Changes made to sports equipment to avoid concussions in athletes

MILWAUKEE (WITI) -- With the holiday shopping season upon us, some parents are thinking about getting the latest gear for their young athletes, and shoppers will find that much of that gear is more protective than it used to be.

When a coach or parent yells "Get your head in the game" to a player, it's usually to encourage sharper focus, but the fact of the matter is, an athlete's head is always in the game physically, which means that coaches and especially parents are paying attention to protecting that part of their athlete's body.

"Lacrosse, baseball, soccer -- you're not going to see the number of concussions that you do in football, but the impact is the same in the sporting goods industry. I mean, right now, everybody is worried about it and it's definitely having that trickle down effect into every single sport," Matt Fridley said.

Fridley has played and coached sports and he's been on the retail side of the sporting goods industry for 11 years. With heightened awareness to the dangers of brain injuries, primarily on the football field, big changes have occurred in what he stocks and sells.

"We have parents now where there's really very little concern financially when it comes to the head. They are willing to spend what they need to spend to make sure their kid is safe and that they are not going to have a concussion. Obviously, there is no such thing as a concussion-proof helmet, but there is technology out there to help reduce the likelihood that they are going to get a concussion," Fridley said.

Burghardt's Sporting Goods in Fox Point doesn't deal in hockey, but does equip baseball, softball, football and lacrosse players, and in each case, has no trouble getting the latest protective gear from manufacturers.

"In lacrosse we're seeing this more and more -- a simple cinch system -- a one-size-fits-all helmet, and then what that does is a plastic band that fits all the way, and it tightens up all the way around the crown of the head. Football is different. Football, they are all sized helmets. Baseball helmets, honestly look like it did 20 years ago. There's not much different here at all," Fridley said.

One particularly interesting development for baseball is the Rawlings Company now sells batting helmets certified to protect a specific miles-per-hour of pitching. In other words, you can buy the 70 mile-per-hour helmet for a youth player, all the way up to a 100 mile-per-hour helmet for a player who will be facing high-level adult pitching.

By all accounts the entire sporting goods industry is responding better to the impact of potential serious injuries, allowing athletes to keep their heads in the game more confidently.