Headgear Or Bare head? Keep Your Head Away From Injury

In a bid to reduce head injuries, Headgear for Amateurs Banned

  • International Boxing Association’s (AIBA) new rules enforced in Rio Olympics 2016
  • International Elite male boxers asked to not wear headgear during tournaments
  • Obstructs vision of incoming punches
  • Theory suggests opponents apply less force if the head is unprotected and exposed
  • Research advocates reduction in the risk of concussion

To shield or not to shield?

Everything in life involves risk, when you apply this to sports that encompass direct impacts to the head, the risks involved could yield irrevocable results. Sports like boxing and Muay Thai, happen to be two such sports that since an early time have documented incidents that proved as evidence to long term brain damage as a consequence of massive impact to players’ heads.

Strings of blows, frequency of which once accumulated over the span of time will without a doubt equate to a considerable amount of damage expectantly caused to any player’s brain / head. Striking arts like Muay Thai encompass the use of weapons, thereby reducing the rate of recurrence of head attacks, in contrast to other combat arts like boxing where it is more than likely that a considerable amount of damage will be caused to the players’ health. Even if padded gloves and head guards are being secured and used, the impact derived will still have a substantial deteriorating effect nonetheless.

To avoid long term brain damage, boxing headgear such as head guards were introduced for the purpose of head safety and protection. Amateur boxers have been obligated to wear headgear since the 1980s after concerns regarding concussions. Although headgear can NOT withhold all the damage, it has been said to alleviate / lessen the overall impact.

Up until very recently, anyone looking to compete in amateur tournaments was expected to support the use of head guards. Thereby ensuring that fighters are well acquainted with the skills and knowledge needed to intelligently use headgear in most amateur circuits.

As an attempt to reduce head injuries, Amateur boxers, very recently have been advised to adhere to the new revised rules instated and implemented by the International Boxing Association (AIBA), whereby levying a ban on the use of headgear on men only. This rule has been enforced since the advent of Rio Olympics 2016. Contrary to intuition, this theory according to research is based on the analysis – that in the case of an exposed head, most opponents are expected and observed to apply lesser force in their attacks.

For the first time in over 30 years, male boxers at the Olympics are not wearing headgear. More than three years ago, the International Boxing Association (AIBA) ruled that boxers were more likely to suffer brain injuries with the foam padding around their faces than without it, prompting the International Olympic Committee to rule out headgear in Rio.

‘All available data indicated that the removal of head guard in Elite Men would result in a decreased number of concussions.’ was recorded in a statement issued by AIBA.  This particular AIBA announcement has been known to be based on new research published in the British Journal of Sports Medicine, suggesting there was ‘no good evidence that mouth guards and helmets ward off concussion’.

In contrast, the rules will remain unchanged for women, the theory being that women may lack the strength to administer blows strong enough to cause concussion.

An additional reason for the move is that headgear can obscure peripheral vision, making it difficult to abstract an estimated of an expected attack being aimed at the side of the head. Research has failed to gather enough evidence which confirms that a lack of headgear actually reduces the risk of concussion. Paradoxically, this may even encourage players to take even greater unprecedented risks.

The researchers agreed that while they can help ward off other serious head and facial injuries,  there was ‘no good evidence that they can help prevent concussion, The advice comes at a time of increasing evidence that even minor head injuries can be deadly in the long-term.

Research published in the previous last week’s suggest that repeated, sub-concussive hits to the head are dangerous and are also linked to neurological disorders, such as multiple sclerosis, later in life.

However, in the medical community there still remains a debate over the safety of headgear and amateur boxers, according to a report from the New York Times, including from prominent neurosurgeon Dr. Robert Cantu.

“The idea that headgear prevents concussions is ludicrous to begin with,” Cantu said in an interview with the Times. “It would be great if it did, but to say that taking it off will lead to fewer concussions doesn’t make sense, either.”