When starting out as an amateur boxer, you’ll most likely be encouraged to wear boxing headgear while sparring. The idea being that it will protect you, the novice, from punches and knock-downs from more experienced sparring partners.
That sounds reassuring, but does boxing headgear prevent concussions? Will I see stars when I get knocked down or will the headgear protect me?
Boxing headgear is an essential piece of equipment for boxers, whether professional or otherwise. While they may prevent specific injuries to the head and face, a concussion isn’t one of them.
- Headgear is made to absorb some of the heavy blows, but cannot prevent concussions.
- It is effective for keeping facial bones from being broken and preventing cuts and scrapes.
- An AIBA study found that boxers wearing headgear showed signs of concussion more often than without headgear.
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Does Boxing Headgear Prevent Concussions?
No, boxing headgear does not protect boxers from concussions. Concussions are the result of brain injury which develops when the head whips back and forth with a violent force causing a significant jolt to the brain within the cranial cavity.
Boxing headgear is padded headgear that covers the fighter’s head, forehead, cheeks, jaw, and ears, and should be considered necessary equipment for anyone participating in the sport. It is effective for keeping eye sockets and other facial bones from being broken and preventing cuts, scrapes, and swelling or bruising.
If you’re looking for reasonably priced boxing/sparring headgear, you can find a variety here in many different styles.
What Is A Concussion?
A concussion, as mentioned above, is a severe injury to the brain. It is a very common affliction that occurs in many sports due to sudden jolts to the head. More particularly, the massive amount of sharp strikes and punches boxers take to the head and face.
A concussion can last from weeks to more than a year, depending on the severity of the damage, the number of hits a person takes to the head, and how many concussions the person has had in the past.
Spotting a concussion is relatively easy, especially for those who see it frequently. Some of the most frequent signs and symptoms include, but are not limited to:
- Temporary loss of consciousness
- A dazed and confused look
- Double vision
- Delayed responses to questions
- Slurred speech
- Feeling like they are in a fog
- Memory loss
- Ringing in the ears
- A headache
Sometimes, you may not notice the signs of concussions right away, especially in the middle of a boxing match, which makes it even more serious as the fighter may continue to get struck in the head, intensifying the injury.
Some of the above symptoms may not manifest until several hours after the event, such as the sudden onset of vomiting.
Is Concussion A Serious Problem In Boxing?
Overall, boxing is a dangerous sport with or without protective headgear. Several studies have found that symptoms of chronic brain injury exist in 15% – 40% of ex-boxers.
An oft-quoted 2013 article from the Association of Neurological Surgeons estimated that nearly 90% of boxers would develop a brain injury at one time or another during their career. That is a terrifying statistic, and a problem that needs to be addressed.
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If you have ever heard the phrase “punch drunk,” it isn’t a cute name for a mixed drink. This is how boxers referred to that dazed and confused feeling after a serious fight. These symptoms were often a result of a concussion; boxers were complaining about it even in fights where headgear was being worn.
Does Boxing Headgear Increase the Chances of Concussions?
There doesn’t appear to be any studies that completely rule out boxing headgear as playing a positive role in the prevention of concussions. However, there have been studies that have concluded that headgear may actually increase the chance of a concussion.
The International Boxing Association (AIBA) conducted a study on almost 30,000 boxing rounds with nearly half wearing headgear and the other half not; the results will surprise you. It tuned out that those who wore headgear showed signs of concussions more often than those without protective headgear.
The AIBA study resulted in boxing headgear becoming no longer required in the Olympic boxing competition at the 2016 Olympic Games at Rio de Janeiro, Brazil. Compare the London Olympics in 2012 with the Rio Olympics in 2016.
London 2012 Olympic Games: Men’s Boxing
Rio de Janeiro 2016 Olympic Games: Men’s Boxing Light Final Bout
Several theories can explain these results, with one of them being visual interference, whereby a boxer responds to a blow up to 5% slower than without boxing headgear. Then there is the psychological factor in which a boxer may feel more confident when wearing protective headgear and take more risks.
Another problem is due to the opening near the jaw on the headgear. This is a sensitive space; while this doesn’t increase the chances of concussion, it doesn’t provide protection from one either.
The jaw/chin area is often a target where fighters would hit their opponent resulting in a knockout.
How to Prevent Concussions While Boxing?
There is no sure-fire way to prevent a concussion from occurring while boxing. However, there are a few different things to keep in mind when training and entering the ring.
- Build good muscle strength in the neck
- Have a full understanding of blocking and taking punches properly
- Practice safety precautions when sparring
- Never fight until fully recovered from a previous head injury
- Have a complete understanding of the rules and proper conduct of the fight
Concussions can be life-threatening, taking proper precautions is the best way to create protection from serious brain injury in any match.
Does boxing headgear prevent concussions? Although it would be fantastic to hear of any equipment that can prevent concussions in boxing, or sports in general, it’s simply not available at this time. And while boxing headgear can save you from an orbital fracture or fractured cheekbone, it won’t keep you safe from a traumatic brain injury.
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