Ringside Doctors Working on Consensus Statement on Headgear in Combat Sports

Headgear. Does it help? Does it harm? Different combat sports have toyed with their rules over the years and medical studies on the value of headgear can be a bit scattered and incomplete. Trying to fill this gap the Association of Ringside Physicians highlighted data at their 2022 annual conference in Las Vegas Nevada giving insight into what their soon to be published consensus statement will say.

The topic was tackled by Dr. Kevin Deweber, a physician with many years experience in combat sports and the Olympic team USA doctor for several disciplines over the years.

Dr. Deweber provided the following highlights of what the consensus statement will say:

Dr. Deweber admitted the first criteria is intentionally vague as there is need for more research on key topics.

The key takeaways were as follows

  1. headgear does very well in reducing cuts to the face
  2. there is no reason to have different rules for men and women unless there is data justifying it
  3. headgear does reduce (at least in lab studies) the transfer of force from the glove to the target
  4. But, when athletes were headguards their ‘behavioiurs’ are influenced.
  5. There is no data showing headguards prevent concussions

Here’s the gist. Headguards do reduce some force transfer from the glove to the head. But athletes wearing headgear tend to take more shots to the head and tend to take harder shots to the head. These realties’ can very well offset any benefits from the reduced transfer of force. Depending on how much ‘behaviours’ are influenced headguards can even be a net negative.

Athlete education is key to make sure athletes wearing headgear do not get a false sense of security that they are somehow protected from brain trauma.


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