July 16, 2013
To round out our series on the the design of baseball equipment, let’s take a brief look at the baseball glove. Unlike the baseball bat or the baseball itself, the glove was not initially a part of the game. Players just used the mitts they were born with. Lest you think that all men were walking around with swollen and broken fingers, it’s important to remember that this was a very different game than the today. There were a lot of differences in the game, not least of which is the fact that much of the throwing was underhand. In the beginning, there wasn’t much need for hand protection, but even as the game evolved and balls were thrown harder and faster, there was some reluctance to use any protection or padding. These were the days when the measure of a man was the number of calluses on his fingers and of broken bones in his hand. Wearing a glove just wasn’t manly.
The earliest gloves were simple leather work gloves, often with its finger removed to ensure that ball handling isn’t inhabited in any way. It’s hard to say exactly who wore the first glove, but some reports claim that catchers were wearing work gloves as early as 1860. A pitcher for the by the name of A.G. Spalding claims that it was New Haven first baseman Charles C. Waite who, in an 1875 game against Boston, first had the audacity (i.e. common sense) to take the field with a glove. Maybe “audacity” isn’t quite the right word. Though there were no rules against gloves, Waite tried to preserve his masculinity by wearing a tan, flesh-colored work glove, hoping no one would notice. People noticed. And Waite was ridiculed mercilessly by fans and players alike. Nonetheless, he persevered.
Spalding thought Waite might be on to something.
“I had for a good while felt the need of some sort of hand protection for myself. For several years I had pitched in every game played by the Boston team, and had developed severe bruises on the inside of my left hand. Therefore, I asked Waite about his glove. He confessed that he was a bit ashamed to wear it, but had it on to save his hand. He also admitted that he had chosen a color as inconspicuous as possible, because he didn’t care to attract attention….Meanwhile, my own hand continued to take its medicine with utmost regularity, occasionally being bored with a warm twister that hurt excruciatingly. Still, it was not until 1877 that I overcame my scruples against joining the ‘kid-glove aristocracy’ by donning a glove. I found that the glove, thin as it was, helped considerably, and inserted one pad after another until a good deal of relief was afforded. If anyone wore a padded glove before this date, I do not know it.”
The year after Waite’s debut, Spalding and his brothers started a sports equipment company and one of their first products, alongside the first official baseball, was a baseball glove –though Spalding wouldn’t wear one himself until 1877 when he started playing first base. Unlike Waite’s glove, Spaldings was made from dark, almost black leather. Spalding’s reputation kept away the ridicule and in fact, he may be responsible for helping to remove the stigma that came with wearing a glove.
With the stigma removed (mostly), the development of the glove accelerated. Along with that extra padding, shallow webbing was added between the fingers – most notably between the thumb and first finger. The glove caught on, much to the chagrin of some early baseball purists, and in 1895 the National League and American Association of Baseball Clubs created the first restrictions on glove size:
“The catcher and the first baseman are permitted to wear a glove or mitt of any size, shape or weight. All other players are restricted to the use of a glove or mitt weighing not over ten ounces, and measuring in circumference around the palm of the hand not over fourteen inches.”
By the end of the century, every player in organized baseball was playing with a glove.
After padding, the next big innovation came in 1920 when St. Louis Cardinals pitcher Bill Doak came up with a design to replace the leather webbing used in some gloves with a system of straps between the first finger and thumb, creating a larger, deeper pocket that would help relieve some of the impact on the players palms and fingers while also extending a fielder’s reach. Doak patented his idea, the precursor to all modern gloves, and sold it to Rawlings. With it, Rawlings surpassed Spalding as the preferred glove of pro players and today, the sports equipment company provides gloves for about 50 percent of professional ballplayers and produces specialized designs for pitchers, catchers, first basemen, infielders and outfielders, as well as custom designs for individual players. While the pillow-like catchers mitt is obviously unique, and has been from the beginning, the differences between other gloves emerged more slowly over the years, and can be subtle to accommodate different styles of play.
According to glove designer Bob Clevenhagen, known as “Michelangelo of the mitt,” “For outfielders, the ball will be funneled into the webbing. They are more apt to snag the ball up high in the web,” while “an infielder wants the ball where there’s no problem finding it with his bare hand, not in the webbing, but at the base of the fingers.” From its humble beginnings as an home-made object of scorn and ridicule, the baseball glove has become an iconic piece of sports equipment and often stunningly crafted object that only gets better with time. Now quit reading the Internet and go have a catch.
July 2, 2013
By the 1860s, there were almost as many types as baseball bats as there were baseballs. And like early pitchers, who made their own balls, early batters were known to sometimes whittle bats to suit their own hitting style. As you might imagine, the results were quite diverse—there were flat bats, round bats, short bats and fat bats. Generally, early bats tended to be much larger and much heavier than today’s. The thinking was that the bigger the bat, the more mass behind the swing, the bigger the hit. And without any formal rules in place to limit the size and weight of the bat, it wasn’t unusual to see bats that were up to 42 inches long (compared to today’s professional standards of 32-34) with a weight that topped out at around 50 ounces (compared to today’s 30).
While bats made of ash have always been a popular choice, maple, willow and pine were also commonly used, and it wasn’t unheard of to see spruce, cherry, chestnut and sycamore. Basically, if it could be chopped down, it could be a bat. After a couple decades of natural selection, round, ash bats had become the preferred choice. From the 1870s onward, ash continued to be the most popular for major league batters until Barry Bonds picked up a maple bat and started breaking records. Other batters soon followed his lead, despite the fact that a test conducted by the Baseball Research Center in 2005 concluded that “maple has no advantage in getting a longer hit over an ash bat.”
By 1870, bat regulations were in place limiting the length of the bat to 42 inches and the max diameter to 2.5 inches. This is more or less the standard today, as defined in the MLB rulebook:
(a) The bat shall be a smooth, round stick not more than 2.61 inches in diameter at the thickest part and not more than 42 inches in length. The bat shall be one piece of solid wood.
In 1884, the most famous name in baseball bats made its debut when 17-year-old John A. “Bud” Hillerich took a break from his father’s woodworking shop in Louisville, Kentucky, to slip away and catch a Louisville Eclipse game. When the team’s slumping star Pete Browning broke his bat, the young Hillerich offered to make him a new one. Bud made a new bat to Browning’s specifications, and the next game, the star of the Louisville Eclipse broke out of his slump, shining brightly once again, and the Louisville Slugger was born. Word spread about Hillerich’s bat and soon other major leaguers wanted one too. However, Hillerich’s father was reluctant to take on the new business. He was convinced that his company’s future would be built on architectural details such as stair railings, balustrades and columns; he saw bats as little more than a novelty item. With the particular brand of certainty and naiveté that is unique to the young, Bud persisted, eventually convincing his father that baseball was good business. By 1923, Louisville Slugger was the country’s top manufacturer of baseball bats.
While the bat hasn’t changed dramatically since the late 19th century, there are a few short-lived oddities and attempts to improve on the design, like the “mushroom” bat from Spalding and the Lajoie (above), designed by Ty Cobb rival Napoleon Lajoie and said to offer a better grip and improve bat control. And then there’s this incredibly strange design, patented in 1906 by Emile Kinst:
And yes, some of these “banana bats” were actually made:
This kind may even have been used by minor league players, but by the dawn of the 20th century, restrictions on the bat were firmly in place.
All these innovations were developed to aid in hitting. More recently though, the bat was redesigned to aid the hitter.
During the dead-ball era, baseball players used to grip the bat differently, holding it further up the grip. The knob at the end was to keep players’ hands from sliding off the bat. But in the modern game, players hold the bat with their hands as low as possible—sometimes even covering the knob. Graphic designer Grady Phelan created the Pro-XR bat in response to the modern grip.
The major innovation on the Pro-XR bat is the new ergonomic knob, slanted to ensures the batter’s hand doesn’t rub against it. The design reduces injury, as well as the chances that a bat will be thrown by preventing the hand’s ulnar nerve from sending a “release” signal to the brain. Limited testing suggests that the bat will reduce pressure on the hand by 20 percent. It has been approved by the MLB and is currently used in play. But despite the major benefits it offers, baseball players are a stubborn and superstitious lot, and it’s unlikely that the Pro-XR will become the league’s go-to bat—unless someone starts breaking new records with it.
June 28, 2013
From the fields and stadiums, to the uniforms, to the statistics, baseball is good design. There’s no better evidence of that than the iconic white and red ball. With its pristine white surface and high contrast red stitching, today’s baseball is a beautiful union of form and function, an almost ideal Modernist object. But it didn’t start out that way. The baseball didn’t emerge fully formed when the first batter stepped up to the first plate. Like the football, it’s hard to attribute its invention to one person, especially considering that in those heady, mustachioed, pre-professional days of baseball, balls were made by cobblers from the rubber remnants of old shoes, with rubber cores wrapped in yarn and a leather cover – if you were lucky. In some regions, sturgeon eyes were used instead of melted shoe rubber. In the 1840s and ’50s, it was anything but an exact science and pitchers often just made their own balls. Obviously, there was some variety in size and weight that resulted just from the nature of the handmade process and separate regional developments.
The differences extended from the center of the core to the surface of the leather wrapping. One of the more prominent cover designs wrapped the wound core in a single piece of leather tied off with four distinct lines of stitching, earning it the apt nickname “lemon peel.” These balls were smaller –about six inches in circumference compared to today’s nine- and they were lighter (in weight), darker (in color) and softer (in softness) than those used today. And the game was a little different too. In the earliest games, runners could be thrown out by getting “soaked,” or hit directly with a ball by a fielder – a rule still occasionally practiced on playgrounds and sandlots. These light, compact balls with rubber (or fish-eye) cores were much “livelier” than today’s balls – that is to say, the could be hit further and bounce higher. The result was a scoreboard that looked like something from a basketball game.
In the mid 1850s, ball clubs in the New York area elected to standardize the ball’s weight at 5.5-6 ounces and its circumference at somewhere between 8 and 11 inches, resulting in a larger, heavier, less lively ball. There was obviously some room for variety, but it was the first step toward regulation.
Throughout the 1850s and ’60s, the ball (and the rules) continued to evolve but there was still plenty of room for variation – more rubber in the core and a tighter winding resulted in a “live” ball while less rubber and a loose wind yielded a “dead” ball. Of course, home teams made the balls best suited to their own strengths and style of play. Ball selection was a key strategy and a critical benefit of home-field advantage. Visiting teams with big hitters would, more often than not, find themselves playing with a “dead” ball.
There is some debate about the origin of the 2-part “figure 8” cover that we we know today. Some baseball historians say it was first developed by a shoemaker’s son named Ellis Drake, who supposedly put the design together with some of his father’s scrap leather in an effort to create a more resilient cover. If this is true, Drake failed to patent his idea and others started producing similar designs. Others give credit to Colonel William A. Cutler, who may have invented the familiar stitching in 1858 and sold it to one of the first baseball manufacturers, William Harwood. Regardless of who created it, the figure 8 became the dominant ball thanks to Harwood & Sons, who built the first factory dedicated to baseball production in Natick, Massachusetts, and was the first to mass-produce the figure 8 design.
In the 1870s, the fluctuating size and weight of the fluctuating was stabilized to something very similar to the one we know and love today, which is officially,and rather vaguely, mandated by the MLB by rule 1.09:
The ball shall be a sphere formed by yarn wound around a small core of cork, rubber or similar material, covered with two strips of white horsehide or cowhide, tightly stitched together. It shall weigh not less than five nor more than 5.25 ounces avoirdupois and measure not less than nine nor more than 9.25 inches in circumference.
The year 1876 welcomed the first game in the National League of Professional Baseball Clubs and a standardization of rules and regulations – including a standard ball. That same year a Boston Red Sox pitcher by the name of A.G. Spalding retired after winning 241 of 301 games in just a four-year career. He pitched every game with balls he made himself. When he convinced the National League to adopt his ball as its standard, an empire was born. Spalding’s company would continue to produce the official baseball of the National League for 100 years.
Early professional baseball was marked by incredibly low-scoring games – thanks in large part to the ball. Balls were were soft and became softer during the course of a game and were used until they unraveled, resulting in fewer big hits and lower scores. This was the original “dead-ball” era of baseball.
In 1910 the cork-core ball was introduced into Major League play. As Popular Mechanics explained at the time, “the cork makes possible a more rigid structure and more uniform resiliency. It is said to outlast the rubber center balls many times over, because it will not soften or break in spots under the most severe usage.” More importantly though, it could be hit. With the introduction of the livelier cork ball, league-wide batting averages jumped almost immediately. After a few years, however, pitchers began to adapt (and develop a few tricks) and numbers began to level out – until Babe Ruth started hitting balls out of the park; dead-ball era came to a final, stunning end. Ruth started something and baseball enjoyed a live-ball renaissance that actually had nothing to do with the ball, despite popular conspiracy theories that a new, more lively “rabbit” ball was secretly introduced into play in 1920 to increase hitting.
The next big innovation came in 1925 when Milton B. Reach patented the “cushion cork” center, in which a a sphere of cork is surrounded by a black semi-vulcanized rubber, which is then surrounded by another layer of red rubber. In 1934, the American League, which favored live balls and big hitters, and the National League, known to use thicker, looser balls that favored pitchers, agreed on a standard ball. As noted in a great article on the baseball’s history from Bleacher Report, the composition of this new “medium ball” was revealed for the first time in The New York Times:
Major league baseballs start with a core of cork mixed with a small amount of rubber. This is covered by a layer of black rubber, then by a layer of red rubber. It is then ready for the winding process, where yarn is added to the core. This is done on a revolving machine…in a humidity- and temperature-controlled room.
Yarn windings consist first of 121 yards of rough gray wool, forty-five yards of white wool then 53 yards of fine gray wool and finally 150 yards of fine white cotton. After these layers have been added to the sphere, it is coated with rubber cement. Then two pieces of horsehide in the shape of the figure ’8′ are hand-stitched with red thread to cover the ball.
….Each ball has 108 hand-stitched double stitches in its cover. A finished ball weighs from 5 to 5 1/4 ounces and measures not less than 9, nor more than 9 1/4 inches.
With a few exceptions, the baseball really hasn’t changed that much since then.
Surprisingly, the process hasn’t changed much either. All 108 red stitches on Major League baseballs are all still stitched by hand, although ball consistency has improved with new technology – materials are now stored in temperature controlled facilities and balls are wound under constant tension to eliminate “soft spots” and guarantee a uniform surface. Also similar to years past: every season is different from the last. Some seasons see a lot of home runs while others see pitchers locked in battle. So far this year, teams have scored the fewest runs per game (4.22) since 1992, when it was 4.12. Granted, the hot summer months where the balls soar through the humid air have yet to come, but it looks like the men on the mound have the upper hand.
“Evolution of the Ball,” Baseball Digest (July 1963); Peter Morris, A Game of Inches: The Stories Behind The Innovations that Shaped Baseball (Rowman & Littlefield, 2006); Josh Chetwynd, The Secret History of Balls (Penguin, 2011); Zack Hample, The Baseball: Stunts, Scandals, and Secrets Beneath the Stitches (Random House, 2011); Zachary D. Rymer, “The Evoution of the Baseball from the Dead ball Era Through Today,” Bleacher Report (June 18, 2013); 19th Century Baseball
October 5, 2012
The “pigskin” is not made of pig skin but is, in fact, made from cowhide. Of course, popular speculation has it that the leather exterior of the football was once made from the tanned skin of a pig, but it’s more likely that the football was made from a pig’s bladder. We may never know. Equally mysterious is the shape of the ball. If the sport evolved from soccer and rugby, how and when did the football gain its distinct shape – technically known as a prolate spheroid? Well, it turns out that the football was never truly designed, it just sort of happened. According to Henry Duffield, a man who witnessed a game between Princeton and Rutgers in 1869, largely considered to be the first intercollegiate game:
“The ball was not an oval but was supposed to be completely round. It never was, though — it was too hard to blow up right. The game was stopped several times that day while the teams called for a little key from the sidelines. They used it to unlock the small nozzle which was tucked into the ball, and then took turns blowing it up. The last man generally got tired and they put it back in play somewhat lopsided.”
So according to that story, the football that bounces erratically all over a field and can fly through air in a perfect spiral is not, in fact, the product of high design. At least not initially. Rather, it’s the result of a leaky sphere and some lazy inflaters. Initially, football was a very different game – or perhaps I should say games. There were kicking games and running games, but as those two games began to merge together, as rules began to standardize, the ball began to slightly stretch out in order to accommodate more types of use. The unique shape of the ball was somewhat formalized in the early 20th century and that form was exploited to great success when the forward pass was introduced to football in 1906.
As the game continued to change, the ball evolved to accommodate new rules and new plays. Most notably, in the 1930s, it became longer and slimmer as the forward pass became a more dominant–and more encouraged–part of the game. Another change came in 1956 when the white balls traditionally used in night games were replaced with a standard daytime football circled by two white stripes. Though advancements in stadium lighting have made night balls unnecessary, NCAA games still use the white-striped ball.
In 1941, the official football used by the NFL was nicknamed “The Duke,” after the Wellington Mara, whose father named him after the Duke of Wellington. That name played a key role in establishing the relationship between the NFL and Wilson Sporting Goods, the company that has for more than 70 years produced the offical football of the NFL. “The Duke” was in play until 1969 when professional football reorganized. In 2006, National Football League owners decided to return the name of the official game ball to “The Duke” in honor of Wellington Mara’s passing the previous year.
Today, in order to be used in a National Football League game, a football must meet the following requirements: It shall consist of a urethane bladder inflated to 12.5 to 13.5 pounds and enclosed in a pebble grained, tan leather outer shell designed to provide a good grip – even in the rain. The ball must be 11-11.25 inches long, have a long circumference between 28- 28.5 inches, a short circumference between 21-21.25 inches; and it must weigh 14 to 15 ounces. The variation in the measurements is due to the fact that all NFL footballs are made by hand. Since 1955 every NFL football has been made at Wilson’s 130-person factory in Ada, Ohio, which produces up to 4,000 footballs a day.
These NFL footballs are born on the backs of Midwestern cows from Iowa, Kansas, and Nebraska, which are brought to a tannery in Ada and treated with a top secret football-weather-optimizing tanning recipe. Each football is composed of four separate pieces (see above image), with a single cowhide producing ten balls. The construction of the bladder is also a secret process, with each synthetic bladder produced by one man. From pigskin to cowhide, organic bladder to synthetic rubber, the ball has changed and the game itself has evolved into a completely different animal.
October 1, 2012
In professional football, the only line of defense against head injury –other than the defensive line– is the helmet. But the earliest football helmet looked more like a padded aviator cap than the high-tech crash-tested helmet used by today’s players. There’s a reason for that.
There are a few different stories about the invention of the football helmet but the earliest and the most frequently told dates back to they Army-Navy game of 1893. Admiral Joseph Mason Reeve (“the father of carrier aviation”) had apparently been kicked and hit in the head so many times, his doctor told him that another hard impact could lead to “instant insanity.” Determined to play in the big game, Reeve went to his shoemaker and had him fashion a moleskin hat with earflaps. So it was that the helmet –I’m using the term loosely, here– was born. But the football helmet would see battle off the field as well – Reeve took the design back to the Navy and it was briefly used by paratroopers during the first World War.
In the early 1900s, soft leather skull caps appeared as optional headgear worn by few players. By the 1920s, hardened leather helmets were first worn, slightly increasing the level protection. Slightly. Perhaps more importantly, these early helmets inspire the popular vision of “old-timey” football, not to mention such films as the underrated Leatherheads, starring George Clooney and John Krasinski. But I digress.
Again, it’s worth reiterating that helmets were not mandatory. That wouldn’t happen until 1943. During the 1920s and 1930s, variations of the leather helmet appeared, but in 1939, the game changed –or at least became safer– when John T. Riddel introduced the first plastic helmet. Unfortunately, as plastics became more scarce during World War II, so did the more durable helmet. After the war, the helmets went back into production, but there was a problem with the plastic mix that cause many helmets to break into pieces. Remember that scene in Batman Begins where the cowl shatters? I imagine it was something like that.
As a result of the faulty plastic, the NFL banned the helmets. Within a year, the error had been corrected and the plastic helmet was formally re-introduced to professional football just a year later, quickly followed by the padded plastic helmet. (Note to people who get hit for a living: it’s always a good idea to add more pads.) Another important change came in 1948 when Los Angeles Rams halfback Fred Gehrke painted horns on either side of his helmet, making the rams the first professional team with a helmet emblem.
Up to this point, all the helmets were still open faced. And almost all those open faces had black eyes, bloody noses, and swollen lips. That changed in 1955 when a single face bar was added to the padded plastic helmets. And of course, with the invention of the face mask came the invention of the face-masking – banned in 1956. The single bar face mask was the invention of Paul Brown, the first coach of Cleveland’s professional football team, who came up with the prototype in order to keep starting quarterback Otto Graham in a game after he took a hard hit right to the kisser. Brown and the equipment manager quickly assembled the crossbar, patched up Graham, and sent him back on the field to win the game.
After the victory, a slightly more formal design was created and all Cleveland players were required to wear the single bar masks. Other NFL teams soon followed suit. Brown patented his design, known as the BT-5, and it went into production by Riddel, who still make the official helmet of the National Football League. By 1962, facemasks were worn by every player in the game. Former Detroit Lion Garo Yepremian was the last NFL player to play without any facemask, only adapting the crossbar in 1967. “’I would wake up every morning with blood in my mouth,’ he told ESPN. ‘I learned my lesson.’”
Though the single bar face mask was an important innovation, it was soon replaced by increasingly complex styles of face protection. In 2004, the NFL formally banned single bar helmets, but some players were grandfathered in. This exception was made exclusively for kickers, who like the single bar because what it lacked in safety, it made up for in visibility. The last single bar helmet appeared on a professional field in 2007.
During the 1960s and 70s, manufacturers developed thick foam padding that was installed in the helmets and in 1975, the full face mask appeared. Today, dozens of face mask designs are available, offering a variety of options related to protection and visibility. By the mid 1980s, the football helmet had become a complex, highly engineered piece of equipment. A typical helmet weighed three pounds, with an outer shell composed of polycarbonate over a layer of aluminum and vinyl foam on top of plastic and then a thin layer of leather. The inside of the helmets were lined with foam padding and plastic pods or an inflatable layer designed to absorb the shock of impact and create as tight a fit as possible.
In 1995 the football helmet went high-tech, when a new rule permitted quarterback to have a radio transmitter in their helmets, making it possible for a team’s coach to call in plays without the need for elaborate sideline semaphore. The use of radio receivers –or should I say radio quarterbacks–are now regulated by the NFL, but it’s up to the teams to decide what kind of system they use. This sometimes can prove to be more of a hinderance than a help, as illustrated by the San Francisco 49ers, who until this year, were known for their terrible helmet radio system that would cut off in the middle of a called play or even pick up pilot chatter from passing aircraft.
Despite the relatively recent integration of this technology, helmet radios are by no means a new development in professional football. Once again, Paul Brown proves to be an innovator. The Cleveland Browns patriarch, who has many coaching “firsts” on his record, experimented with a citizen’s band radio in his quarterback’s helmet as far back as 1956. The last great official change to the helmet came in 1998 when transparent face shields were allowed to protect players’ eyes. Tinted visors, though they may look cool, are only permitted by the league with the approval of appropriate medical documentation.
Finally, it’s impossible to talk about helmets without saying a few words about safety. Head injury is a growing concern in all sports, but especially football. Just this past summer, 2,000 NFL players joined together in a lawsuit alleging that the League failed to adequately inform players of the neurological risks –dementia, depression, reduced cognitive ability, sleeplessness, early-onset Alzheimer’s– associated with getting pounded into the dirt day after day. Surprisingly, the rule book is light on helmet specifications. While there many incredibly specific rules on intentionally striking a player with a helmet or otherwise using the helmet with any sort of malicious intent, there are no rules dictating what kind of helmet a player can wear other than the stipulation that all helmets must be approved by the National Operating Committee on Standards for Athletic Equipment (NOCSAE).
Players are free to choose their own helmets for their own reasons, be it protection, nostalgia, or even vanity. Believe it or not, vanity was even a concern back in the halcyon days of Paul Brown, whose players initially objected to the face mask mandate because they made players too anonymous. Today, helmet mandates in the NFL rule book focuses only on the chinstrap and face mask:
Helmet with chinstrap (white only) fastened and face mask attached. Face masks must not be more than 5/8-inch in diameter and must be made of rounded material; transparent materials are prohibited.
That’s it. The only official rule on helmets. The only other regulations have to do with logos and branding. While the NOCSAE conduct myriad tests on helmets, they do not simulate conditions that can result in concussion, as The New York Times recently reported. However, there are signs that this many be changing. Today’s professional helmets are primarily made by two companies: Riddel and Schutt. Both manufacturers have released helmets designed specifically to protect against concussions after research found that most concussions were caused by hit impact to the side of the head or jaw. The NFL have also taken steps to ensure players safety, such as requiring a brief examination on the sideline after head blows, but the issue remains one of the most controversial in sports.
From humble, hand-cobbled beginnings in a shoe shop to the highly engineered designs produced in the elaborate testing facility of today’s top manufacturers, the football helmet has come a long way in just over a hundred years. But so has the game. Players are faster and stronger than they ever have been and the hits just keep on coming. New materials, new designs, new technologies, and perhaps even new regulations will make sure the helmet keeps up with the game.