Friday, February 4, 2011

Review of Team Wendy Umps Mask Pads

Cleveland based research company Team Wendy has recently introduced replacement pads for traditional umpire masks. Called "Team Wendy Umps," these pads use Zorbium, a foam designed by Team Wendy and used in U.S. military helmets.

Team Wendy was founded by Dan Moore as a memorial to his daughter Wendy, who died from a traumatic brain injury while skiing. The company's sole mission is to provide protective head gear products. Team Wendy’s Zorbium helmet liner is the only system authorized for use by the U.S. Army, Marine Corps and National Guard. According to Don Tecco, National Director of Sales and Branding for Team Wendy, "Team Wendy was started as an R & D center to focus on mitigation of TBI and a huge part of what we still do is ongoing research and development not only for improved battlefield safety, but now safety in the sports and recreational (expanding into cycling and skiing) arenas."

Zorbium is a open-cell, viscoelastic polyurethane foam that Tecco says is highly tunable for different applications. Testing data from Team Wendy shows that Umps padding lowers peak acceleration forces by an average of 30 percent and lowers the severity index by an average of 40 percent. The testing involved firing a baseball from an air cannon at 100 mph. The masks with standard pad configuration used in the test were:

D - Davis Diamond mask
H1 - Honig's black frame mask
H2 - Honig's navy frame mask
R - Rawlings LWMX mask

Umps are made with an antimicrobial, moisture wicking fabric to promote comfort and hygiene. They are naturally resistant to mold. Tecco says that while Team Wendy encourages umpires to change out the mask pads at the start of the season for hygiene reasons, "Zorbium will not lose its protective properties" over time like other mask pads.

The first thing you notice is that the Team Wendy Umps are stiffer than other mask pads on the market. However, the Umps are covered with a soft porous cloth material that feels like cotton to the touch. The pads feel rigid against your face, but are not uncomfortable. The covering grabs face stubble less than most cloth coverings. Unlike many other mask pads, the Team Wendy Umps do not use vinyl or PE leather on the outer part of the pads. That raises some concerns that the pad's cover may show dirt over time.

I put the Team Wendy Umpys into a Diamond iX3 DFM-UMP. The total weight for frame, pads, and harness was 18.5 ounces. The indestructible frame meets the most protective pads! This mask rig could outlast my umpire career.

The construction of the Team Wendy Umps is sub-par. The pads I inspected had extra material around the seams and some of the stitching was unraveling. It is not a clean finish that other mask pads possess. Tecco tells me that there is no reason that the Team Wendy Umps could not be covered in leather. Personally I would like to see the Zorbium foam covered with leather, or a PE leather outer / doe skin interior covering.

The Team Wendy Umps are sold exclusively through Honig's for $39.95 and are available in black or tan cloth.

Fair or Foul?
My initial reaction to the Team Wendy Umps is favorable. The first and foremost attribute of a mask pad is its protective quality, and Team Wendy makes claims that the Umps will attenuate ball impacts greater than other padding systems. While ball impacts to the chest, shins and even groin are not a significant concern to umpires because of the use of advanced protective gear, head impacts routinely cause concussions and other serious injury to amateur and professional umpires alike. It is refreshing to see an R&D company like Team Wendy bring its advanced technology to the umpire community. I have nothing but high praise for such a company and its products. And kudos to Honig's for working with Team Wendy to provide this product. My call is FAIR!


Anonymous said...

dear peter...if the these pads were offered by ump attire u would have nothing but praise and say they are the next best thing since sliced bread.. just for ur info i have worn them now for 20 games behind the plate and have ordered another pair to replace by wrap around wilson pads...and my pads were made very well...

Anonymous said...

Peter; nice review! It is great to see the athletic world gaining access to technologies developed by the military in the recent conflicts. But it is also interesting to see resistance at the same time. I am referring to your comment regarding the “leather” cover. When the military began using helmet pads in lieu of the old “halo” harness (2004-2005), it was primarily a change to dramatically improve protection. However, it was also a push to improve hygiene and comfort…primary culprit being the ”leather covering” of the old system. While tradition is good, it is not synonymous with what is best.

ilookgoodinstripes said...

Peter, you may have really discovered something here. Your review caused me to look these guys up and check out what I found:
CLEVELAND, OHIO - Jan. 27, 2011- Team Wendy's protective helmet pads outperformed current National Football League helmet pad systems, as well as other military helmet pad systems, in a recent comparison conducted by Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory (LLNL). LLNL conducted the one-year study to compare the impact response of Riddell and Xenith NFL football helmet pads, as well as the material d3o, to U.S. Army helmet pads.
Motivation for the test was the recent concerns regarding concussions and traumatic brain injuries in the NFL. Please click here to read the full release and to access a copy of the test report.
Seems these guys are very real and onto something bigger than just this. Congratulations!

Matt Evenhouse MD said...

Dear Peter, Doc Evenhouse here, great review, great blog, very adept followers, already posted the press release from Lawrence Livermore National Labs. Man, you guys are fast, I don't care what the coaches say.

I am a doc who started a company to bring the great life saving technology in the military to the rest of our communities. Team Wendy products are part of my business.

Let me give you a little more on this company and the Zorbium they make. Team Wendy makes the best energy absorbing pads hands down. Their material can be adapted to nearly any configuration. The umpire mask is the tip of the ice berg. The protection and comfort of Zorbium you discuss in the face mask also saves lives on the battlefield by reducing the impact of blasts and blunt injury. It is my informed opinion that Zorbium helmet pads would significantly improve the protection in any helmet including baseball and football helmets.

The whole NFL concussion debate would change by the inclusion of Zorbium pads into NFL helmets. We could switch from talking about whose at fault, to who is willing to move into the solution. Team Wendy has already moved into the solution with their products.

Team Wendy knows the current standards are based on outdated models of injury. The helmets are built to meet the standards so you can see that the helmets won't do the job. Team Wendy goes beyond the standards to build Zorbium. When it comes to military helmet pads, Team Wendy products have pushed the envelope in protection, allowing the military to move forward in its efforts to protect our soldiers. I would like to see Zorbium getting into sports helmets of all types.

Thanks for the information.

Dr. Matt Evenhouse,