As we all know, very little safety information regarding umpire gear is available to the general public. However, Wilson is one company that places an emphasis on umpire safety (Wilson is the Official Umpire Gear of Major League Baseball and Minor League Baseball). In fact, Jim Kirk, owner of Ump-Attire, reports in a recent article on the new Shock FX 2.0 that "the Shock FX helmet was designed initially for only umpires' use[.]" How great is it that a major sporting goods company considers umpire safety a priority instead of an after-thought?
The most significant design feature of the Shock FX is its floating cage. The Shock FX uses six isolators to diffuse the energy from an impact to the cage. Four of these isolators are little pistons (what many of us call "mini shock absorbers") and gives the Shock FX a unique look.
Wilson claims that "[i]nternal lab testing showed that the Wilson Shock FX mask and helmet systems reduced impact forces to the head by up to 50% in a 60-inch direct impact drop test, when compared to a traditional helmet." The promotional video below from Wilson's website is very impressive:
The Shock FX uses vents throughout the helmet and a moisture wicking liner to keep your noggin cool and dry.
The 2010 Shock FX 2.0 has been redesigned with the following improvements:
- the helmet is one inch longer top to bottom;
- the frame sets closer to the mask for increased visibility;
- the pistons have been strengthened to prevent damage from side impacts; and
- the cage welds have been strengthened at key locations.
Right out of the box I was concerned that I had not received the titanium cage. As you can see by the photos, the cage is a dark gray. I was assured that this is the new titanium finish. I was also impressed with the weight of the helmet. My postage scale confirms that it is 39 ounces. That is lighter than the All-Star MVP3000TI Titanium Umpire helmet that is advertised at 42 ounces.
The Shock FX 2.0 is only offered in one size: 7 - 7-5/8". I wear a 7-1/2" cap, so I was a little apprehensive that the larger size would not fit my big head, however the straps adjusted easily and the fit was very comfortable. I have seen MLB umpire Ed Hickox wear a cap under his Shock FX helmet, but I couldn't comfortably fit a cap inside. The leather pads at the chin and forehead are soft, and the moisture wicking pads are well-placed.
This next part was unexpected. I took some measurements and compared the Shock FX 2.0 to the Diamond DFM-UMP Silver traditional mask. The eye opening of the Shock FX 2.0 is 1/8" wider and the frame is 3/4" closer to my face. The field of vision really is better with the Shock FX 2.0 than with a traditional (non-low profile) mask.
On the field the mask was removed quickly and without issue. The vents kept my head cool - noticeably cooler than when wearing my Richardson wool cap behind the dish! I worked a 18U fall ball game and took one dirt-glove-mask impact and didn't feel a thing. The impact was substantial enough that it left me impressed with the Shock FX and its safety features.
The 2010 Wilson Shock FX 2.0 Titanium Umpire Helmet is currently offered by the following on-line retailer:
Ump-Attire for $219.95 (pre-ordering)
The Bottom Line
The simple fact that Wilson has made it a priority to improve umpire safety rates this product an absolute ten. While a hockey helmet will not protect from every kid of impact, a helmet offers side protection that a traditional mask lacks, and the Wilson Shock FX provides shock absorption that will help prevent concussions from impacts to the cage. The Shock FX offers a blend of comfort and protection that really is first rate.
Epic Sports is now selling the Wilson Titanium Helmet for $196.49