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Following the recent injury on June 5 at the Red Sox game, Universal Medical Systems contends that baseball bat projectiles are becoming life threatening

Cleveland – June 9, 2015 — “A fifteen second image set acquired from a CT scanner may have averted a serious injury recently incurred by a fan attending a Red Sox game on June 5. The same life saving technology used in thousands of hospitals producing millions of images per year is easily adaptable to scanning both production or current use baseball bats. The long history of both fan and player injuries due to shattering bats has created an immediate need to establish upgraded testing protocols and wood content standards using X-ray technologies,” commented David R. Zavagno, president of Universal Medical Systems, Inc. in Ohio, an award-winning author from The Society of American Base Research. (SABR)

“There is highly effective X-ray-CT technology available to characterize the wood quality of Major League Baseball bats to detect flaws or defects after construction and during the season,” said Zavagno. “In addition baseballs need to be weighed individually before each game to ensure they are not overweight.”  

Studies conducted by Dr. Phillip Halleck and The Center for Quantitative X-ray Imaging and Universal Medical Systems titled Feasibility Study on Wood Billets to Be Used in Fabrication of Bats, (see attached documents) show the basis for significant knowledge and quality control improvements can be achieved by using CT scanners.

According to the Mayo Clinic “X-ray computed tomography combines a series of x-ray images taken from different angles and uses computer processing to create cross sectional images, or slices, of the bones, blood vessels and soft tissue inside your body." The same technology can be used to scan a baseball bat in 15 seconds helping to create a full 3D mapping of wood density. http://www.mayoclinic.org/tests-procedures/ct-scan/basics/definition/prc-20014610    

Previous studies (see attachment of Maple Bats Changed the Game, a comparative study on the composition of ash and maple wood bats by Dr. Arvami S. Grader, Dr. Phillip M. Halleck, Penn State Center for Quantitative X-ray Imaging and David Zavagno, Universal Medical Systems, Inc.) show large differences in the wood structure of ash versus maple bats.  Wood grain consists of alternating high and low density growth rings.  While the high-density bands are of similar density (x-ray absorption) in both woods, the low density bands are much lower in ash than in maple. As expected, band width is smaller in maple due to its slower growth rate.  

The critical material property for a bat to "shatter" is not strength, but fracture toughness. This is a measure of how easily a fracture propagates once it has started. Materials with high fracture toughness soak up a lot of energy and strain by mechanisms other that fracture propagation. They retard how far and how fast a crack grows.  

The initial study (see attachment) shows the much lower density or "soft grain" in ash wood bats does exactly this. You can crack an ash bat and it stays in one piece. Maple, because there is less difference between the high and low-density bands, cannot soak up enough energy to stop a fracture once it starts.  It also makes the fracture toughness less direction dependent (anisotropic).  In ash, the fracture will tend to run along the grain. In maple, it is possible that the crack will run at an angle across the grain, again because there is less difference between high- and low-density bands.    

“Major League Baseball suggests the fractures start in the small diameter handle where the flexing strain is greatest. The issue is not where the fracture starts but how far it goes. In maple, it keeps right on growing along the bat till it reaches the barrel end and the two pieces fly apart. To date we have been able to scan whole bats but have been unable to scan broken bats to do a 3D analysis of the fracture relative to the grain.             

“We are now in an era where the number of players with size and strength exceed the historical norms in pitching and hitting a baseball. Many of the acceptable standards need to be reviewed and updated,” said Zavagno. “Who loses when the bat breaks? The batter? Team? Fans? Players on the field? Maybe the age-old axiom of a bat lasts until it breaks or it goes hitless needs to change. Early retirement predicated on science can save all four.”   

MLB has taken steps and claims to have reduced the number of broken bats by 50%.  Field x-ray or CT scanning can help reduce the remaining 50% significantly.  Measured improvement is within reach and plenty of existing technology can be adapted to reduce future injuries.  

About David R. Zavagno
David R. Zavagno, president of Universal Medical Systems, Inc., has non-destructively tested and documented the content of Major League baseballs covering almost 100 years. His insights and findings appeared in numerous articles, broadcasts and interviews since first utilizing diagnostic imaging technology to examine baseballs in 1994.  For more information contact David Zavagno at 440-349-3210  or zavagno@universal-systems.com.  

About Universal Medical Systems, Inc. of Ohio
Universal Medical Systems, Inc. (UMS) of Ohio is the leading innovative supplier of computed tomography (CT) and magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) imaging systems worldwide. Headquartered in Cleveland, Universal Medical Systems, Inc. offers medical, industrial and research imaging systems from desktop CT scanners to ultra high field three-tesla MRI scanners. An affiliated network of research, development, sales and service teams supports every Universal scanner. For more information visit: www.universal-systems.com.