Year of Publication

2019

Season of Publication

Spring

Paper Type

Master's Thesis

College

College of Computing, Engineering & Construction

Degree Name

Master of Science in Mechanical Engineering (MSME)

Department

Engineering

NACO controlled Corporate Body

University of North Florida. School of Engineering

First Advisor

Dr. Grant Bevill

Second Advisor

Dr. Stephen Stagon

Third Advisor

Dr. Alexandra Schönning

Department Chair

Dr. Osama Jadaan

College Dean

Dr. William Klostermeyer

Abstract

Every year in the United States, an estimated 1.6 to 3.8 million people sustain sports-related traumatic brain injuries (TBIs), with an appreciable number of these injuries coming from the sport of softball. Several studies have analyzed the impact performance of catcher’s masks within the context of baseball; however, virtually no studies have been performed on fielder’s masks within the context of softball. Thus, the main objective of the present work was to evaluate the protective capabilities of softball fielder’s masks. To better understand the injury mechanisms and frequency associated with softball head/facial injuries, epidemiological data from a national database was reviewed first. Results displayed “struck-by-ball” as the most frequent injury mechanism (74.3%) for all head/facial injuries with a large majority occurring to defensive players (83.7%). With further motivation, the present work focused on testing the impact attenuation and facial protection capabilities of fielder’s masks from softball impacts. Testing with an instrumented Hybrid III headform was conducted at two speeds and four impact locations for several protective conditions: six fielder’s masks, one 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 36-49% and 14-45%, respectively, while for 60-mph impacts they were reduced by 25-42% and 13-46%, respectively. Plastic-frame fielder’s masks were observed to allow facial contact when struck at the nose region at high speed. Observed differences in impact attenuation across fielder’s mask designs further suggested influence from specific design features such as foam padding and frame properties. Overall, the results clearly demonstrate 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.

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