Year: Summer 2018
Duration: 12 weeks
Internship: JR286 - Product Design Intern
Project Type: Individual
Role: Research/Design Lead
Tools: Adobe: Illustrator/Photoshop
While baseball and softball are generally safe, non-collision sports, injuries do still occur. "A recent study shows that head first sliding has a higher injury risk than feet first sliding" (Mishra 2017). There were 1633 injuries from sliding, with 25% of those being hand and finger related. Nearly 30% of those injuries require surgery, causing a player, on average, to miss at least two months worth of competition. Furthermore, hands, fingers and thumbs were approximately twice as likely to be injured as feet or ankles. Of the 30 teams currently part of Major League Baseball, there is at least 1 player on 14 teams who uses hand protection when batting or base-running. Most are using this protection as a post-injury precaution, rather than as a preventative measure. While several companies have designed hand protection for these athletes, they are inaccessible to the general public, leaving youth and collegiate athletes to their own devices.
Current products are bulky, heavy, and lack breathable material. During the brainstorming process, I explored current hand protection designs, beyond the realm of baseball and softball. This included protective equipment used for skateboarding, snowboarding, weightlifting, hockey, and more. Initial designs explore and include a variety of types of padding and molded protection parts.
After exploring a range of existing products and designs. I began exploring ambidextrous structures beyond sports, including ideas heavily influenced by animals, like frogs, lizards, and birds. In particular, these incorporated webbed fingers, and rigid and grippy palms. Optimizing these structures helps reduce the chances of breaking fingers during a head-first slide, while helping users hold onto the base.
The final design includes several materials. The top is made of breathable neoprene to allow for quick drying. The bottom is made of latex to optimize the user's grip. There are five finger slots that allow users to maintain mobility, but prevent them from breaking fingers due to forced separation. The pads on the top, made of low-density, flexible foam, protect the user from breaking their hand if a defender steps on them. The wrist guard prevents users from damaging or breaking their wrist. The glove includes an adjustable, velcro strap, making it easy to put on and remove.