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John Strickland and Grant Bevill

The majority of head injuries sustained during softball play are due to defensive fielders being struck by a ball. The main objective of this study was to test the impact attenuation and facial protection capabilities of fielder’s masks from softball impacts. Testing with an instrumented Hybrid III headform was conducted at 2 speeds and 4 impact locations for several protective conditions: 6 fielder’s masks, 1 catcher’s mask, and unprotected (no mask). The results showed that most fielder’s masks reduced head accelerations, but not to the standard of catcher’s masks. On average, they reduced peak linear and angular acceleration from 40 mph impacts by 36% to 49% and 14% to 45%, respectively, whereas for 60 mph impacts, they were reduced by 25% to 42% and 13% to 46%, respectively. Plastic-type fielder’s masks were observed to allow facial contact when struck at the nose region at high speed. A few fielder’s masks performed appreciably different at certain impact locations suggesting influence from specific design features such as foam padding and frame properties. Overall, the results suggest that head/facial injuries may be mitigated through the broader use of masks, while further optimization of impact attenuation for fielder’s masks is pursued.