On April 18 MLB umpire Ed Hickox was struck by a foul ball. The ball hit him squarely on the forehead while wearing a Wilson FX hockey style helmet. Mr. Hickox continued to work behind the plate, but became light-headed two innings later and spent the night at the hospital. MLB reports that he will be out for one week. Jim Kirk, owner of Ump Attire has posted a description of the injury here.
Then on April 21 MLB umpire Kerwin Danley was struck in the head by a broken bat. The bat hit the side of his Wilson FX hockey style mask. It was reported that Danley was in severe pain and suffered massive headaches the next day. It is not immediately known how long Danley will be out.
Crew chief Dana DeMuth told reporters after the game that "[t]he bat got all helmet and that's a good helmet to have for it because a lot of us don't wear stuff where the protection is (over the side and back of the head) and I believe that's where it hit him."
DeMuth also commented on the Wilson FX and said, "That's a very good helmet to have, it's just very uncomfortable, but when you got a delicate head and you've had head injuries before, it's one of the best things to have."
DeMuth was referring to previous concussions Danley suffered on April 26, 2008, and in 2006.
These recent injuries again highlight the dangers associated with umpiring. In Danley's case the injury was immediately determined to be serious and medical attention was given. In Hickox's case the severity of the injury did not manifest itself until several innings later.
As umpires we all know that we're not "the show." There is great pressure to quickly shrug off a blow and not delay or disrupt the game. However, a concussion is a serious matter and repeated concussions have been linked to long-term emotional and behavior problems.
My opinion is that when the PU takes a serious blow to the head, it is the responsibility of the field umpire to stop the game and make sure the PU is ok. Here is a link to a Concussion Signs and Symptoms Evaluation from the Sports Concussion Program at the University of Pittsburgh. This evaluation sheet reviews concussion symptoms and provides some cognitive tests to help determine if your partner requires medical attention. Of course not every blow will require a trip to the hospital. However, if your partner displays some of these warning signs, get him off the field.