Justin Morneau Still Recovering: What MLB Must Do To Curtail Concussions

Chris LeydenCorrespondent IIMarch 17, 2011

Justin Morneau Still Recovering: What MLB Must Do To Curtail Concussions

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    Baseball may not be considered by many to be a contact sport, but Minnesota Twins star first baseman Justin Morneau will tell you that is far from the truth.

    Morneau played his first baseball last week in over eight months after suffering a concussion from taking a knee to the head.

    Playing a few innings in a meaningless game is still far from where Morneau wants to be, but he and the Twins will take the progress.

    While the NFL zoned in on illegal hits this season, and the NHL is talking hits to the head this week, there has been little mention of how to make the MLB safer.

    As the game of baseball gets faster with stronger players and better bats, the protective equipment around the league is failing to keep up.

    This slide-show features suggestions on what the MLB needs to do to protect its players and the future of baseball.

    Fell free to comment below with what other safety ideas you have.

Reinforced Batting Helmets

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    The idea that the MLB gradually force players over to using the reinforced baseball helmets seems like a no-brainier.

    While minor league baseball has forced all their players to these helmets, they are still rarely seen around the big leagues.

    Carlos Gomez of the Milwaukee Brewers wore one of these helmets halfway through last season after receiving a concussion. Gomez was even quoted in the article on the Brewers official site as saying "I think next year, everybody is going to wear them."

    The problem a lot of the players in the league have with the helmets is they are bigger and heavier, and the players feel as though that puts them at a disadvantage.

    That is why it is not until the MLB forces everyone to wear them that all players will transfer over.

    Every year improvements are made to baseball helmets to make them as safe as possible, but right now most of the players are ignoring their safety and focusing on winning.

Helmets for Pitchers

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    While on the topic of helmets, why not dive into the concept of pitchers wearing helmets too.

    The above image is a new technology that came out last week from Easton-Bell Sports.

    Although pitchers taking a ball to the head is more of an issue in Little League where the pitchers are much closer and the batters are using metal. I imagine that at some point an MLB pitcher will wear one of these.

    As the Boston Globe points out "there was a time in baseball when catchers didn't wear a mask. And no hitter would think to go to the plate today without a helmet."

    We may not see this head gear for pitchers for a few years, but I would imagine that in 20 years it will be very common.

Bats That Break Less

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    The MLB has actually made great progress when it comes to bat safety, and has seen back to back double digit drops in the percentage of broken bats.

    Part of this can be because of new rules in 2010 that decreased the maximum barrel size and increased the minimum handle size.

    Bat companies are also doing their part in the process, by finding better wood that does not break as easily.

    Broken bats are not as much a concussion issue as they are a general danger to the body, and if the MLB can continue to make progress on cutting down this danger than they could be eliminated in the future as a cause of injuries.

Baseball Fence Safety

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    Jonathan Daniel/Getty Images

    One of the best plays in baseball is when an outfielder makes an amazing catch while running into the wall.

    While everyone in the crowd is cheering and discussing the great catch, the player often gets hurt on the play.

    Most outfield walls in the MLB are thin and unforgiving, and can cause all sorts of injuries to the players who run into them.

    If the MLB wants to cut down on these types of injuries, they should make a mandatory thickness of padding on the wall. Even at a place like Wrigley, where the padding would be covered by Ivy, could still have this protective surface.

    Another addition that MLB fields could add on is a wider warning track. The warning track is meant to inform the player that they are about to hit the wall, and some of these tracks do not give the players a fair advanced notice.

    While padded walls do not look nearly as attractive to the eye, the injuries they will save are well worth it.

Umpires Need to Be More Strict on Home Plate Collisions

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    The only time in baseball when there is football-like contact is when a player is heading from third to home and the catcher is there blocking the plate.

    Often times the biggest "hits" occur at this moment as the catcher attempts to hold on to the ball while the runner attempts to jar it lose.

    According to MLB rules, the catcher is allowed to block the plate as long as they are fielding the throw, but the runner is not allowed to go out of their way to crash into the catcher or crash into the catcher before he catches the ball.

    Unfortunately, the umpires never call the play this way, and the base-runners get away with whatever they want.

    Cutting down collisions at home plate could save a lot of trips to the DL, and it is up to the MLB to make sure their umpires know and call the rules by the book.