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California prep baseball coach suffers severe head injury from line drive

Tehachapi (Calif.) High baseball coach Chris Olofson is the latest to suffer severe head injury from a line drive. (ths.teh.k12.ca.us)
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Tehachapi (Calif.) High baseball coach Chris Olofson is the latest to suffer severe head injury from a line drive. (ths.teh.k12.ca.us)

As another high school baseball coach recovers from severe head trauma after being struck by a line drive, the National Federation of State High School Associations still hasn't required base coaches to wear helmets seven years after minor league coach Mike Coolbaugh died in a similar incident.

Tehachapi (Calif.) High baseball coach Chris Olofson suffered a fractured skull and bleeding on the brain after being hit in the head by a line drive while coaching third during the fourth inning of Tuesday's 10-5 victory against Bakersfield Highland in the sectional playoffs, according to The Bakersfield Californian.

Originally in cricital condition after being rushed to nearbyKern Medical Center, Olofson remained stable and "doing much better" a day later, according to local media reports. "One of his first concerns was whether or not the boys won the game, and then expressing his disappointment that he will not make it to the (sectional quarterfinal) game in Fresno," Tehachapi Unified School District superintendent Lisa Gilbert told Tehachapi News. "He is very grateful for all of the love, support and prayers from everyone."

While Olofson's fiance received encouraging news, Coolbaugh's pregnant wife wasn't so fortunate. The 35-year-old Tulsa Drillers first-base coach was struck and killed by a line drive to the head in 2007. A year later, Major League Baseball adopted a rule requiredbase coaches to wear protective helmets.

The NFHS, however, has taken a different stance in the aftermath of Coolbaugh's death. While some individual states require coaches to wear helmets on the baselines, beginning with the Maryland Interscholastic Athletic Association in 2009, the national prep athletics governing body does not.

In 2008, the NFHS released the following statement in conjunction with its rule changes that year:

The NFHS has not mandated that adult coaches shall wear protective head gear while occupying a coach's box. It is the prerogative of the respective coach to wear such protective equipment. The NFHS is conducting research to determine if protective head gear should be required and, if so, which type (hard liner, flapless, one-flap, dual flap) would be most effective.

Likewise, NFHS Baseball Rules Editor Elliott Hopkins told Illinois' Daily Chronicle in 2008, "We talked about it and gathered feedbac. We looked at the injury that prompted Major League Baseball to enact their rule and it was to an area of the body that a helmet doesn’t protect. We think coaches are far enough back. If a coach thinks it is necessary, then they are welcome to wear a helmet.”

This latest incident involving Olofson proves coaches are not "far enough back." While the NFHS does require students in the on-deck circle and base coaching boxes to wear helmets, the organization still does not require adult base coaches to wear protective gear. Apparently, the research is ongoing.

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