Why Do Softball Players Wear Face Masks?
When watching a softball game, you may have noticed that some players are wearing face masks.
Besides the catcher, who also wears a mask in baseball, this also includes some other positions, particularly players in the infield and pitcher.
To some, this may come as a surprise, as softball is generally considered to be among sports that carry the lesser risk of an injury.
After all, the name of the sport contains the word “soft”.
However, injuries do happen and players should do everything they can to protect themselves.
Learning why do softball players wear face masks can help you understand all the possible risks that a game of softball brings.
Below, I’ll explain the main reasons for this type of protection and how face masks can help players avoid potentially very serious injuries.
So, let’s dive in!
Table of Contents
Why Do Softball Players Wear Face Masks?
Protection from Injuries
There are several reasons why wearing a face mask is a good idea for certain positions in softball, but the main one is the player’s safety.
The head and the face are, of course, particularly sensitive parts of a body and every athlete’s primary concern should be protecting them.
Although in softball, balls don’t fly as fast off the bat as in baseball, they can still be hit rather hard and pose a serious threat.
If a player doesn’t wear a mask, they leave their face and head vulnerable to severe injuries and trauma.
The most common injuries of this type are a broken nose, broken cheekbones, and concussion.
In addition, depending on how the ball strikes the face, it could cause serious damage to the player’s eyes, too.
Besides being painful and often difficult to treat, some of these injuries can cause permanent damage.
Short Distance Between Pitching Circle and Home Plate
People often wonder why softball players use face masks while baseball players, who face faster balls, don’t.
The main reason for this lies in the dimensions of the softball field.
The softball diamond is smaller and the distance between the pitcher and the batter is only 60 feet, 30 feet shorter than in baseball.
Additionally, infield players are positioned fairly close to the home plate.
So, there’s much less time to react to the ball flying towards your face and protect yourself, commonly less than half a second.
Plus, most accomplished batters can easily hit the ball at the speed of 70 mph or greater.
Needless to say, the closer you are to the batter, the greater the risk of getting hit by the ball.
For this reason, pitchers are the players who wear face masks most often. Other positions also likely to use masks are usually first and third basemen.
The Metal Bats
Another reason why players in softball wear masks and in baseball don’t is the difference between bats that players use.
In baseball, at least at a pro level, batters only bat using wood bats.
On the other hand, in softball, wood bats are a rarity, and a large majority of batters hit the ball with metal bats, commonly made of aluminum or similar material.
Due to the greater trampoline effect, metal bats provide more bounce on the hit than those made of wood.
This means that metal bats will produce much higher exit velocities than wooden ones.
So, in addition to the pitching circle being close to home plate, the ball also travels that distance faster.
This further decreases the time for reaction, often making face masks a necessity, as all this makes injury risk much higher.
Aggravating Previous Injuries
Players who are particularly at risk are those who had previous injuries to the head or the face, In those cases, any hit to the face can only cause further damage.
For example, if a player has broken their nose and it’s still not fully healed, getting hit again, even with a ball that doesn’t fly particularly fast, can cause much more severe and often permanent damage.
This is why, for players who are currently recovering from face or head injuries, wearing a face mask is an absolute must.
Another factor that contributes to softball players wearing face masks is a potential orthodontic issue.
For players who wear braces, most orthodontists recommend wearing a face mask as it provides the necessary protection for this part of the face which is, in this case, even more sensitive.
A lot of young players, who have just started playing softball, feel the fear of getting hit by the ball.
This causes them to play with less aggressiveness and, sometimes even leads to them quitting the sport altogether.
Wearing the mask, especially at a young age, can provide the necessary confidence to play closer to the home plate and make aggressive plays that they otherwise would be afraid to pull off.
Why Some Softball Players don’t Wear Face Masks?
Despite all the reasons mentioned above, not all players who play close to the home plate wear face masks.
One of the reasons for this is that some players complain that the mask distracts them at the moments they need to be most focused.
This is particularly the case if the mask doesn’t fit perfectly.
Other players feel that wearing the mask obstructs their line of sight, especially when making sudden moves or turns.
Additionally, there’s an outdated belief that players who wear face mask lack toughness, although it couldn’t be further from the truth.
Despite the increased risk and higher number of injuries, face masks are still not mandatory in softball, at least not at high school and college levels.
However, there are more and more coaches, players, parents, and media members calling for the governing bodies to introduce face masks as a mandatory part of the softball equipment, at least for some positions.
According to recent studies, softball has the lowest overall injury rate among the most popular sports in the US.
However, this creates a false picture of safety, as a very high proportion of these injuries is to the head and neck.
If we look just at those injuries, their rate is much higher than in most other sports. So, the best way to protect yourself while playing softball is to wear a face mask.