Monday, October 19, 2009

Review of 2010 Wilson Shock 2.0 FX Titanium Umpire Helmet

This weekend I had the special privilege of testing the new and improved 2010 Wilson Shock 2.0 FX Titanium Umpire Helmet. Wilson Sporting Goods generously sent me a new Shock 2.0 FX Titanium (WTA5590) to try out, and Jacquie Rooney of Wilson has been absolutely fantastic in answering all of my questions.

The Hype
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:

video
Note the pistons compress and the cage absorbs the impact. Less of the ball's energy is transferred to your head!

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.

Field Test
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.

Price
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.

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UPDATE

Epic Sports is now selling the Wilson Titanium Helmet for $196.49

6 comments:

Anonymous said...

I am glad you like your 2.0 mine came in last week as a replacement for a damaged shock 1.0 and I have not been able to wear it. Way too much rain around here. I have one more chance next Tuesday before the season is over. I think that I am going to like it a lot better than my 1.0. Thanks for all your reviews.

Anonymous said...

I think it should be known that Ed Hickox took a pretty standard baseball hit at the start of this season while wearing the Wilson Shock FX. He not only suffered a major concussion but also broke an ear bone! The reason you haven't seen him this season is that he's still having surgery to repair his ear. Days later Kerwin Danley took a freak hit when a bat barrel broke and hit him in the forehead. He also suffered a concussion, but that was a pretty unusual hit. Then at the end of this season Ryan Hannigan, catcher for the Cincinnati Reds took a routine foul tip and suffered a major concussion. He's the only pro catcher still wearing the Shock FX. Brian Schnieder and Ronny Paulino tried it two years ago and quickly stopped using it.

From an engineering point of view, springs don't absorb energy. They compress and return energy. And springs that you can push easily with your hand bottom out quickly. If you can push the cage back toward the shell with just your hands alone with not much effort, what's that going to do with a 60, 70, 80, or 90mph fast ball? We've all taken those kinds of hits in the chest, shoulders, and mask. That's a lot more force than pushing with your bare hand. Frankly, those springs will bottom out immediately under the force of a baseball or softball going that fast, and at that point the springs are useless. Gimmick.

Pete Reiser said...

Thanks for the comments. A video of Hickox injury is posted at

http://kitsapumpirescamp.webs.com/

where he appearing as head instructor. Additionally, a good discussion of Hickox and Danley's injuries is here:

http://umpattire.blogspot.com/2009/04/mlb-umpire-suffers-concussion-wearing.html

Anonymous said...

Please note that the Hickox ear injury is from some earlier incident while he was wearing an old school mask. He was not wearing a full mask.

Anonymous said...

The design of the Shock FX mask is an energy management system. In conjunction with the springs, the system uses specifically designed grommets taht are made of an elastomeric material that absorbs and disperses shock.
Springs alone do return energy. Think about where this return energy is going.

Anonymous said...

I concur. If you can push the springs and elastomers inward with your hands with minimal effort, it won't do much for ball impacts. If the springs were stiffer it might help delay the impact... but we're talking a fraction of a second, so it probably wouldn't really matter. In terms of "return energy" - it goes in to your head again... "for every action there is an equal and opposite reaction." But the point is moot if the springs bottom out (because they're so easy to push in). In that case just about all the impact is still going into the shell.

I've seen and heard of several shells crack right at the forehead grommet. Plus, the cage is so far away from the eyes that it clamps down on your vision.