Study Suggests Headguards Reduce Concussions in Combat Sports

Posted: September 18, 2015 in Safety Studies

Adding to this site’s archived safety studies in combat sports, a study was recently published in the British Journal of Sports Medicine suggesting headguards can reduce concussions in combat sports.

The authors, McIntosh and Patton, recently authored another article suggesting the quality of headguards can make a significant difference in effectiveness, noted in the new study, titled Boxing Headguard Performance in Punch Machine Tests that “The data support the opinion that current AIBA headguards can play an important role in reducing the risk of concussion and superficial injury in boxing competition and training.”.

Here is the study’s abstract –

Background The paper presents a novel laboratory method for assessing boxing headguard impact performance. The method is applied to examine the effects of headguards on head impact dynamics and injury risk.

Methods A linear impactor was developed, and a range of impacts was delivered to an instrumented Hybrid III head and neck system both with and without an AIBA (Association Internationale de Boxe Amateur)-approved headguard. Impacts at selected speeds between 4.1 and 8.3 m/s were undertaken. The impactor mass was approximately 4 kg and an interface comprising a semirigid ‘fist’ with a glove was used.

Results The peak contact forces were in the range 1.9–5.9 kN. Differences in head impact responses between the Top Ten AIBA-approved headguard and bare headform in the lateral and forehead tests were large and/or significant. In the 8.3 m/s fist-glove impacts, the mean peak resultant headform accelerations for bare headform tests was approximately 130 g compared with approximately 85 g in the forehead impacts. In the 6.85 m/s bare headform impacts, mean peak resultant angular head accelerations were in the range of 5200–5600 rad/s2 and almost halved by the headguard. Linear and angular accelerations in 45° forehead and 60° jaw impacts were reduced by the headguard.

Conclusions The data support the opinion that current AIBA headguards can play an important role in reducing the risk of concussion and superficial injury in boxing competition and training.

While measuring impact dynamics is one factor, there is still controversy on the issue of whether headguards lead to less or more concussions.  For some practical contrary views from combat sports athletes I suggest reading this article by Ben Fowlkes which highlights some fighters’ experiences with issues such as sparring partners hitting harder when headgear is in use and also the feeling that more shots land due to the bigger target created with headgear.

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