Posts Tagged ‘child safety’

The Review: Halo Baseball Hat Protective Insert

March 8, 2013

I’m not all about the glory (really!), but this is the memory that always comes back to me  and gets me jazzed for the next baseball season. This weekend opens Spring Training here in Arlington, and I’m pleased to say my big fella is pain-free from his concussion and has slowly started getting back to baseball.

Understanding, however, that concussions are additive and he’s fresh from a pretty significant bang to the head, I decided to see whether there was any new stuff out there that can better protect those precious coconuts of theirs.

Click to get more details

Click to get more details on the S100

Of course, when we think about baseball protection, attention turns immediately to batting helmets.  But while I did do research on that and ended up with the Rawlings S100p (which I will review later), my thoughts actually turned toward whether there has been any progress toward protecting players in the field.  As a coach in both softball and youth baseball, I have actually seen more occasions when fly balls or line drives bonk off a player’s head than I have seen beanballs (myself included).

The depth perception for popups is not an easy thing for many to master, and, of course, for pitchers, there is an ever-present danger of the line drive back to the mound.   After a lot of searching, I found that there actually were a couple of products on the market designed for in-field head protection.  The first one is called SportsGuard, and it is specific to youth baseball and the head protection costs a very reasonable $20.00.  They note, however, that the product is available at Dick’s Sporting Goods, and when I went to Dick’s to look to purchase one, it was nowhere to be found.

Just didn't like that gap in the back

Just didn’t like that gap in the back

That made me feel a little uncomfortable, plus the fact that the design seemed to have no protection for the back of the head, which is where Gus got struck.  Now, this product may be an excellent one for all I know, but from my web search on it, I couldn’t find anything on their site other than a vague notation that it had been “tested by a major university” that was underlined but without a link to more information.  All of the various reviews I could find were also more the “isn’t this nice” with little factual backup.

With a little more digging, I found out from this MLB Network video that Major League Baseball had been thinking about this issue for its pitchers, too, and had enlisted a company that worked with the military for years, Unequal Technologies, to try and create something for a baseball hat.  Their product, the Halo, has just hit the market.  They have far more specific backup on exactly the level of protection their product affords, and because it is made for fitted caps, offers protection for the entire head.  Here’s the video:

It is, however, far more expensive than the SportsGuard product, coming in at $60.00 with another ten bucks for shipping.  I must say that, at this price, I probably would not have gotten it for Gus had I not wanted to be as sure as possible that for this season he was well protected.

The Halo came in the mail today, and here is my and Gus’s initial take on it:

view of plastic "helmet" side that goes on the hat

view of plastic “helmet” side that goes on the hat

Product Design: The halo does feel surprisingly lightweight.  It’s definitely lighter than a baseball and I’d say about the same weight as my thin Skagen wristwatch.  The exterior is cool, with the protective shell a very slick plastic/vinyl feel and the part that touches the head more of a plastic/rubber composite.  Grade: A-

Ease of Use: In all, I would say not bad, but this 1.0 design still needs a bit of work.  As advertised, the halo does fit pretty easily inside a standard fitted hat.  It can take a little while to get it in just the right place, and, for whatever reason, it didn’t come with a picture or instruction for orientation (I went online to take a look).  You can put it in an adjustable hat, but you’ll see the back of the halo exposed from it.  Grade: B

 

With about 2 minutes of adjusting--looks just like the website.

With about 2 minutes of adjusting–looks just like the website.

Look: Yes, safety is important, but if anyone remembers David Wright in his “Great Gazoo” batting helmet, you don’t want to look goofy.  Here, we’re in the ballpark, but more needs to be done.  The key issue here is that the Halo, despite it being fairly thin, does push the cap up the head, leaving it looking a little artificially high.  This is especially pronounced with adjustable hats that tend not to sit as low on the head in the first place.  The picture you see here with Gus is the very lowest fitting hat I could find in my collection and it still sits high.

The other issue with it is that once the hat is put on, the Halo sits about 3’’ higher than the end of the hat, and it does protrude out a bit and it is noticeable.  Not horribly so, but it’s there.  But, while not invisible, it doesn’t look embarrassingly different than a normal hat.  It would be more of the “Huh, he wears his hat a little funny, doesn’t he?”  kind of feel.  Grade: B-

No, my son is not a conehead

Feel: “Hard.”  That’s what Gus said.  “Not bad hard, but hard.”  As for weight, he said, “A little heavy, but not anything that felt distracting.”  I tried it on and I have to say I agree.  If you’re expecting it to just melt right into your hat, forget it.  That said, once on it was pretty easy to shrug off in terms of how it actually felt on the head.  So no angels inside massaging your scalp, but for protection of this sort, I felt it totally acceptable.  Grade: B+

Fit: This is where this product still has some defects.  I can see how this technology would work amazingly well in a helmet, but putting something hard into something soft and making it work is a serious challenge.  First, do NOT expect this to fit in your regular hat.  You will need a cap at least two sizes larger than you are used to.  Gus is usually a 7 1/4 and even the rather roomy 7 1/2 you see in the pictures still didn’t have it sit right on the head.  We’re going to bring this to the store and try it with a 7 5/8 to see if we can get the fit we need.  In trying different hats, when I put it in my MLB stretchable batting practice hat, I got the best overall fit.

Because it rides higher, as you’d expect it feels a little looser.  We did some basic workouts and while the hat stayed on for the most part, it did drop off once when Gus lunged, but on numerous other occasions when he dropped to his knees or leaped for the ball, it stayed put.  In my BP hat, it was more secure and stayed in place even when I turned and ran and looked up as if going for a fly ball hit over my head.  We’re going to continue to toy with hat fit and see if we can find a good solution, but for now, Grade: C

Overall Initial Reaction: I want to stress that this is just our first day feel for this product, not an end-use assessment.  That said, if I didn’t feel Gus really needed extra protection, I don’t think I would be an early adopter of the Halo.  I do think they are closing-in on something extremely helpful, however.  If your child has already suffered a concussion or is a pitcher and you’re concerned about safety, this may well be a product worth your checking out.  I will give you updates on our in use feel for this product as we go along.  Overall Initial Grade: B-

I’m curious to hear if anyone else has had experience with these or any other protective gear, as I’m always on the lookout for things that can help minimize risk without minimizing the fun.

Play Ball!

UPDATE 4/23/13: I have an updated review based on more experience with the Halo you can read here.