Baseball has been America’s national pastime for decades. It has long been associated with American symbols like hot dogs and apple pie. In some families, it’s a tradition that carries on through the generations. If you are eager to introduce your toddler to the world of summers at the baseball field, you’ll probably start with T-ball, either at home or in a toddler league. Either way, make sure to outfit him with the proper equipment, including the most important piece of all – a helmet.
While T-ball is by no means the most dangerous sport, it still presents a real risk of injuries from falls, wandering balls and collisions in the field. Yes, toddlers are still developing their motor skills, and won’t have the fastest of pitches. But, some may be strong enough to throw a pretty hard ball. Without proper head protection, your toddler could be at higher risk of head injury and concussion, a traumatic brain injury that can be caused by a bump, blow or jolt to the head. Concussions can also occur from a hit to the body that makes the head move rapidly back and forth. Even what appears to be a mild blow to the head can be serious.
T-ball typically acts as a child’s first introduction to the world of baseball, by developing key baseball skills like hitting, running, fielding and throwing. The elimination of pitching removes the fear of being hit by a pitched ball, but there are still risks when a ball is in play. The American Academy of Pediatrics says all T-ball and baseball players should wear properly fitted and well maintained safety gear, including batting helmets. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention recommends that athletes wear the right protective equipment for their sports, consistently and correctly — and this includes children. As much as moms need to pinch pennies, that bicycle helmet just won’t work for baseball!
The National Operating Committee on Standards for Athletic Equipment, or NOCSAE, outlines performance specifications for baseball helmets to minimize the risk of concussions. When buying a helmet for your little one, look for NOCSAE approval. Helmets that meet the standards bear a stamped NOCSAE seal.
Ideally, you should take your little sportsman along to the store to try on his new helmet. Ensure that the helmet fits comfortably and properly, sitting level on his head and low on his forehead, one or two finger-widths above the eyebrows. Make sure it doesn’t rock side to side or tilt backward or forward. If you order online, look for a baseball helmet sizing chart. Baseball Express, for example, notes that an XS helmet is size 6 3/8 to 6 ½ and will fit a head circumference of 20 to 20 ½ inches. To measure your child’s head, wrap a measuring tape around his head about half an inch above his eyebrows. Be sure to return the helmet if the fit isn’t right.
T-ball helmets are available in all kinds of colors, to appeal to both boys and girls. With colors like metallic silver, deep purple and princess pink, your sports fan will be eager to pick out equipment and get started. Today’s helmet also offers lots of comfort features, including channels at the back allowing for ponytails and braids. Look for essential features like a foam liner that offers added protection and a comfortable fit. Ensure the helmet has a number of vents to keep your child’s head cool too. Face masks may be recommended for some players, including catchers positioned directly behind the batter. Consult your coach; if a face mask is needed, choose a helmet that is pre-drilled for use with a face mask.