-Shirts to get by scorching heat on the ground. It is highly unlikely in a game like cricket that expands up to days, to fit players with heavy getup like that of rugby and baseball. However, latest mishaps like the demise of Phil Hughes confronting a hundred km per hour bounce has posed fresh and serious concerns on safety of players in cricket.

There are a number of instances that highlight the vulnerabilities and exposure of players, especially batsman to career ending impairments. In 2013, Joe Root had four stitches in his face, in July 2014, Craig Kieswetter broke his nose, and the lists goes on. These serious instances of injuries have raised the question of security in cricket upfront. But, to whom? Rules of the game cannot be changed and it would mean snatching away its thrill. Neither bowlers cannot be instructed to restrain their bowling speed nor can batsmen be instructed to limit their shots. The only pragmatic enterprise is to armor players with more protective gear up to the extent that their comfort and ease at play is not compromised.

The focus seems to be on helmet for the time being. ICC has rolled out new standards for helmets and helmet manufacturers in 2013. The mandates are expected to provide the safest helmets to players. According to new standards, both shell of the helmet and the attached grille must be tested together. The grille, according to new mandates, should be strong enough to stop a ball at the average speed of 80 mph or 130 kph. Conventional testing method will be also replaced with new methods that brings grills into account. It is noteworthy that most of the recent injuries are caused by hits on the grille. Presently new methods of testing helmets are introduced. Ball firing at impact points such as between grille and the shell on the front, at the back and other sensitive positions are tested rigorously.

Additionally, Helmet manufacturers are now collaborating with universities and research firms to design better head gears. Recently Loughborough University was approached by Porter and ECB in order to test helmet designs. Helmet manufacturer Masuri has introduced a number of minor changes to structure and design of helmet. In the new design, the grille is extended to back of the ear. The design also included a stem guard at back of the helmet extended to cover the sensitive portion between neck and back of head. Masuri's CEO Sam Miller expressed that it took eight weeks to design the stem guard. The concern was to design that could absorb maximum impact as well fit all shapes and sizes. Previously, an extended grille named "gorget" was designed by John Mooney, the all-rounder cricketer from Ireland.

Weight of helmets range between 750 grams to slightly more than a kilo. Designing an ergonomically balanced and comfy helmet is of utmost importance. Helmet manufacturer such as Masuri uses shock absorbent materials to pair up with deformations inflicted by balls. For the newly introduced stem guard, TPU or thermoplastic polyurethane is used. The material is proven to absorb impacts of three times more than the current mandates. Also, as the material is rubbery, players do not have to compromise with comfort.

Although new helmet designs following ICC mandates are substantial improvements to achieve safety measures, more intrinsic precautions should be introduced. Helmets only safeguard the most acute part of the body. However, injury is not restricted only to head and not only to batsmen. Insuring safety of players is the paramount aspect of any game.

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