Evan Gattis has never suffered a concussion—as far as he knows. But at least a couple of times per week during the season, a foul ball strikes the Atlanta Braves catcher in the mask or helmet.
When that happened in the past, it was always scary. “Sometimes you feel a bit woozy—stunned, really—after a foul tip,” Gattis said. “Everything gets louder. I haven’t had a diagnosed concussion, but I could see how it would happen from a foul tip.”
Gattis felt that his risk of suffering a head injury was especially high because of his preferred style of catcher’s mask. He said, “The hockey-style mask doesn’t offer a whole lot of protection from foul tips. But I still use it because of the vision it offers. I like being able to see everything through the hockey mask.”
Rather than wait for an errant foul ball to inflict a head injury on him, Gattis got in touch with Unequal Technologies, a company that makes impact-protection equipment used by athletes and the military.
“They gutted my helmet, lined it with their protective technology, and put it back together for me,” Gattis said.
Unequal calls its innovation “Acceleration Reduction Technology” (ART), meaning it absorbs, dissipates and reduces the force of an impact before it reaches the body. A recent Virginia Tech study found that helmets that reduce acceleration forces can lower an athlete’s risk of sustaining a concussion.
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The result offers Gattis both the impact protection he wanted and the field of vision he prefers in the hockey-style helmet. And his helmet feels just as light as before. The only time he notices a difference, he said, is when a tipped ball bounces off his mask. In fact, a recent “big one” struck him so hard that it bent part of his mask, but Gattis said Unequal’s padding kept his head safe.
“It was like nothing happened,” Gattis said of the hit. “There was no ringing. In the past I would get hit and it would ring [in my head], but this time I got hit and it was like no big deal. I can really tell the difference.”
Unequal’s technology consists of three layers.
ACCELERON ® — A durable foam rubber that, when combined with Kevlar, functions as a strong shock absorber.
KEVLAR ® — A stronger-than-steel fiber known for its use in bulletproof vests and other equipment used by the military and law enforcement.
IMPACSHIELD ® — A light, thin polymer layer that adds more impact dispersion properties to the padding.