TODAY

TODAY   |  May 16, 2013

Baseball helmet safety standards to increase

Since the 1980s, all batters’ helmets have been required to withstand hits from 68-mph balls, but baseball equipment company Rawlings is changing those standards, making helmets that can withstand an impact at 70 mph for younger players and up to 100 mph for major leaguers. NBC’s Kerry Sanders reports.

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>>> little league season getting into high gear in cities all across the country. if you're a parent, there's an important change tied to helmets that you should know about. nbc's kerry sanders is in tampa, florida. good morning.

>> reporter: matt, nationwide, every league requires a baseball helmet like this. but this summer, one major manufacturer is about to change the way these helmets are rated.

>> two hands, buddy.

>> reporter: on america's field of dreams , almost 2 million boys and girls are stepping up to the plate and somewhere in the stands, there's usually a mother like karen fearing the worst.

>> what goes through your mind as a mom?

>> just don't get hit, please. get out of the way.

>> get out of the way, yeah.

>> even at 9 years old, kids can pitch up to 50 miles per hour.

>> bad throw.

>> and the ball went?

>> it hurt a little bit and my head was kind of like --

>> reporter: in the big leagues , an even greater risk. as we saw last week, sometimes the pitcher can be hit by the ball. and in the case of adam greenberg --

>> oh, my goodness --

>> reporter: a head injury can end a career.

>> for adam and other professionals, those are the acceptable risks to play in ballparks like this. but for kids, the cdc reports each year, more than 9,000 wind up in emergency rooms leaving batters boxes with concussions or worse, traumatic brain injury . at the rollings test facility in suburban, st. louis, it's clear the damage a fastball can do to a young head. this is a 90-mile-per-hour strike to a watermelon.

>> kids are more prone to concussions than are adults. youngsters have disproportionate disproportionately large heads and very, very weak necks.

>> since the 1980s , there's been an industry standard that all batters helmets should withstand a 68-mile-per-hour ball. but now rollings believes it's time for those standards to change. their new helmets have ratings, 70-mile-per-hour helmets for younger players, 80-mile-per-hour helmets for 12 to 16-year-olds, 90-mile-per-hour helmets for high school and collegiate players and 100-mile-an-hour helmets for the pros.

>> people buying that 68-mile-an-hour helmet but using it at every level of play including up to major league baseball .

>> as senior vice president of rollings, he oversees research, he's also the father of an 8-year-old player.

>> the more peace of mind that parents have that their kids are being taken care of properly with the right equipment, the higher the level of participation we'll have in our sports.

>> the rating system means that these helmets are not only working at lower speeds but those at lower speeds are lighter, which we heard the doctors say are good for young players. other manufacturers will all still have to meet the standard of 68 miles per hour. matt?

>> got it, kerry. thank you very much. as the father of little leaguer jack and romy, i'm in favor of this. i love this idea.